Monday, July 16, 2018

The World Cup is NOT a Win for Africa

The recently-ended World Cup will go down as one for the ages for several reasons. Video-Assisted Referee (VAR), doubling the previous record for most own goals in a tournament, Russia’s impeccable hosting, Croatia’s incredible run and, of course, France’s ultimate triumph.

Of the several narratives that have emerged about the French heroics, none has been pervasive as “Africa Won the World Cup!” This is no whimsical claim: 16 of the 23-member squad that conquered the world are of recent African descent (either born to African immigrants or migrated at an early age themselves). While Black players are a dime a dozen at these tournaments, the French player’s distinct aesthetic and names gave the team an unmistakable African feel. It is thus no surprise that the victory elicited much celebration from the global African community, spiteful comments from France’s enduring rivals, and many a meme and commentary.

My Pan-African sensibilities, for one, were not particularly moved. Don’t get me wrong; I am from the Issa Rae school of thought in rooting for all Africans- diasporic or continental. I also concede that the team, led by the exploits of Kylian Mbappe et al, played excellent football. However, I refuse to join the “French Team = Africa” bandwagon. Here’s why.
First, there hasn’t been any doubt as to Africans’ ability to play football. From Eusebio to Jerome Boateng, George Weah to Samuel Eto’o, Roger Milla to Mo Salah, African players have nothing left to prove in regards to their abilities. Africa’s lack of success at the World Cup has hardly been about the quality of players we have at our disposal- but we’ll get back to that.

The idea that Western nations lean heavily on Africa’s finest resources for their own aggrandizement is the most consistent narrative in the global relations of the past five years. African labor built the Americas, African land sustained the Western European empires, and African minerals fed the capitalist machine at which we still marvel today. In fact, it is this dynamic of the past few centuries that has, in large part, necessitated the immigration of these players and their families to the colonial metropole that is France.

Thus, to take unabashed pride in how this is “Africa’s World Cup” is to concede the continent’s eternal role as feeder to the empire.

This World Cup didn’t represent an African triumph; it did just the opposite. For the first time since 1986, not a single African team made it to the knockout stages of the World Cup. So, despite an abundance of African talent (as shown by the French team, among others), Africa herself continues to flounder. While the finest parts of the continent continue to feed the narrative of Western victory culture, we regress.

And perhaps that’s the double-edged legacy of this World Cup. How has a tournament at which first and second generation Africans (worth mentioning that third placed Belgium has a significant number in their squad as well) were nothing short of triumphant also produced the worst showing by African teams in recent history? There is a fundamental disconnect here; one with critical implications for more than just football: for the global world order.

Same old story… Nothing to see here.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Pan-African Disconnect? Why the Global African Community and Zimbabweans Reacted Differently to Mugabe's Demise

The past month has been a whirlwind in Zimbabwean- nay, global- politics. In a twist of fate never imagined by neither the most astute pundit nor optimistic foe, Zimbabwe's 93 year-old president, Robert Gabriel Mugabe resigned from office after 37 years of polarizing rule. Reactions were instantaneous. The vast majority of Zimbabweans celebrated: in the streets; in homes, and online. Even the more forward thinking, technical, or skeptical in that number who expressed concern about the precedence set by the bloodless coup or the fact that Mugabe's imminent replacement was his long time protege (five decades!) and cut from the same cloth, still recognized the grandeur of the moment and the hope that sprung therefrom. The larger international community (for what it matters) shared in the jubilation and optimism.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Intolerance in the Time of Trump

Intolerance is a dominant force in political and social environments today.  What has happened to the morality, at least on the surface, of this nation?  Should we keep fighting for what is “right”, or has the influence of leadership on hegemonic culture ingrained a practice of intolerance?

I saw a graphic in the days following the tragic act of terrorism in Charlottesville, and Donald Trump’s subsequent comments on the incident.  The graphic introduced the Paradox of Tolerance by the philosopher Karl Popper:
“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.  If we extend unlimited tolerance even to these that are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them” (Popper, 581).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

¡Adios Hipócrita! A Farewell to the Revolutionary Who Failed his Revolution

It was in the early morning hours of the middle of the night when I received the same message from different notifications:

Breaking News: Cuba's Fidel Castro, age 90, has died, state-sponsored media reports.

Once again, the world focused its lens on the largest country of the Antillean islands. Hundreds of exiled Cubans and Cuban-Americans, accompanied by the mayor of Miami, assembled on the streets of Little Havana to sing, "¡Se Fue!"

He's gone. However, his shadow is not.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Day After...

Having to Answer to America's "Unwanted"

pic from
November 9, 2016

I am a civil servant.  My work as a Family Engagement coordinator at a small refugee center with a mission directed at educating and integrating refugees into the US school system is both personally and altruistically rewarding.  I had a meeting to enroll a Syrian family into an inner city school this morning, and the routine gathering and discussion became a battle between cultures, full of mistrust and anxiety. 

“Do you work for Trump?  Is that why you are trying to make this enrollment so confusing? I hope we get kicked out of this country so we can go back to Jordan!”

Monday, October 3, 2016

Progress Made, But We Cant Stop Here: Muslim Women in Media

Source: Playboy

Generally when you see a Muslim, particularly a women wearing a hijab in the media it is usually associated with some form of propaganda or 'terror' related accusation. Hijab is a target of islamaphobia and a hindrance to exercising freedom in a western patriarchal society.  Recently two very prominent veiled women Noor Tagouri and Amena Khan have been featured in two different very well-known brands. These promotions show great progress but also prove there is still a lot of work to do.

Friday, April 8, 2016

"Champion... Champion!"- Why West Indies' Cricket Triumph Should Excite the Global African Community

"You know what's wrong with our West Indians? No damn discipline. Look at this business this morning. That Hall and Trueman nonsense, kya-kya, very funny. But that is not the way the Aussies won tests." V.S Naipaul

The above sentiment, from 1963, might as well have been uttered in 2016. In fact, it has. The denigration of West Indian cricket's penchant to infuse residual African norms and uniquely island flamboyancy into the definitive imperial British 'gentleman's game'- all the while performing exceptionally- is as old and enduring as the game itself, in spite of an incredible cricketing legacy to show for all their 'indiscipline.'