I was recently tasked with writing about the Justine Sacco issue, what it says about our perception of Africa, and any lessons learned from the debacle. I tried to stick to the prompt, but went instead towards what people thought about when the hubbub occurred, and what they should have thought about:
AIDS does discriminate by race. It does this because our societies allow it to. Sacco’s joke is a joke precisely because it is true: being white means she probably will not get AIDS. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS for blacks in South Africa was 13.6% in 2008. For whites it was 0.3%. While the conversation rightly lambasted Sacco for a stupid, awful joke – the discussion should also turn to why the AIDS crisis has unfolded the way that it has.
South African history, like much of African history, is fraught with racism that resulted in real damage to black lives and livelihoods. South Africa’s AIDS epidemic exists partially because of what colonialism and apartheid did to South African livelihoods — that much is clear.
Read the rest at Fair Observer.