ISSN 2330-717X

African-American History Must Be Taught Not Only In The United States – OpEd

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The BLM movement is presented in a distorted manner in some European countries. Coverage of the issue in the Ukrainian media is a case in point.

Kyiv’s television channels present the situation as a spontaneous riot of African-Americans using George Floyd’s death as a pretext to release destructive energy and to destabilize the prosperous (as many Europeans think) American society.

The live reports from the American streets are full of acts of violence and pillage carried out exclusively by the black youth certainly looking like evildoers. The stereotype about “lazy Afro-Americans who do not want to work, who live on benefits, conduct illegal activities and plague the white people in every way possible” is imposed on the Ukrainian viewers, the majority of whom barely speak English and have never been to the USA.

It is difficult to understand the reasons for such a lopsided vision. Is this an attempt to please the White House or extrapolation of nationalistic ideas, which are popular today in Ukraine? Or maybe such stereotypes about Afro-Americans have long become entrenched outside the United States.

As an argument, the Ukrainian broadcasters offer statistics on over-representation of the African-Americans among convicts in the USA. But nobody even bothers to analyze and explain these statistics. Due to the ostentatious political correctness, nobody tells that there is still segregation in the American society – the thinly veiled economic segregation.

It is difficult for African-Americans to get a job. If they have one, they usually work for less than an average wage in any economic sector. African-Americans cannot afford decent education; they are cut off from prestigious colleges and universities. That is why there are so many African-Americans among the poorer and socially unprotected sections of the American population.

Black criminality is not a source of the problems in the American society. Vice versa, it is a direct consequence of these problems! All kinds of Ukrainian “experts” on TV tell that the riots of Afro-Americans adversely affected the American economy. But no one of them says that the same economy was initially built on the free labor of black slaves.

Years ago, Angela Davis received letters from the Ukrainian schoolchildren who admired her uncompromising struggle for the civil rights of African-Americans. Nowadays, her name is taken off the Ukrainian textbooks for promoting radical ideology.

Likewise, today hardly anyone in Ukraine can recall who gave the speech “I Have a Dream”. Nevertheless, Martin Luther King Jr. was not just a character of the American history. He was a great humanist and fighter who made his mark in the history of all humankind.

Unfortunately, in many countries like in Ukraine modern media and mass culture artificially inculcate chauvinism and outright racism. They try to present a victim as an offender.

In the meantime, we should not blame the white majority. The real culpable are those in power who do nothing to eliminate the colossal economic stratification in society which is the root cause of the social conflict. In order to convey this idea to people we need to display another side of what is going on. We have to show how white Americans hold rallies for the African-Americans rights, the rights of Hispanic Americans, for their common inalienable rights. We have to promote lessons on the African-American history not only in the United States and in Africa but also in the European schools.

It is necessary to show that we all have a common interest. We live in the same society and if one of us can’t breathe then suffocation may befall the others.

*Neil Karpenko, Ukraine’s history and politics researcher residing in Toronto, Canada. Contributing author to Haaretz, The Hill Times and Morning Star.

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