Recently during the Rio Olympics, Mr Ryan Lochte, a much decorated US swimmer attempted to smear the credibility of a whole nation. He invented a story that never happened and sought the interface of the misrepresenting violent stereotype of the host nation to pass his fiction for truth. In his warped narrative, he, the aggressor transformed himself into a victim of a crime in which he was the villain and not the victim. His dummy story was read all over the world. Some, who read the story shrugged their shoulders and with the misguided stereotype in mind, thought, “It’s Brazil anyway, that is a non-story. It is normal. Very high crime rate.” Some others were horrified that an Olympian, particularly a high profile one had been subjected to such a horrendous crime. The Brazilian people and the authorities were disappointed and unhappy. They did not want the Rio Olympics to be remembered by any crime that happened during the games. They wanted the event to be remembered as a joyful gathering of world’s best athletes and into which painstaking planning and resources had been invested.
They sought to know more about what really happened to Ryan Lochte. Their investigations took the veil away from Mr. Lochte’s story. Ryan had told a barefaced white lie. Rather than being a victim, he was the aggressor. The technology of closed circuit television unraveled his lies. The Brazilians did not waste time to expose the pitiful liar that wanted to sacrifice their national integrity for his own ego.
According to news reports of what really transpired, Ryan had gone out in the company of three other swimmer-colleagues allegedly to the French camp and had partied all night. In his own words he was drunk. On their way back from the party in the early hours of the next day, they stopped at a petrol station so the camaradas could use the loo. The door of the toilet was locked. In a drunken rage or perhaps because of his grandiose delusion, he broke down the toilet door. The petrol station guards challenged his behavior and told him he had to pay for the damages. He raged and it took a gun drawn by one of the guards to calm him down. He was told to sit on the floor like any common criminal. After a while, he paid for the damages and left with his colleagues back to their camp. But Mr. Lochte could not live with his ego battered. He had to change the story. He would rather have the image and honour of the host country damaged than his ego. He invented a story of armed robbery in which he was the victim. But the hosts would not have that. They undid Ryan Lochte. The Brazilians deserve an extra gold medal for protecting their integrity and self-esteem.
Had this happened in any country in Africa, Mr Lochte would have escaped with his lie. The host country would have been browbeaten into shameful submission and admission of guilt. The world press would have gone into frenzy to further damage the African State. It would have been thought inconceivable that someone of Mr. Lochte’s status could tell a blatant lie. Warped statistics would have been rolled out by western pundits to back Mr. Lochte’s lie. And no one, no one would have believed the African authorities if they attempted to counter Ryan’s lies with contrary evidence.
The Rio story brings to fore the different historical lies that have been told against the African and which have formed the basis of stereotyping of Black people by other races. Here are some of the lies:
Georges Curvier, a French biologist, once wrote in his book, The Animal Kingdom, (1827-35), that “The African manifestly approaches the monkey tribe. The hordes of which this variety is composed have always remained in a complete state of barbarism…”. America’s Thomas Jefferson also shared this position and said, “...I advance it therefore as a suspicion only that the blacks whether originally a distinct race or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments of the mind and body…" Georg Wilhem Hegel in his Philosophy of History, said this of Black Africans: "….their condition is capable of no development of culture, and as we see them at this day, such they have always been..." The Vatican, through Pope Julius II after having declared at the beginning of 16th century (1512) that Indians in South America could be considered the sons and daughters of Adam and thus could not be enslaved, but that Black Africans could be enslaved as they were not of Adam and Eve, recanted in 18th century by advancing the doctrine that indeed, Africans could also be considered as children of Adam and Eve, but that they were the accursed sons of Ham (Genesis 9: 18-27). Britain’s Lord Milner also had this to say of early South African politics: “A political equality of white and black is impossible, the white man must rule because he is elevated by many, many steps above the black man.” (Martin Meredith: Nelson Mandela, A Biography. Penguin Books 1997) Frantz Fanon in his book, The Wretched of the Earth made reference to one Dr. Carothers of the WHO, who in the 1950’s opined that, a “black man is equivalent to a lobotomized white man.” As recently as July 2007, Nicholas Sarkozy the former president of France in a speech in Dakar, Senegal practically diagnosed schizophrenia in Black Africans when he accused Africans of remembering what never happened in their history. He said, “The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history. … Africa’s challenge is to enter to a greater extent into history. Africa…is to realise that the golden age that Africa is forever recalling will not return because it has never existed.” These lies have stereotyped the African and the Black race as an accidental beneficiary and object of history rather than an active contributor to and participant in human history. And these lies continue in different forms – in statistics of dubious origin, in generalization of oddities by the western press and in deliberate omission of historical and contemporary achievements of Black Africans.
The US Olympic Committee quickly apologized for the behaviour of Ryan and his three colleagues and declared that "The behaviour of these athletes is not acceptable, nor does it represent the values of Team USA or the conduct of the vast majority of its members." Some of Lochte’s sponsors, ashamed of their business partner, have withdrawn their sponsorship. Mr. Ryan Lochte is in disgrace.
Had the Brazilians not put their brain and resources to prove that the story of Ryan was a mere fabrication, the whole world would have, in their minds equated the beautiful and well planned Rio Olympics to armed robbery.
Black Africans have the obligation, like the Brazilians did, to provide evidence that the historical lies told against the black race are simply white lies. Like in the case of Ryan Lochte, these lies are fabrications of the vilest minds. These lies do not in any way represent us. Our indifference will not make these lies to go away. We need to shame the liars in a concerted way.