Sun-City - Renaissance of South Africa

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On the rare occasion that I watch a TV show, I make an earnest effort to view something stimulating. Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates, narrated a trip to Timbuktu. If you're not familiar the rich history of this Sub-Saharan city, I encourage you to do a bit of research. It was the educational center for world scholars, unfortunately, it was sacked during the onslaught of European imperialism. Nonetheless, there is still a very large archive of scholarly texts that survived the fires.

Gates visited many villages and communities on his quest to uncover the mystery behind Timbuktu. The intent of his journey was to dispel several myths relative to early-Africa, and its rich legacy and contributions to modern world progress.

As an aside, I too struggled with this idea in question, during my days in undergrad. In fact, I'm clear that I had to check a history professor. I clearly recall his arrogance when he uttered, "Most scholars believed that the Egyptians were not of African descent." I had to blast him in local campus papers, and quote several texts to the contrary (ie. "Black in Science" Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, "Destruction of Black Civilization" Dr. Chancellor Williams, "They Came Before Columbus" Dr. Chancellor Williams), just to name a few.
Not surprisingly, I was not one the prof's favorite students, and I earned a 'C' in that Global Civilizations course.

Gates took a special interest in South Africa, specifically Johannesburg and some of the more lavish tourist attractions in Pretoria. Of particular interest was the re-telling of the history from the African and _not_ the European perspective. According to Gates, some of the European prospectors took great pride in building make-believe tourist attractions, which described their concept of early-Africa. Re-writing history to suit their needs and also burying in realistic opportunity to set the record straight and give the indigenous people the chance to shine. It also appeared as though many of the tourist have accepted these false images as gospel. Quite sad indeed.

How do we stop this foolishness? Well, it begins by having knowledge of self and recognizing that the legacy of great people can never be quelled.

One aspect of this Gates narrative that rubbed me the wrong way was a response he'd given to a young South African student. Apparently, the student was living in the Soweto townships, which have been provided by the new government. The conditions were certainly deplorable, even Gates remarked, "It would take 1000 years for them to catch up." This student indicated that he was planning to attend college, and that money to fund his education was a concern. Gates replied, "If you're grades are good, you shouldn't have any problem getting funding." At this moment I figured Gates was having a proverbial out of body experience. His tone dripped of arrogance. This Ivy League, prof certainly should use his ability to help this young man. Hell, bring him to your beloved Harvard if you choose, but to assume that the system will work as designed is misguided at best. Once Mandela was freed and apartheid was crushed, the government was supposed provide for the indigenous people. That is housing, electricity, and the necessities were to be provided. Judging from the footage, none of of this happened. What makes you think, getting good grades will help this man eject from this desperate situation? Clearly everyone cannot be saved, but you can help at least one person. This student was your best opportunity to reach down and grab someone. Wasn't the purpose of the visit to reveal truth?

Outside of that exchange, I thought Gates did a decent job. Actually, there has been much goodness on PBS this month. It's a shame that we can only get our culture freedom once a year..


Update : Great addition to this conversation at Kintespace.

  • Gates Steps down
  • Ills of Colonialism
  • Middle America - Quest for Bar-b-q
  • Unlikely partners ?
  • Monthly Archives

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    This page contains a single entry by AG published on February 22, 2007 3:05 AM.

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