The eight episode series on Netflix, Black Earth Rising, is deeply thought provoking. It raises important questions that it doesn’t answer about the horrific things, including genocide, that happened in Rwanda and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). It has stuck with me and pokes me throughout the day at the edge of my consciousness. It’s powerful, and on the surface seems like groundbreaking work, but beyond the subject matter, the form it takes bothers me.
I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if an African had written it. I wonder if there would be a white guy as one of the main lead characters. Would the main African character have been literally saved by whiteness? Sure, the story has to contain white people, as they did play a nefarious colonizing role, but how do Africans see those characters? I can guess that they pretty much don’t need to center them. How would the conversations and relationship dynamics between the Africans in power have been portrayed if the writer had been African? No matter how well John Goodman pulled his role off, the context of his character is just more white saviourism, and so is the premise of the entire series.
Would the topic of the climactic reveal be different if the writer was African? Probably. I wonder what the heart wrenching issues would be, and how the players in the game would be portrayed. That’s a story I’d love to watch and learn from.
Why are we still so stuck on seeing things through the lens of the white perspective, even if that perspective is supposed to be woke? Just more colonialism, if you ask me.