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CNN and NYT are Racists, as Racist as Trump

National Times (Washington) – Trump’s tweet on Sunday ordering four US congressional representatives to “go-back” to their countries has garnered an international media condemnation reminiscent of the condemnation he received following his description of African and other developing countries as “shit-hole” countries.

Unfortunately, racist media agencies such as CNN and the New York Times (NYT) have joined in the condemnation. CNN’s and NYT so-called commitment to individual freedom, diversity, multiculturalism, and other broader set of ideological claims to human liberties, have often blindsided its fans from the racist underlying of its editorial stance and coverage of Africa, Asia and Latin American countries.

Most CNN editorials on Africa focus on corruption, poverty, deprivation and darkness. African and international condemnation of their coverage of Africa as the “dark continent” have only fallen on deaf ears. Here are examples of CNN top stories on Africa. “UK home office advice on trafficked Nigerian women sparks criticism”; “Gambia’s ex-president Yahya Jammeh accused of rape and sexual assault”; “They tried to use rape to silence women protesters. It didn’t work”; and “The school where parents pay tuition fees with plastic bottles”.

Take the last story for example, camouflage lines on the environemental implications of the project, in now way disguise the article as part of CNN library about poverty in Nigeria and Africa. Here are some of the lines from the story. “Nigeria has been tagged the poverty capital of the world, with 87 million Nigerians, around half of the country’s population, living on less than $1.90 per day”.  “As a petty trader earning a pittance from trading car engine oil at bustling Ajegunle market in Nigeria’s economic capital, Lagos, Oluwaseyi does not earn enough to cover the annual 18,000 naira (around $50) school fees”.

The same applies for the New York Times. Last week, the paper faced backlash from Kenya over the dystopian description of a job opening for the head of its Nairobi bureau. The paper said the job comes with “tremendous opportunity to dive into news and enterprise across a wide range of countries, from the deserts of Sudan and the pirate seas of the Horn of Africa, down through the forests of Congo and the shores of Tanzania”.

CNN Top Stories on Africa

To media houses like CNN and NYT suffering, corruption, and poverty is synonymous with Africa. As Assistant Professor Ken Opalo of George Town University has said about the NYT job description, it “says a lot about the kinds of stories they want from Eastern Africa” than the diverse –every-day experiences occurring across the continent.

These papers are not just racist for their coverage on Africa based on historical and euro-centric sterotypes, rather, these style of report reflects the racist structural principles, and memories about people with colour. For example, the emphasis one getting whites to led African bureaus, tell the African stories, uncover stories in Africa, rather an hiring competent Africans is a reproduction of the incompetent African myth.

As Kenyan journalists Patrick Gathara, puts it on Al Jazeera, “the biggest losers from this sort of madness” are Americans and the westerners “who continue to be fed [and believe] myths and as a result are increasingly economically [and] geopolitically uncompetitive in the region”.

Trump may be one of such losers. Some may say that Trump is like the kid on the block who overhears the parents expressing their dislike about an arrogant new neighbour, and confronts the neighbour with the sad news that my parents do not like you they said you are poor and peevish. In that sense, Trump is just re-producing a cultural stereotype about people of colour ingrained in the west.

That is not my point. Trump is a racist. He should be held accountable for his actions. The “that is the way his society sees us, it is not his fault” argument is nonsense. But so too should media houses like CNN, NYT among others be called what they are racist, and then be held accountable for their racist coverage of Africa. The argument that they are merely reporting on what they see is bullshit. They are not. I will not call for boycott of this media houses by people of colour. That will be falling into the same racist trap as these papers. You should express how you feel and make your decision.


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