Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa (Book Review)

I Read “Out of America " when it was published several years ago, but I felt it was time to bring it out of the closet with the human rights problems currently going on around the world to show that this phase is nothing new and represents a part of Africa most African-Americans know nothing about or try hard to ignore. "Out of America" is a candid and sometimes chilling look at the "Motherland" from another person’s eyes.

It  is a dark and disturbing book depicting a continent where morality is a strange concept, where morally bankrupt "big men" pillage the continent's resources at the expense of millions while bringing new killing fields to its already war weary residents and destroying stability while at the time becoming rich "welfare kings" from the misguided foreign dollars siphoned off into foreign banks. The book exposes thugs who run countries, rob and rape the resources and people, according to brutal and savage methods to silence opposition, including torture, imprisonment and murder. 

As a black American and journalist, Mr. Richburg thrusts a "no holds barred" view of black Africa into the reader's face and dares them to look at the Africa he lived and worked in for three years as a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post. It is a difficult picture to view. The smell of death and decay scent each page transferring the horrifying images of genocide, madness and utter hopelessness directly to the reader's psyche.

At a time when "Afrocentrism" is fashionable and popular among large portions of the United States' black population, black academicians, "leaders" and pop culture, it would be easy to dismiss “Out of America” as a "popular journalism" tome and write it off. But, that is to entirely miss the point and shrug off an important piece that brings current reality and raw truth to a sensitive subject that has been overly romanticized revealing an Africa that no one talks about.

Although “Out of America” is only one man's view of the continent, it reveals much. Of all the confrontations presented by life there are none so tough as confronting the truth about ourselves and the author admits it. Mr. Richburg makes no pretense that he has all the answers or even that he knows the questions. However, what he does present is an intensely personal view of a subject that most blacks or whites would shy away from ever saying anything in public much less write a book about it. 

Mr. Richburg is candid about where and how he grew up, who his friends are and his early influences, so much so that some might want to write him off as non-representative, but Mr. Richburg never makes that claim. It is his story about his personal reality on a continent that suffers from an unrealistic romanticized characterization and overwrought surface embellishment.

For readers with an open mind and a willingness to peer beneath the surface, “Out of America” is provocative reading. It is a book that is certainly worth the effort for those who wonder about the people who look like them—in the "Motherland." 

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Tags: Africa, America, Book, blackness, dictators, review

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Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 20, 2013 at 9:44pm
An interesting conundrum . People actually turn on their natural state many times when they are traumatized and mistreated. A good example is the overwhelming adoption of Christianity in the African American community especially considering how the Bible was used to justify enslaving Africans. I consider it a case of long-term Stockholm Syndrome.
Comment by Craigart14 on October 20, 2013 at 5:47pm

I read the CNN piece.  29 million people in slavery in Africa and the Middle East.

Comment by Joan Denoo on October 20, 2013 at 5:39pm

This story is a perfect example of what I mean by the tyranny of obedience. Whether a child who has been disciplined to obey, or a women who has been emotionally and/or physically beaten down, or a man trying to support his family in a laissez-faire capitalist system, the notion of obedience becomes internalized. A colonized person looks outside oneself to determine what is right or wrong, good or bad, full of grace or full of sin. The person does not have an internal compass for making such judgements. It is also true of animals, they want to please their master and will do all kinds of crazy things to please.

I trained a rat in psych lab to run around in a circle, climb a ladder, slide down a slide and then tap a button for food. It didn't take very long and rats are not thought of as docile critters. Neither are cats, and yet they can be trained. It is easy. The hard part is to untrain them and that is what we had to do. We trained lab animals to be dependent and then had to train them to be independent. 

Obedience is necessary for a family or society to work; teaching a person to be dependent is not in the interest of the family or society. 

Belgians in the Congo, Natives in USA, Blacks in days of slavery, and soldiers in war, had to learn to obey, only to discover it gets in the way of healthy functioning as a mentally healthy, mature, adult human being. Much of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder comes from the cognitive dissonance that occurs with such training.  

It is possible to re-train animals, birds, fish and humans to unlearn learned-helplessness and dependence, and relearn healthy functioning. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on October 20, 2013 at 5:08pm

Sentient, you did it! I Googled and found the original thread and am now looking for yours. 

Belgians in the Congo

Here is a quote of mine from that string:

""King Leopold's Ghost" is a must read for those who support colonialism, or for those who do not understand how evil human beings can be. The simple fact, well documented, that King Leopold instructed his missionaries and henchmen to cut off the hands and feet of children and wives when the men didn't bring in their quota. He was a brutal, disgusting, thug who read the bible and attended church and pronounced himself a christian. He followed the example of his god with no conscience or regret. That is where he found his moral compass. Many times I have been asked where I get my moral compass. A very important lesson we need to heed. When he was found out, there was a propaganda project that restored him to full acceptability by the courts of Europe. Talk about hypocrisy!"

~ Joan

Comment by Sentient Biped on October 20, 2013 at 4:18pm
Joan I will search for that review on return. I reread King Leopolds Ghost since then. Each time I reread a well written important book I learn something.
Comment by Sentient Biped on October 20, 2013 at 4:15pm
Cant link from where I am but maybe googleable. Modern slavery - in the millions. main countries - India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and several in subsaharan Africa. Article was on CNN. Will try to locate later.

Also there is good context in Jared Diamond's book 'Guns germs and steel' as to why some places develop and others lag behind.

Mr Richburg laments that Africans, and many African American communities, lag behind Asian countries and Asian immigrants in developing economic growth. probably multifactorial. I thought it was very much worth reading his book. It asks more questions than giving answers, but they are important questions.
Comment by Luara on October 20, 2013 at 4:06pm

An article about African debt and what has resulted from it

Comment by Luara on October 20, 2013 at 3:41pm

And they have huge amounts of debt, that must hurt their bargaining power.  As you said, pawning resources to get money for debt payments? 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 20, 2013 at 3:37pm
You got it. That's what happens. The Chinese have started trade agreements several African countries.
Comment by Luara on October 20, 2013 at 3:26pm

their resources are being pawned by "Big Men"

I was wondering something like that ... that the corporations come along and buy out whoever's in power - and the political structure isn't robust enough to fight the corruption.

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