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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Comment by Joan Denoo on October 20, 2013 at 1:56pm

I do our family's genealogy and I discovered both sides of my families gained great wealth by engaging in the slave trade during the Colonial Days. They were put out of business by USA government and others, who outlawed slave trade. Both sides of my family developed bitterness toward government and authority and it came down to some of my grand parents' generation. I think my parents' generation was far enough removed to recognize the horrors of slavery. You know the old saying, "social changes occur one funeral at a time". 

As to African countries not being able to change things internally, King Leopold of Belgium colonized the Belgian Congo, a peaceful nation, if I understand their history, and for those who resisted, the hands and feet of wives and children were cut off and the resisters either acquiesced or were murdered.

My Belgian family brags about how our family participated in subduing the Congo.  I found many Black Africans with the name, "Denoo" in Africa. We correspond and attempt to find a common ancestor, unsuccessfully.  My Black Denoo sources all seem to be very gentle people, very nice to me and welcome me warmly, even though I am an atheist and they are devout Christians. We assume we are from the same family tree and I think of them as cousins. 

The Congo has great natural resources; the wealth of that nation left in the hands of Colonialists leaving Africans destitute.

Forever in chains: The tragic history of Congo

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/forever-in-chains-th...

Sentient Biped did an excellent review of the literature, which I cannot find. When he gets back from China I will ask him for that piece. 

  

Comment by Luara on October 20, 2013 at 12:43pm

Donald,

Yes, but why?  Why haven't African countries been able to do what some of those Arab countries did - enrich themselves by selling their resources?

Tribalism making it hard for them to form something like OPEC? 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 20, 2013 at 12:30pm
Simple. Colonialism in Africa has been going on for decades all the way back to slavery and even before that. The Dutch, English, Spanish, as well as Far East countries have been colonizing for decades, displacing tribal lands for capitalist gain. The US has been at it for years making it easier for American businesses to exploit the land. Even the Cubans are there.
Comment by Luara on October 20, 2013 at 9:56am

I've seen documentaries about the exploitation of Africa by foreign countries.  I don't remember how this happens - Africa is probably still rich in resources, how do countries gain the leverage to make themselves rich through their resources, as some Arab countries did?  What prevents African countries from doing the same? 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 19, 2013 at 10:26am
If I could, I'd ban all religios groups Africa. I don't like proselytizing and feel that takes of people. Already, Christianity has homosexuals being persecuted , jailed and even killed. There are people being burned to death as witches. Thou shall suffer a witch to live. The continent has been exploited for nearly two centuries and it has never recovered. And. It is still going on. The rare metals, minerals and oil seem to be owned by someone else. I believe if any US business there were threaten you'd covert military action there much like the US did in undermining Hawaii, which few people know the history.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 18, 2013 at 9:22pm
Unfortunately, diseases we take for granted we'll never be affect by are common in parts of Africa. Corruption is rampant and no one suffers like the people caught in those ghastly cleansing efforts the "big men" as ruler.
Comment by Luara on October 17, 2013 at 9:31pm

Yes, human beings have done just about anything - in some circumstances.  People are incredibly malleable, created by our culture and circumstances, human nature is protean.

The immigrants from Africa who I've met have been very warm, kind people.  They also have something that allows them to emigrate, perhaps more money than most Africans.  The woman who cuts my hair came to the USA from Ghana, she's been here maybe 20 years or so.  We talk about food a lot, like the tropical roots that people eat in Ghana and Latin America.  She does say there was a lot of poverty there, parasites like the worms that burrow into one's skin - but doesn't seem to feel it was a disaster area. 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 17, 2013 at 7:47pm
I think you have some good points. African Americans are sparse in the United States. Perhaps, the only African American I am familiar with is the President of the United States. His father is truly African and his mother is white American. Truly an African American. Richburg's account is numbing. The thing that bothers me the most is the savagery, that allows men to do things that are off the chart of civilization. Of course, in Vietnam the same thing happened. In fact, in just about any place where war is ongoing the same things; the only difference is scale.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on October 17, 2013 at 7:20pm
You are correct in your assessment of life in certain parts of Africa. And, yes, colleges are bringing African students from elite families on the continent. Perhaps, the thing that bothers me most is bringing religion to people fighting for their lives. They are a captive audience. Bringing American style Christianity does not help--it hinders.
Comment by Luara on October 17, 2013 at 7:09pm

A slightly more optimistic note:  I've been reading that colleges have been getting black people by admitting African foreign students.  These students are rich and privileged, from the upper classes in Africa.  A lot of Nigerian students. 

When they go back to Africa (if they do), hopefully they will have training that will help Africa with its problems.  So it's a good thing to have these foreign students. 

Africa isn't completely composed of starvation, corruption and slaughter.

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