Breaking Barriers – The Truth Behind the Stereotypes
We are of African roots.
We are a vibrant, happy people. Our culture puts family first and believes our neighbors always have a helping hand.
We are more than our stereotypes. We are more than the stories created from an outside perspective. We are unique, diverse countries brought together by the respect we hold in sharing a collective history.
Our countries have issues, yes, but we also have powerful influencers in art, history, science, and technology.
This is the first of our series that will take a deeper look at popular “African” assumptions.
Don’t all Africans speak the same language? It is mostly clicks, right?
There are 54 different countries in Africa, many with more than one national language.
You can easily wake up in one country speaking French or English, as well as more local tongues like Zulu or Swahili. You may find yourself asking for directions in Arabic or learning Ibo or Shona, depending on where you find yourself on the continent.
To hear clicks rather than words, Khoisan-speaking countries are the place to go. These dialects include Bantu, Sandawe, and Hadza, each local to specific regions.
Although many African countries share languages heard around the world, the unique dialects have to be respected. Rather than assuming a certain country uses clicks, research it’s native language and it’s tribes. If they do happen to be from an area that uses clicks, practice offering respect to an age-old language that is rarely written.
Stereotype: Africans speak the same language.
Truth: There are an estimated 1500 – 2000 languages on the continent.
Why? When experiencing colonization, different groups started forming new languages so their enemies would not be able to understand them.
All Africans know each other.
Have you ever introduced yourself as someone from a certain country/background and people automatically assume you know someone else from that region?
Try having that happen with an entire continent.
Many African international students experience the following scenario often.
African International Student: “Hi, my name is Amadi, and I am from Uganda.”
Individuals: “Oh, so you know Umi?”
This happens all the time, and it’s about time it stops.
Many international students get this question when they are not even from the same country as the other individual. They could be from many different areas, but somehow this assumption still pops up.
Imagine meeting someone with red hair and automatically assuming they know your other friend with red hair. Or when introduced to someone from a big family, you automatically think they know someone in your network who also has a big family.
Yes, college campuses can often turn into small communities and mutual friendships form easily. Student organizations such as African Students Association and International Students Association influence and celebrate heritage background.
However, the wrong thing to do is to think the new connection you just made is somehow connected to another person you know from a similar background. You might even be surprised to see the two individuals’ backgrounds aren’t as similar as you think.
Stereotype: All or many of the Africans on college campuses know each other because they are African.
Truth: African students do not all automatically come together. Many have a diverse circle of friends from various backgrounds and organizations on campus, similar to any college student – domestic or international.