Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Africa for Norway

It is that time of year again when the stars come out to promote their favorite charity or cause for the season of giving.  Many times these culminate in a star studded music video showing stereotypical shots of some poor people in Africa and asking us to give money to help fix it.  They have received their share of aid over the years and now they want to pay it forward.  They are concerned about cold people in Norway.  They can't imagine what it must be like to face those months of dark and cold, so they have started a campaign to send radiators to Norway.  It is called Radi-Aid.  Watch the video and enjoy.

What?  Africa saving Norway?  See what happened there?  I like it when you laugh, but then you have to think about why you are laughing.  Well my friends, Africa is a huge continent with all sorts of different people with a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.  You see, often these causes are well intentioned, but they play to our stereotypes.  When someone mentions Africa, many people think about poor people living in huts with AIDs.  Part of the reason for this is all these fund raising efforts that propagate this impression.  Africa for Norway is an attempt to turn the tables on the notion that all Africans are poor and in need of help.  They are trying to promote a more balanced view of Africa and developing countries.  Here in the US, we have our share of poor and sick people.  If the media focused solely on them, the world would have a very different view of us.  As it is, Hollywood pumps out movies that promote an equally unrealistic view of the US, but with a very different spin.

Next time you are asked to give to a cause, think about whether they are playing on your stereotypes, or if there is a real need.  Most importantly, don't generalize your beliefs based on a specific instance of a problem.  The world is a big place.

More info at Africa for Norway (which by the way is created by some students in Norway, so it's not even really African)

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