A Letter from Africa

I am writing this column from Cameroon during my sixth trip to Africa. Having travelled to some 20 African countries, I find myself, like so many other visitors to Africa before me, intoxicated with the continent. And I am not referring to the animals, as much as I have been enthralled by them during safaris in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Rather I am referring to the African peoples.

Here, then, are some observations.

First and foremost, just as when I visited Auschwitz and the killing fields of Cambodia, when I visited places here in West Africa from which Africans were sent as slaves to the New World — and places in East Africa from which Africans were sent as slaves to the Middle East — I was overwhelmed by the amount of cruelty human beings have inflicted on other human beings. There is no limit to suffering human beings have been willing to inflict on others, no matter how innocent, no matter how young, and no matter how old.

This fact must lead all reasonable human beings, that is, all human being who take evidence seriously, to draw only one possible conclusion: Human nature is not basically good.

There is no more obvious example of widespread wishful thinking than the belief that people are basically good. Come here and see where millions of men, women and children were yanked from their families, villages and friends, and then shipped in torturous conditions in ships from hell to a life sentence of backbreaking work. And then tell me that people are basically good. And needless to say, do the same after visiting a Nazi death camp or a Cambodian killing field.

Second, racism — the belief that people of a certain skin color are inherently different (and inferior or superior) — is not only evil; it is moronic. Racism is in equal amounts stupid and vile.

Third, given how evil racism is, and how much horrific suffering it has engendered, it is as tragic as it is reprehensible that it has been thoroughly politicized, and thereby thoroughly cheapened, in America. What the left — both black and white — has done to racism will one day be regarded as one of its worst moral legacies. Every person who has called criticism of President Barack Obama racism, who has labeled opposition to race-based affirmative action as racist, or who has called the tea party racist, has not merely engaged in a libel, he or she has done something even worse: cheapened the evil that is racism. If the Republican Party is racist, if America is racist, if opponents of President Barack Obama are racists, then, let’s be honest, racism just isn’t all that bad.

Fourth, nearly every African who has given the issue thought knows that America is not only not racist, it is the best place for an African to immigrate to. That is why more black Africans have come to America voluntarily than came to America as slaves — a statistic that virtually no college student is allowed to know.

Africans who immigrate to America know how little racism exists there. They suspect it before emigrating from Africa, and they know it after arriving in America. Indeed, America, the left’s depiction of it notwithstanding, is the least racist country in the world.

Fifth, every African economist who has written on the subject and that I have interviewed on my radio show is convinced that most Western monetary aid to Africa countries not only does not do good, it does great harm. The reason, of course, is that it goes mostly to corrupt elites.

Corruption is Africa’s greatest problem. Not poverty. Not lack of riches. Not racism.

The word corruption does not arouse the moral revulsion that it should. We think of it as more a nuisance than a great evil. But corruption kills societies every bit as much as murder kills an individual. Moreover there is no hope for any society in which corruption is endemic.

One final thought: Here in Cameroon, as elsewhere in Africa, the knowledgeable guides who lead tours of the slave centers note that Africans were deeply involved in the slave trade, and that without them, the slave trade could not have existed. If only this fact were taught as readily in American universities as it is here in Africa — not in order to minimize white complicity, but because universities should teach truth. Flawed human nature has no color.

Dennis Prager’s latest book, “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph,” was published April 24, 2013 by HarperCollins. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.com.


  • Bob Olden

    The African continent has been plagued by tribalism and colonialism in ways that have left most African countries severely underdeveloped (even though some colonial powers worked hard to bring progress to the Africans, in a paternalistic way). Slaves have been taken and sold in all directions as a result of wars and profiteering–probably more by Africans enslaving Africans than by Europeans or Americans enslaving them. The powerful have always subjugated the weak and they continue to do so. The deeply entrenched corruption in most African governments seems to have no solution. May God help them!

  • Brian Fr Langley

    As you point out, “flawed human nature has no color”. But neither does transcendent human nature have color. We are the only creature able to subvert instinct. Alone among creatures we can give another person our food, even if we’re starving. Give up our last drop of water, even when thirsty unto death, or have the courage to give up our lives defending a friend. America used to have leaders that pointed us to our transcendent human nobility. President Kennedy said “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. Reverend King said, a person should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Today our leaders reject nobility for ignominy. What nobility is found in mothers aborting their babies because they chose sexual gratification and conveniance over the life of their own child? Where is the nobility in half of America’s children being raised by single parents? What’s noble about Federal, State, and municipal debts that our leaders know can never be repaid, (by any ethical means). What is noble about consecrating unions for simple sodomy? The men who sold men (in this article) were no better than apes. And if we can’t transcend the ignominy of our endless, mindless, self indulgence, neither are we.