Ashamed to be white

Blood River from AmazonI’m reading a book at the moment that is making me ashamed to be British. No, it’s not about our national sporting achievements. Nor is it about our holidaymakers on the Costa del Sol.

Actually, to be more accurate, it makes me ashamed to be white. The book is ‘Blood River’ by Tim Butcher, charting the author’s journey along the length of the river Congo, following in the footsteps of the infamous H.M.Stanley. For someone who doesn’t like a documentary style and whose attention span for geographical detail is limited, it’s truly astonishing. I am finding it a fascinating read and would recommend it to anyone.

Not just fascinating, though. Heartbreaking. The subtitle is in fact ‘A journey to Africa’s broken heart’. What the white colonialists did in the name of progress disgusts me. The lack of respect for the indigenous peoples. The misplaced supremacy that stole the plentiful natural resources of Africa without a second thought. The slavery that wrenched thousands upon thousands from their homeland.

And then we have the cheek to look at the mess Africa is in now and wonder why. As if there is something inherently corrupt and violent within African nature that creates a situation where less people are have access to healthcare and education and sufficient food and water than they did fifty years ago.

‘But what can we do now? …. That’s all in the past…….What difference can little old me make?……. There’s nothing I can do.’

That’s just not good enough. Doing nothing does not feel like an option to me….. Fair trade, campaigning, celebrating positive images, education, promoting equality……

Read the book. Open your eyes. Do something.

We have an awful lot to make up for.

One Response to “Ashamed to be white”

  1. Helen

    Thank you for taking the time to describe Blood River on your blog.

    You are absolutely right - that outsiders (mostly white but supported by Arab slavers and others) caused so much suffering in Africa is historical reality that few today are prepared to face. And nowhere was that suffering more acute or longlasting than in the Congo.

    But as I hope you could tell from my experiences crossing the Congo, the most amazing and uplifting thing was to meet local people who were forward-looking, hard-working and unwilling to bear grievances. People like Benoit and his motorbike, or Oggi and his self-taught English riverguide skilles. They will be Africa’s salvation, if only their voice can be heard.

    Thank you again

    Tim Butcher
    author of Blood River - A Journey To Africa’s Broken Heart

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