FEATURE: Ashantis are Dumb, Ewes are Wicked, Northerners are Unclean, and You are Ethnocentric!

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By Patrick Fynn

The White Americans believe that they are more superior to European whites, especially the British. In Europe, the British, Russians and Germans compete over who is greater. And all these men together believe they are superior to the African.

But interestingly, the African man also thinks he makes a better human being, compared to another African in one way or the other black man is the worst practitioners of racism.

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In Ghana, the attitude of ‘my tribe is better than yours’ has sat with us for long, and still does. Its influences on our judgement is like the ripple effect a big stone causes when dropped in a pool of water.

In Sociology, ethnocentrism is the belief in the intrinsic superiority of the nation, culture, or group to which one belongs, often accompanied by feelings of dislike for other groups. It is the belief that your native culture is the most natural or superior way of understanding the world. It means believing that the way you’re used to doing things is the only right way to do them, and that people or cultures that do things differently are wrong. It is the tendency to look down on other people for no other reason than they don’t belong to the group. Anyone who judges people or traditions based on his own cultural standards is guilty of ethnocentrism. Often it includes looking down on members of the group who are not perceived as native to it.

If you refused to bow when greeting a Japanese friend, and insist on shaking hands instead, you’d be displaying your ethnocentrism, or your belief that your own culture is superior to his. It’s similar to an American saying British drivers drive “on the wrong side” of the road instead of “opposite side” or even “left hand side”.

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For the average Ghanaian, a person hailing from the Volta region is evil and mischievous, the Fante man is lazy, and whiles anyone from the North has issues with cleanliness.  We always have this feeling towards others: ‘You and your ideas are bad and mine are better!’

We have crafted all sorts of representations for others because we are suffering from a chronic co-morbid diseases of ethnocentrism and tribalism. These assertions are like saying sea water clinging to your body will make the water level drop. It’s technically true in your sight, but completely irrelevant.

It has eaten deep into all the disciplines of our lives – politics, marriage, employment, education and what have you. If Africans should stop ethnocentrism, then men should stop cheating and dogs should stop licking themselves – it’s deep-seated in our genes. For every ethnic group we have nurtured one notion or the other about them, and unconsciously passed them on to generations.

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I suspect that tribalism is inherent in fallen human nature. Everyone seems prone to it. We look for a group to belong to for no other reason than a feeling of security and superiority. If we don’t find one we start one. We have stuck to tribalism like a three-year old child to a blanket in the cold. And that’s mediocre.

We are very sick, to see others as less and to look down on them!

Christopher Hitchens said, “When people have tried everything and have discovered that nothing works, they will tend to revert to what they know best—which will often be the tribe, the totem, or the taboo.”

Ethnocentrism leads us to make false assumptions about cultural differences. For instance, any time you think of another culture’s traditional food as weird or gross, that’s a product of ethnocentrism! We are ethnocentric when we use our cultural norms to make generalizations about other peoples’ cultures and customs.

Tribalism is pervasive, and it controls a lot of our behaviour, readily overriding reason. Think of the inhuman things we do in the name of tribal unity. They include a list of absurd things that show how much impaired our judgement is. Political parties are now been associated to ethnic groups. Going forward as a county and a continent will be difficult if tribalism seeps into the civil structure. Africa has seen the most civil wars founded on ethnicity.

People who are ethnocentric look down on other ethnic groups as subservient or less important and this could hinder national unity.

I am surprised that in this age of modernisation, ethnicity is used against people either in marriages, positions or employment. It is disheartening that we do not understand each other, and that we fail to see that ancestrally we come from the same cultural tree, irrespective of cultural differences.

The negative perceptions we have nursed about others must fade with old times. We need to step out of the old thoughts and grow out of such immature views.


Author: Patrick Fynn


Follow the author on Twitter: @PatrickFynn


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