Looking for Biases and Stereotypes about Africa

It is important that we as educators advocate a feeling of understanding and appreciating other cultures and societies. So many people tend to judge other people's actions and ways of life by their own cultural values. We need to steer away from this ethnocentric view. In teaching about Africa, stereotypes and biases naturally creep in. Be on guard to not perpetuate the beliefs that "seem to come to mind." Some of the stop words concerning Africa and their alternatives are listed here.


jungle - rain forest

tribe - people/ethnic group

backward/primitive - traditional

bush - Savannah

savage/native - African/Kenyan, etc.

witch doctor - herbalist

native costume - national dress

pagan - traditional religion

juju/superstition - faith

-source: Originally developed and copyrighted in 1981 by Merry M. Merryfield, this is an updated version developed for the 1995 course, "Teaching About Africans and African Perspectives."


Examine materials before hand for stereotypes and biases. Don't show a collection of pictures that only show Africans dressed in little clothing or wearing masks. Make sure that you represent urban and rural areas. Talk about the people and not just the jungle and its inhabitants. Often, our seemingly subtle opinions and failure to represent the real Africa can do harm to the students who look to us as authorities on something they will probably never personally experience. This lesson is intended to create a feeling in the learner about what it is like to be a victim of stereotypes and to open their eyes to the real Africa.


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