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 Donald R Barbera on September 19, 2013 at 3:57pm
Laura -- I've that nobody likes the country. Among all I find that blacks received well. Perhaps, we have more kinship with those in the island, Brazil, Child, Argentia and more. I spent time in Panama with no problems, but they didn't think much of our country.
Comment by Luara on September 18, 2013 at 6:43pm

I find traveling south of the U.S. gives an entirely different perspective of this country. Talking with the people reveals a lot about what others think of us.

I have half-brothers and -sister who are half Costa Rican, and one of them basically told me the USA was an asshole of a nation.
And an aunt and uncle living in Brazil, my aunt thought people in the USA are very focused on money.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on September 18, 2013 at 5:49pm

Richburg resists preaching and just let us see what he saw. It wasn't a pretty picture. I admire the news people that go there to cover stories and volunteers working to reduce starvation and AIDS. Outside of Johannesburg, the scenery changes dramatically. No need to go into the Congo to see the difference.There are nice beaches, hotels and restaurants in South Africa, but once you leave that area--all bets are off. 

I find traveling south of the U.S. gives an entirely different perspective of this country. Talking with the people reveals a lot about what others think of us.

Comment by Luara on September 18, 2013 at 10:30am

I looked at some reviews of this book on Amazon. Reviewers writing from Africa agreed with Richburg. 

Comment by Luara on September 18, 2013 at 9:43am

The USA is a country haunted by the repercussions of slavery, and I wonder if black Americans might find that travel elsewhere - not necessarily to Africa - gives them a perspective on the USA, so it's less personal. 

Africa is probably the continent in worst shape to face the resource conflicts in this coming century, and perhaps an indicator of our future if we don't deal well with our environmental and energy problems.  A chilling thought. 

Often countries that are invaded end up gaining by it, although at the time it's extremely violent and traumatic.  The black people in America are generally much better off at least in material terms than their relatives in Africa. 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on September 18, 2013 at 9:04am

Laura--This book is at least seven years old and it Richburg's reflections on what he saw there. That's it. However, there are many African Americans that have romanticized 'the mother land" as it it was somewhere they want to go, as they have no idea of the everyday strife there. I submit that at best a week's trip would be enough to make them come home and that's what this book is about. The AIDS epidemic, Ray Ban dictators, children armies, rape and worse. Many blacks see Africa as one united continent not realizing the tribalism and strife that divides countries into a checkerboard of fiefdoms. No, it just his reflections.

Comment by Luara on September 18, 2013 at 7:55am

I didn't realize that Africa was being so romanticized - the image I have gotten is of a place with terrible problems.  I think of AIDS in Africa, social collapse in Somalia, Nigerian email scammers, the warfare in Rwanda. Unfair trade to Africa that ends up impoverishing countries there. 

And some positive things, like the the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences and I've heard that villagers are often very friendly. 

As a journalist, Richburg would be sent to the places in Africa where there are severe problems, and his perspective wouldn't represent everyday life in most places.  Shocking stories sell better. 

Does Richburg have any insight on the cause of the civil rights and political problems?


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