Are you as put off by this poster as I am?
It is all over the subways here in New York. I don't even know where to begin. I thought at first that this was some kind of an attempt to show how all of humankind originated in Africa. But the real posters in the subways are less ambiguous than this picture; they actually have "Save Darfur" written across the top.
Okay. Save Darfur. But we are all African? Really? That's why so many Americans don't even understand that Africa is in fact divided into countries, and certainly most would not be able to find Sudan on a map. Furthermore, under what circumstances are we all African? I think it's quite clear that the target audience, which I think is business people "with a heart," artists "with a conscience," etc. not to mention preppy NYU students hopping around the subway with ipods--we are not the Africans that the poster wants us to identify with (as?), and not because (as the picture implies) some of us have different skin tones than "Africans." What is this campaign supposed to message? That Africans are humans too? Yes, I understand that the white American public has trouble relating to people of colour. But I'm not sure that just owning that African identity is gonna make the difference, if that is the action in and of itself. Next time somebody asks me to do something for global justice, I'll just say "oh, I already did my share, I actually am African."
Don't get me wrong. I don't think that this is always a bad tactic. Two years ago some Israelis joined Palestinians and internationals in the town of Budrus to protest the administrative detention of an activist school teacher, all of them holding signs saying "I am Ahmed Awad" (his name). When they were arrested this was the name they all gave. This is different, I think because it was in the context of a solidarity action that they used identification as a tactic, and one which was specifically designed to call attention to his case in order to free him. The goal was clear, the solidarity was strategic, and because of that, the message was really strong.
But for the identification to be an action in and of itself? This is a very liberal and non-committed “put yourself in her shoes” kind of position, a call for sympathy more than any kind of real exploration of what it means to be in solidarity or to really think of oneself as connected with another.