What’s So Funny About Africa?

Patronizing reporting makes a mockery of Africa's real problems.

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There was a time long, long ago when I was a cub reporter still clutching my dog-eared copy of All The President’s Men, when I revered The New York Times. A few choice stories—among them a Southern white editor’s self-serving, obliviously patronizing of his of old, black maid—chipped away at that reverence.

Certainly not all coverage of Africa by the Times is patronizing and small.Over the years, several reporters have have contributed coverage that went beyond what Charlayne Hunter-Gault calls the four Ds of the African apocalypse—disease, disaster, death and despair. Others have not. Apparently, when it comes to Africa, it’s the luck of the draw.

Mswati deserves to have his lifestyle and treatment of his country rigorously questioned. As someone who has traveled in Africa and who deeply loves the continent, I have no misplaced racial loyalty to corrupt and selfish leaders who plunder their country’s resources and leave their people starving—or worse. Especially when they do so in the name of anti-colonialism, of liberation and free and independent rule. As my uncle used to say, it don’t matter if the hand picking my pocket is black or white.

This is a real nation with real problems, not some fairy-tale land. The Times should turn its powerful eye on abuse of power and what is clearly a simmering political crisis. I wonder if the people of Swaziland are pleased to find themselves so amusing to Times readers. I wonder if they are in on the joke.

Kim McLarin is the author of Jump at the Sun: A Novel.