One of the things that most perplexed me when I started teaching was some of my students insisting they were completely different from the students at the next school over.
Both schools were similar in size. Both districts were farming communities with similar socio-economic and ethnic details. Driving between the communities, it was hard even to figure out where the border was. Five miles and a world apart.
However, whenever we discussed stories set in other places, students figured that the people there were really all the same as each other, even if they lived more than five miles apart. Individuals could differ, but the groups would average out to be the same. If distance builds difference, then “totally different from us” eventually suggests there’s only so much room for variation among the people living there. I probably thought the same when I was their age, even though it doesn’t work out that way.
That’s why I liked this video (“African Men. Hollywood Stereotypes” by MamaHope) so much when I first saw it a few years ago. It gives a playful counterpoint to the assumption – shared by many and encouraged by Hollywood – that everyone in Africa is the same. I’ve met many Africans (by which I mean Nigerians, Zambians, Senegalese, and South Africans), and some of them have been like the young men in this video. I’m looking forward to being there to help them tell their stories to a wider (and more understanding) world.