Effects Of Western Media Domination On Nationalism And African Diaspora
“The construction of new identities become both an inevitable consequence and a necessary task” (Gillespie). The concept of Diaspora describes groups of people who currently live or reside outside their countries of origin. The communities of the African diaspora identify and have a connection with Africa, while still maintaining a strong bond with their new country.
This brings us to a new question, what exactly then are the identities of the African Diaspora? I believe when anyone leaves the place, they really call home or have ancestral ties to it; something paradoxical takes place when they migrate; “The media are among sources of creations and they give shape to the social and cultural environments of everyday life and provide a framework for making sense of the world” (Martin-Barbero) with this being said Africans eagerly seek out news from home so that they can cope with their surroundings this could be their third space. The third space gives rise to something different, something new and unrecognizable, a new area of negotiation of meaning and representation.” In this “in-between” space, new cultural identities are formed, reformed, and constantly in a state of becoming. (Homi K. Bhabha).
The ties that binds grips on very tight. When we migrate, we are mostly at the mercy of our hosts’ media. Even when we seek out our own diaspora or home-based media, the reality is that Western media still dominates. They have the heavy machinery to churn out 24-hour news; to thread narratives as they seem fit and to push it to their mostly media illiterate population. The impact of their media domination actually pushes us to explore the power dynamics and to truly analyze what we all always suspected yet were too lazy, or just couldn’t bother to think through due to its low impact on us, when we were home. But when people migrate and are endlessly faced with the deep ignorance of a population that do not know any better other than what their media feeds them, they instantaneously rush to correct their pitiful judgments as I will give when talking about my own experience and my case studies.
Pictures and videos are very powerful, and they have the ability to shape the opinion of a person’s gained knowledge on a place or country. The continent of Africa consists of fifty-four states, however because of media domination by the west pictures distort Africa as a continent and often times categorized it as one single country. Africa is continually depicted as casualties of destitution, savagery, hunger and infections. Additionally, Africans are stereotyped to be graceless, unsophisticated and uneducated. These pictures in the media disregard the advantage to these countries, their natural resources and an understanding of the African diaspora whom many are educated yet migrate to seek a better life.
According to the LA times African immigrants are more educated than most, including people born in the U.S. The main positive pictures of Africa that are reliably demonstrated are ones of the safaris filled with beautiful animals. There have been many times in my life where whenever, I said that I was from Africa one of the first few questions I got asked were “are you from East Africa? Do you always play with the animals? Or my dad did a missionary trip to Kenya and helped so many poor children” and I would always have to proceed explaining that I am from The Gambia, West Africa and that Africa is a continent with North, South, East and West and to this day I have never been to a safari. Growing up this affected my identity as an African especially with me growing up between The Gambia, and the U.S for 15 years of my life. I grew up knowing that I was African, however I wanted to be American because to be that was more pleasing from what I saw on TV. “Identities become highly diversified, progressive or reactionary, and constantly under review and reconstruction” (Castells).
As seen in the quote for me, my identity was under reconstruction and I reacted upon it after feeling like I did not fit in. I never really knew much about The Gambia until I visited and realized how similar yet different it was to the states. I knew I was African, but I felt American. However, the older I got the more I identified with being African and cherished it because of the stereotypes and discrimination I got from Americans. Growing up in America, the media, however, decided to cover most of the negative sides of Africa and often times certain parts of Africa were highly focused on. Most movies mythologize Africa and miseducate Americans and Europeans, look at the consistent generalization with regards to portraying Africa, for example, ‘Africans are so poor, they are hungry, they are savages, they walk to school and, Africa is hot and sticky ‘. When in actual reality a significant measure of Africans do live in urban areas, have well-kept homes, maids, drivers and certain parts of Africa do not encounter extraordinary warmth and dampness. In fact, some parts of Africa snow like South Africa. The images of Africa have been reduced throughout the years because of the deceptive, uneven realities the media shows.
According to Daya Thussu’s export of media products 61% of recorded media is from Europe and 19% is from the U.S whilst 0.1% is from Africa. This has affected nationalism and people in the African diaspora because they are often times conflicted about their identities and aspire to live the “American dream” so much at the cost of there being a lack of human capital on the continent of Africa. The Absence of human capital and limit will continue making African nations subordinate upon a donor driven plan. Sadly, most of the benefactors, will subsidize ventures dependent on their plan. Donor driven projects will not encourage local ownership. Therefore, not only will Africans be dominated by the west in regard to media, but the west could also own a lot of their local projects and even land. “It is in everyday life that genuine “creations” are achieved” (Lefebvre). So, it is very vital for Africans to be find new ways to be accountable for their future. This is a call for African people to encourage local ownership and people to come back home from the west after getting their education. (quote on diaspora).
Another question to be explored is how are African’s meant to give back to their respective countries if the only success stories they see on TV, or hear on the radio are from the west? Or of people living in the west (quote form Cuban diaspora). There are a lot of African’s on the ground aspiring to travel abroad because of opportunities. Their countries image has not only been damaged in the eyes of people abroad but also in their own eyes and the only way they can thrive is abroad. They will take the backway via boats or by air just for greener pastures. This then creates a diaspora of African’s who give their human capital to the west who hardly recognize them for their efforts. It is almost like an even exchange where the west says “we give you papers to make you legal, you work, pay taxes to us and as long as you stay out of trouble we will let you live here”.
After speaking with two people from The Gambia, West Africa I was able to get better insight. Khadijah Aja was born in Niece but grew up between The Gambia and the U.S and is currently living in Senegal working for the presidency. Fatou Amirah was born in the U.S and is now residing in The Gambia working on her recycling company. I asked these two ladies the question if they thought western media domination has affected their nationalism or has affected them when they were abroad being a part of the African diaspora. My first interview was with Fatou Amirah in which she expressed that her view of western media changed from comparison between nations what they did not have in Africa versus what was available abroad to realizing there was a socioeconomic standard that exists which allows the capacity for cultures to represent themselves in media. She said media is a soft power, a tool in which culture and narratives are successfully spread; though subtle it is often strategically packed with propaganda and ideology.
After spending much of her childhood summers in Gambia and other developing countries, the most sought out programs came from the likes of Disney Channel, CNN, MTV, VH1, and BBC….all of which are media powerhouses that have control of their and other cultures narrative.(quotes about new channels). From my interview with Fatou I realized this has created a fierce romanticizing of the west within the Africans on ground and African’s in the diaspora. Fatou believed this made everyone want to go to America or anywhere in the west rather than focus on how to build their surroundings to the longed for standard. The primary goal was to get a passport so they can get “out.” Even if a passport was unavailable, it was worth it for many to resort to illegal/life threatening routes. She said she will never forget the day she overheard one kid exaggerating to his peers that when you land in America, the airport tiles are paved with gold… with much belief and excitement as if he had experienced this himself.
If Africans grew up predominantly on their own programs provided by their own media powerhouses, viewers would be less inclined to feel as though the only way to reach material success is to go where the media portrays success to be. “New players originating from the peripheries of global media industries; the rise of non- Western media” (Thussu). Times have undoubtedly changed there is much more home-grown pride and representation of African cultures, but the dominant force Western media has and will remain up until the point in which the aforementioned romanticism ceases. The way for that to cease is through a rise in African media powerhouses which are able to compete for representation, for the African diaspora to see themselves through themselves and be reminded or in some cases introduced of their roots. My second interview was with Khadijah Aja who had a different angle from Fatou Amirah she said “I moved to the States as a teenager, many of my classmates in both high school and University were oblivious of what Africa was really liked. They found it puzzling that I dressed like them – if not even better, I loved the music and food they loved; and that I had more stamps on my passport than them.
When I would do presentations on what Gambia was really like for me, I could literally see their faces melt into an awe looking gaze. They just did not know better hence the initial judgment. What they saw in their media had informed their ignorance. Had their media showed a more objective picture of Africa, perhaps they would be more eager to not only learn about our continent but to also visit. Therefore, most Africans in the diaspora can tell you that they also have had a let-me-educate-these people experience. The reckless and tired narrative of suffering Africans pushed by the international media actually has breed more solidarity amongst us in the diaspora. We now intentionally seek our own media and share it on our social media platforms or with Western friends in order for them to see a balanced picture of where we are from. Our artists are now dominating Western air waves and filling up the biggest stadiums in the world. Artists like Youssou Ndour, J-Hus, WizKid, Burna Boy, and Tiwa Savage.
These artists and many African intellectuals are now our key ambassadors in showing the world not a perfect Africa, but a place that has potential and rapidly developing. Above all, everyday Africans in the diaspora through their daily interactions are also making the little difference they can, in educating Westerners on what our homes are really like”. Recently, with organizations like the UN, World Bank, IMF the world is seeking a globalized front. “Globalization has been influenced above all, by developments in systems of communication” (Giddens). It is proven that with new technology the world is supposed to be merging into one melting pot because there are new communication methods yet, there is still a challenge with Africans being able to collectively speak about their truths and this can have an effect on the African identity and Africans in the diaspora.
In this day and age, it is imperative to come to terms with where we originate from and to comprehend the open doors that exists through culture and assorted variety. With such an interconnected world we should have the option to figure out how to speak with people who originate from a differing set of societies and conventions. (Kwame appiah quote on relatability). By having regard for how different we are yet similar one can have worldwide mindfulness. Having worldwide mindfulness enables us to have an understanding of issues in the world and how these issues sway society and individuals’ lives. It is very important to study media domination and its effects on national identity because media is part of everyday life. There are many unequal power relations when it comes to media and that is because most of it is controlled by the west and “It is all about power, of course.
In the end. The power of media has to set an agenda. The power they have to destroy one. The power they have to influence and change the political process. The power to deceive and to shift the balance of power: between state and citizen; between country and country” (Silverstone, Why Study the Media?). This shows how when there in an unequal power when it comes to media these stereotypes about Africa will still be highlighted. It is true global media platforms have changed our past understandings of cultures in different countries. But as long as it is not distributed equally there will be easy ways for people to frame an impression of how a nation is and how it ought to be.
There should be a plan to make a united African people that arranges the many countries on the continent and the meaning of what it means to be ‘African’. While media framework is stronger in the Western world, building the media to be a powerful tool of communication for Africans is on the rise with platforms such as local news channels like the horn of Africa, Africa great lakes in Burundi and GRTS who now have access to the web and can upload podcast, news and local shows for Africans and people abroad to watch. Subsequently, standard worldwide news stations currently have the assignment to answer, to fundamentally analyze and change ethical convictions while strengthening contemporary confining and portrayals of Africans in the media.
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