Letter from Africa

by Dennis Prager
The history of real racism, and human nature, is distorted by the Left.

I am writing this column from Cameroon, on the coast of West Africa, during my sixth trip to Africa. Having traveled to some 20 African countries, I find myself, like so many other visitors to Africa before me, sort of intoxicated with the continent. And I am not referring to the wildlife, as much as I have been enthralled by it in 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 have been overwhelmed by the amount of cruelty human beings have inflicted on other human beings. There is obviously no limit to the amount of suffering men have been willing to inflict on other men, 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 beings who take evidence seriously — to draw only one possible conclusion: People are not basically good. Human nature is not 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 family, village, and friends, and shipped in torturous conditions to a life sentence of back-breaking work permanently apart from everyone they ever knew. 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 black and every white who has called criticism of President Barack Obama racist, who has labeled opposition to race-based affirmative action racist, or who has called the Tea Party racist has not merely engaged in a libel. He or she has done something even worse: cheapen the evil that racism is. 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 emigrate 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 emigrate to America know how little racism exists there. They suspect it before emigrating; they know it after emigrating. 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 whom I have interviewed on my radio show is convinced that most Western monetary aid to African 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. 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 is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.