Africa is two countries

Rur roh. I’ve used the term “Sub-Saharan Africa” both in teaching and in my research many times.  However, I just learned that the phrase is neither politically or geographically correct.  Yikes!

A recent Quartz article makes the following points:

First, the term isn’t geographically correct in some cases. For instance,  “The UN Development Program lists 46 of Africa’s 54 countries as ‘sub-Saharan,’ [but] four countries included are on the Sahara, while Eritrea is deemed “sub-Saharan” but its southern neighbor Djibouti isn’t.”

Second, development agencies aren’t consistent in their labeling.  In its definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank includes the 46 countries as the UN Development Program  but also includes Sudan and Somalia.

Third, instead of treating Africa as a single country (sadly still commonplace in the media), we tend to treat it as two (Sub-Saharan and Northern Africa).

The article also delves into the history of the term, noting that Sub-Saharan Africa replaced the more politically incorrect terms “Tropical Africa” and “Black Africa” that were prevalent in early research.  Some argue that the new term is equally problematic:
Tatenda Chinondidyachii Mashanda, a politics and international affairs scholar at Wake Forest University argues that “[it] is a way of saying ‘Black Africa’ and talking about black Africans without sounding overtly racist.”

Brian Larkin, a  Columbia University anthropologist, would agree, arguing that dividing Africa into Northern African and Sub-Saharan Africa reflects “‘racist’ colonial theories that thought northern Africa more culturally developed.” 

Time to re-think how I will describe my data the next time I write a paper with African countries!

 

How Not to Celebrate Diversity

The Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at the University of Texas is in trouble for throwing what it calls a “Western-themed” party.  Others have labeled it a racist border patrol party.  Here is some evidence of the latter:

A USA Today article reports that “Students were dressed in ponchos and sombreros. Some wore construction uniforms with Hispanic names written on them, while others donned military uniforms.”

The New York Daily news adds that “Among an array of south of the border props and costumes seen adorning the event, some costumes reportedly included hats with the names “Jefe” and “Pablo Sanchez” written across them as well as other partygoers wearing military camouflage outfits.”

University officials are not amused.  Here are a couple of photos that have leaked out:

fiji_marshals

border-patrol-party_36310

h/t @memomiller