The Stories That Europe Tells Itself About Its Colonial History
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“She said once she was shocked that her son while being taught Belgian history, was taught nothing about Congo. She said “They teach my son in school that he must help the poor Africans, but they don’t teach him about what Belgium did in Congo.” Of course, all countries are evasive about the past for which they feel ashamed, but I was shocked by what seemed to me not evasiveness but an erasure of history.
If her son doesn’t learn that the modern Congo State began a hundred years ago as the personal property of a Belgian king, who was desperate to get wealthy from ivory and rubber, if her son doesn’t learn that the hands of Congolese people were chopped off for not producing enough resources to meet the king’s greed, if her son doesn’t learn that the Belgian government later led Congo with a deliberate emphasis on not producing an educated class, so that Congolese could become clerks and mechanics but couldn’t go to university, if her son doesn’t learn that more recently, even though it was the Americans who installed the Mobutu dictatorship, Belgium was a major force behind the scenes propping him up, if this young Belgian boy, knows nothing about these incidents, then, at some point, they would perhaps no longer have happened because the past after all is the past because we collectively acknowledged that it is so.
This young Belgian boy would grow up to see Africa only as a place that requires his aid, his help, his charity with no complications for him. A place that can help him show how compassionate he can be, and most of all, a place whose present has no connection to Europe.
It is not that Europe has denied its colonial history. Instead, Europe has developed a way of telling the story of its colonial history that ultimately seeks to erase that history”