Monday, January 15, 2018

Looking for real s***holes. Hint: They're not in Africa
Donald Trump is right—there are s****holes in this world. What he’s wrong about is what constitutes a s****hole.

I think what makes a place great, or a s****hole, isn’t poverty, but instead the spirit and goodwill of its people. Using this definition, the characterization of an entire continent, Africa, as a s****hole is fundamentally flawed.

As director of Park University’s Center for Global Peace Journalism, I have had the privilege of living and working throughout Africa. Although generalizations about such a large and diverse place are problematic, I can say without fear of contradiction that the wonderful  Africans I’ve met make the continent anything but a s****hole.

In Uganda, where I lived 11 months, I met Betty, a fellow journalist, at a workshop I presented. Betty, like most Ugandans, isn’t materially wealthy, but her generosity of spirit is noteworthy. Betty single-handedly rescued six orphans from the bush, and probable death, and has taken care of them since 2010. Her community, Fort Portal, definitely not a s****hole, has pitched in to help the kids, too. I am proud to call dozens of similarly-minded Ugandans my friends and colleagues, and prouder still of my smart, sweet Ugandan goddaughters Stephanie (named after me) and Cindy who have helped lead a drive to assist refugees living in Uganda.

In Kenya, I know a journalist, Robert, who has literally risked his life to report about government and electoral corruption. Robert also isn’t monetarily wealthy, but we can all learn something from his devotion to his community, Nairobi, which is also not a s****hole.

I taught throughout Cameroon last summer. Tiny Beau, Cameroon may be poor, but it is decidedly not a s****hole thanks to its warm-hearted residents, especially my colleagues at CBS radio, who work hard every day under difficult circumstances to make their community, and country, a better place.

In fact, I am on my way to Ethiopia, also not a s****hole, to teach peace journalism in the spring, 2018 semester. In my previous trip there last summer, I was impressed by the determination of Ethiopia’s journalists to make their country a better place, despite any number of obstacles. In May, at the conclusion of my State Department-sponsored project, I’ll no doubt have a long list of Ethiopians who make the country anything but a s****hole.

So if the spirit and goodwill of its people means that Africa isn’t a s****hole, then where can we look to find one? One might start by examining  the antithesis of the African spirit, which I would characterize as racism, greed, xenophobia, ignorance, and selfishness. This negative spirit includes a lack of compassion for one’s fellow man and any basic human decency. Wherever one finds people embodying these characteristics can truly be called a s****hole.

Given these criteria, a cynic might argue that the most obvious s****holes in America might just be a 58-story skyscraper in Manhattan or a members-only resort in Florida. Now, this is probably unfair since  not all those who frequent these locales embody these selfish characteristics. Still, this characterization is at least partially accurate since we know of at least one frequent visitor to these places who does.


  1. I like this follow-up analysis of the racist comment made by the President of the United States of America. In my Diversity, Peace and Conflict class, I have learnt that baseless claims about minorities should be torn apart; made-up statistics be fact-checked and debunked in almost real time. In this way, the media plays a central role in the pushback against the us-versus-them politics of fear. Such critical scrutiny, unfortunately, should not be limited to the high-profile race for the presidency; it should be evident in local politics. The media’s capacity for public-interest reporting should not be severely depleted. This is exactly what I find in this article.
    From discussions in the class, I have gathered that media somtimes are less conscious or perhaps more confused about their responsibilities in covering newsmakers who advocate intolerance. This is partly because the issues are genuinely complex and not amenable to simple ethical formulas. Best practice entails alerting society to agents of hate, but without giving them a free ride that exaggerates their importance and amplifies their views uncritically. It can be hard to strike the right balance. Unfortunately, what often sways the decision is the media’s appetite for controversy and ill-meaning people may exploit their lust for riveting stories.
    While reporting a sensitive hateful speech such as this, insights of conflict analysis and transformation are used to update the concepts of balance, fairness and accuracy in reporting. It also provides a new route map tracing the connections between journalists, their sources, the stories they cover and the consequences of their journalism – the ethics of journalistic intervention while also building an awareness of non-violence and creativity into the practical job of everyday editing and reporting.
    Benson Mabel
    Mass Communication
    Caleb University, Lagos.