Where are African [Black] Heroes in Western Cartoons?
The title of this post is purposefully asking the wrong question! Indeed, why should a Western or Asian cartoonist draw a black character as a hero if the community or audience he is targeting expects the hero to be either white or yellow? The answer is that it would not make sense to have a black hero drawn for the white community because it is the environment and the expectations of that environment that actually dictate the color of heroes in cartoons and comic books. In other words, the reason why the angels are portrayed as “white” entities, for instance, is not because their actual “skin color” is white, but because the painter is white; thus he believes that the angels should match his own skin color!
Western heroes in the cartoon world are popularized by extremely powerful companies like The Walt Disney Company, DreamWorks, etc. Since the world of entertainment is essentially controlled by the Unites States, the latter has also managed to “impose” its culture and values to the rest of the world thanks to its cartoons and movies.
African kids are bombarded with white heroes almost every day when they seat in front of their screen to watch cartoons. As a result, the world that is depicted to them is “all white”; White Snow being an example among others. Their imaginary is then filled with complexes because they tend to believe that only what is “white” has value and is beautiful because they do not see “black” characters that often; unless the black character is the “devil”, for instance. Black Kids tend to associate negativity with the “color black” and positivity with the “color white”. Not surprisingly, some African Kids, due to this high level of alienation, start to despise their own skin color. Not only their parents or grandparents where violently indoctrinated by colonization to believe that white people are superior to black people, now they are themselves subtly and powerfully indoctrinated by this medium: cartoons. Thus the mental destruction of black people (1).
There must be a concerted effort at the continental level (Sub-Saharan Africa) to end this cultural enslavement by the Western World. Our history is full of heroes and mythical entities like Ogun, Kimpa Vita or Sundjata Keita that need to be celebrated in African cartoons and comic books. Also, the imagination of lots of talented African cartoonists must be celebrated as they will come up with new heroes that will make African kids proud. This is the reason why they should be supported financially in order to trigger a long term and tough competition against giants like The Walt Disney Company or DreamWorks.
Aren’t more and more Africans attracted by African made movies like the ones produced by Nollywood (Nigeria)? So, why would African kids not be attracted by African made cartoons if they are well done, and especially if the message conveyed truly matches their environmental and cultural expectations? My conviction is that, in the end, Africans will be able to reverse the course of the cultural indoctrination because the quality of the cartoons will match those produced in the US, Europe or Asia. And let us not forget one thing: “black” is beautiful!
By Rudy L. Massamba
(1) More about the Mental Destruction of Black People is discussed in Debunking Myths Around African Talent
Images Credit: Pixabay