Dear Editor, NY Times,
It is with great disgust that I read your cover story of Thursday August 11, 2005 titled “Entrenched Epidemic: Wife-Beating in Africa”. As I read through the story, I looked for facts that would show that this is an “epidemic” specific to Nigeria or Africa, but found none. This story, which could be set in every city in every part of the world, serves no purpose but to further malign not only Nigeria’s character, but that of an entire continent. To set the story in Nigeria, and to put it on the cover page of the New York Times with such a malicious title, cannot be justified as ignorance, but downright immoral.
Let’s look at some of the arguments you proffered in the story:
A number of men beat their wives in Nigeria so all Nigerian men are wife beaters. Now, this would be true if you said that in a country of 130 Million people that you found 10 Million women with broken noses and black eyes, however, what you found is 2 shelters for abused women and 200 abuse cases (in a country of 130 MILLION PEOPLE). Using the TV program “Cops” as a reference, I can tell you that I have seen many episodes where the cops responded to a domestic violence call. Does that make every man in Minnesota a wife beater? By extension of your arguments, we can conclude the following
· Every African American is a Wife Beater. Proof: Bobby Brown (an African American rap star) beats up his wife, Whitney Houston (a soul singer).
· Every American President is immoral: Proof: Richard Nixon was involved in Watergate scandal. Bill Clinton had an inappropriate sexual encounter in the White House (just because he could). Thomas Jefferson fathered children with his “slave”.
· Every American Soldiers is a sadist: Proof: Abu Gharib prisons and Guatanamo Bay.
· Every New York City Cop is a racist animal always on the lookout for African immigrants to torture: Proof: The shooting of Mr. Diallo in front of his apartment.
· Every Young Muslim Man is a terrorist: Proof: All the 9/11 and London terrorists were young Muslim men.
· Catholic Priests are pedophiles: Proof: Many of American Catholic Priests have been indicted in numerous child molestation scandals (indeed, the rest of the Catholic world wrongly views the sex abuses in the Catholic Church as an “American Epidemic”.
Women as an Inferior Race
There is no doubt that in Africa (as in many other parts of the world), the male child happens to be preferred to the female child. This has a historical perspective, which is dying out with education and socialization. As Nigerian expectant parents (our baby is due November 28), my wife and I have no desire to find out our baby’s sex because it really does not matter. However, we have interestingly enough decided on the female names (not the male names). Maybe this is an indication of our preference. Or not.
Ndigbo (as well as other Nigerian tribes) have sayings/ adages that are replete with references to the exulted role the woman in our society. Please refer to Sylvia Leigh-Ross’s study of Igbo women (1930), which counters this illogical view that Africans regard women as inferior.
America is still a patriarchal society. How come we hear of the “Founding Fathers” and nothing of the “Founding Mothers”? How come we have not had a female American President in the 229 years since the American Revolution? May be, Larry Summers (President of Harvard University) may have a scientific answer for this. Let us also not forget that since Independence this country has had only ONE female African American Secretary of State. Based on Sharon LaFraniere’s flawed logic, a New York Times article, “Entrenched Epidemic: Women Haters in America” is long overdue.
Perception of Africa
The general American sentiment is that Africa (which most of you think is a country) is in that never-do-good part of the world where only tales of cannibalism, wars, and starvation emanate. That is why your correspondent describes her subject, a Nigerian woman, in these words:
“Ms. Isimeto-Osibuamhe does not fit that standard profile. Articulate, with a fashionable haircut and a sociology book in her bag, she speaks in a confident, even assertive tone of voice.”
This assumes that the average Nigerian woman is not articulate, has no fashion sense (how can she when she lives on a tree), and cannot read a sociology book. Interesting view of a country that has produced female professors, doctors, scientists, musicians, etc who teaching and conducting research in many of the leading institutions here in the United States and around the world.
I read this and wondered what the late, great Peter Jennings, one of the last of the remaining few champions of real news and responsible journalism in this country would have thought about such reckless disregards for a people.
In summary, by not exercising caution in your choice of stories and captions, you do your profession, the New York Times and the great majority of Americans who are ignorant of life outside the United States, a great disservice. If you want an “entrenched epidemic” to report on maybe you can publish a feature story on the moral decay of the American society. Or better still, vote Senator Hillary Clinton for President in 2008 and prove that you are not a nation of Women-Haters.
Furthermore, it behoves the New York Times to print a retraction and apology for this grossly offensive and slanted article. It is an injustice and slap (pun intended) in the face of all Africans (male and female).
A Rejoinder To NewYork Times’ “Entrenched Epidemic: Wife-Beating in Africa”
Dear Editor, NY Times,