I'm an Africa Snob

I just got done reading a blog post by a woman on a 4.5 day missions trip in Ethiopia. I was so excited when I saw Africa in the title, hoping I might have found a new friend with whom I could reminisce and compare stories of cultural faux pas. But when she wrote about how everyone in Africa is full of joy and how Africa has "changed" her, I got seriously irked.

I know four months isn't anything to shake a stick at, but I didn't exactly take a vacation when I was in Uganda. I wasn't there to take in all the development pornography and check a bunch of my boxes on my "Good Christian To-Do" list. I was there to live.

So if you have any intentions of continuing to read my little rant, I apologize in advance for my judgmental attitude, my condescension and my pretension. But I'm annoyed. 

Here are some truths straight from the mouth of an Africa snob:


So stop referring to it as though every African is one in the same. Like every country shares the same culture and customs. Say it with me, folks: Africa is a continent. 

2. Not all Africans are full of joy.

I met some wonderful Ugandans during my time there four years ago whom I still consider friends. Friends who made me laugh, friends who eased me into the cultural differences, friends who were wonderful, faithful, God-fearing individuals. But believe it or not, some Ugandans are assholes. There I said it.

Just like some Americans, Colombians, Australians and/or Russians are assholes. Stop painting every African out to be some hopelessly naive, singing, chanting, drum-circling, oblivious to the realities of life, kind of novelty. These are real people. People who have equal capacity in their hearts for good and evil. Just like the rest of us. Stop exalting the disenfranchised to relieve your own guilt and discomfort at the reality of the poverty in which most of them live.

One of the joys of Ugandan living: Permanently dirty feet and infected mosquito bites

3. After a day, Africa changed you?

I already covered the Africa-is-a-continent thing, so I'll bypass that part of this irksome statement. So you got a little taste of life in Africa, did you? Well good for you, honey. Now try living there. Try eating your rice and beans as you watch emaciated children digging through the trash for dirty handfuls of discarded sustenance. Try walking into town alone while every predatory eye undresses you. Try taking an evening stroll on campus while you watch as a local criminal is wrapped in car tires and burned alive.

For me, there were some really breathtakingly beautiful moments. An evening run on the red dirt track as the sun slowly set over the trees. Laying in the grass at night replaying the Lion King scene when Simba, Timon and Pumba count the billions of stars. Teaching my four-year old host "nephew" to play Patty Cake for the first time and listening to his glorious squeals of delight.

There is so much beauty in Uganda, as I'm sure there is throughout the rest of the continent of Africa. But for the love of God, please stop focusing on all the positive, lovey-dovey stuff and disregarding the heartwrenchingly awful stuff. You're doing a disservice to the people who live there every day. We owe it to our brothers and sisters of all African nations to highlight the beauty, as well as the darkness. We owe it to them to wrestle with the hard questions of 

"Why them?"
"How can this type of suffering continue?"
"Why isn't anything being done to stop this?"

To put these "Africans" on a pedestal to ease your own conscience is plain and simple, messed up.

And there you have it, from the mouth of an Africa snob.


  1. Hi Kaity! Insightful post :-) I'm Heather and I was wondering if you would be able to answer a question I have about your blog! My email is Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail.com

  2. I don't think that makes you an African snob. While I have never been on a mission trip myself (but have it on my bucket list), I imagine that just like you said - there are beautiful moments and there are moments of really really just crappy heartbreaking stuff. I mean - if they were all happy - then why would we have so many missions to different areas in Africa? It's probably likely that after just a couple days, maybe she hasn't seen the not so sunshine-y stuff, yet and doesn't yet realize the huge cultural differences and problems.

    P.S. I love the Lion King star gazing part. I bet that was a pretty incredible thing to see :)

  3. So true! I spent 2 weeks in Ethiopia and that trip inspired me to go back for a summer there and feel like I came away with the same things you did. Although, I do still say that Africa got into my blood - not Ethiopia simply itself. I have six siblings adopted from Ethiopia and it's crazy the things people say! One doctor's assistant wouldn't believe my mom that my sister shouldn't be considered African American and then wouldn't even look up to see if Ethiopian was an option because she was convinced that all people from Africa are simply Africans. Crazy!

  4. Great post and I don't think that you're an "African snob" haha. What part of Uganda where you in? My brother is currently is Lira, Uganda servings a 2 year LDS mission.

  5. I'm not the biggest fan of short-term missions trips, largely because I think they do much, much more for the people who go than the people who they are supposed to be serving. I've never thought that spending a week in a developing country just to get the experience and completing some project is really the most efficient way to go about missions. There is a lot of money wasted on short term missions that I believe could be better invested into non-profits and missionaries who are actually going to stay and build relationships and really care more about changing lives than simply letting their own lives be changed.

  6. I think that Africa has been portrayed in America like this sad, poor place. I remember growing up kids in school asked me if we slept on trees. If we had houses, etc. So many people just were not aware because of what society has decided to share.

    So I understand why people would go to Africa, be surprised and share only the good.

    My parents are from Ghana, my sisters and I were born in America and even we did not know what to expect regardless of what our parents said when we visited for the first time. We ourselves were surprised. I was surprised of the beauty because I was expecting to only see despair, sadness, skinny children, huts, etc.

    So although I saw the despair and poverty I didn't only see that. I saw much more.

    So yes, I completely understand where you're coming from but I also see where others are coming from. I think everyone sees what they want to see. I choose to see Africa as beautiful as it is the place that raised my parents. So although there is despair I'm reminded that Ghana is my parents birthplace and that alone makes it beautiful. But I was also reminded that I could have easily been raised and born in Africa and that in itself was a huge eye opener for me.

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