Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa

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Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa

By Keith B. Richburg
Basic Books, 1997
257 pp. $24.00

Richburg, a Washington Post reporter, ardently believes that black Americans should struggle to assimilate into the national mainstream rather than seek refuge in a ghettoized, Afrocentric identity. He uses this memoir from his three years as an African correspondent to debunk the idea of Africa-as-glorious-motherland. Instead, he maintains, black Americans should be thankful their ancestors escaped this chaotic, violent, and "strange" continent. Many will find this argument a salutary dose of realism, while others will see it as too jaded (he admits that inflated initial expectations contributed to his severe disillusionment), too simple (his Africa is populated by a stereotyped if vividly portrayed cast of good guys and bad guys), and ultimately too narrow. While deploring "all the ignorance and hypocrisy" that he claims has led Americans to sweep Africa's problems under the rug, the author himself ignores the impressive corpus of straight talk about Africa readily available in serious contemporary American books and journals, much of it by black area specialists.

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