Political Correctness Is. Image by Dave Kleinschmidt via Flickr.

1.

Every year thousands of students would pour into Nakuru Town’s Christ the King auditorium in all their cultural beauty to perform the dances, verses, plays and stories that carried the day at the zonal levels of the nationwide drama festival. Students from Njoro Boys High School, infamous all over Kenya for their rowdiness, would always be there. Describing his experiences as a student at the school in One Day I Will Write About This Place, Binyavanga Wainaina paints a Hobbesian scene of indiscipline, violence, bullying and sexual assault. Their madness was not confined to school precincts. As people sat inside the auditorium one time during the festival, an official told us, a Njoro Boys student showed up on stage dressed in full cultural regalia. He composed himself and began to tell a story, capturing the full attention of the audience. A few minutes into his performance, he broke into an insanely vulgar barrage of random insults and expletives, targeting everyone from the stunned audience to the panel of judges who ordered his prompt removal. His behavior probably had something to do with the cheap sachets of Sapphire Vodka hawkers availed to students nearby, explaining why the hooligan reportedly roared with laughter as he reveled in the juvenile excitement of disrupting serious business.

One could sense this adolescent glee in Jekwu Anyaegbuna’s short story, “Little Entertainment Centres,” recently published and unpublished by Enkare Review—a childish amusement derived from putting together an offensive collection of words without the careful bother to hammer it into a work of art. The story was a graphic, celebratory depiction of sexual acts with children, complete with a plea to accord pedophiles the same acceptance and recognition granted to LGBTQI+ persons. It was a hooligan on stage shouting random insults and expletives, and the panel of judges, a reputable literary magazine, allowed it to continue.

2.

Poking fun at things that were terribly out of place would always be a staple theme at the drama festivals—the mshamba from the village who couldn’t cope with city life; the mzungu missionary from Europe preaching monogamy to the Maasai. James Ciment’s Another America, a book about the African Americans who settled in Liberia in the 19th century, would have felt right at home. Ciment describes how the settlers set out to recreate the antebellum South in West Africa, establishing plantation mansions, one-room schoolhouses, evangelical churches and fraternal organizations in Liberia. They couldn’t have wagons since tropical parasites killed off draft animals, but in the capital, Monrovia, they nonetheless carved out broad streets meant to allow wagons to turn around back in America. Despite the searing tropical heat, they walked around in formal 19th century attire.

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Without their knowledge, these African American settlers were putting on a powerful metaphor of things to come in the next century: the spectacle of wholesale transportation into Africa of American ideas, social mores and conflicts without any regard for the new context. As American dominance spread around the world after the Second World War, this phenomenon took on a new energized phase, riding the coattails of newly established American political, economic, social and cultural hegemony on the global stage.

The post-war era was a time the American government seemed to become vastly more dominant at home, expanding its role in providing a social safety net and enforcing new civil rights guarantees. Before long, ideological rivals in America were going at each other about something called “big government,” with American conservatives seemingly winning the battle when leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher declared the unassailable virtues of “small government,” deregulation and free markets, a package of boring terms derisively described as neoliberalism by those on the other side of the debate.

Aboard the USS IMF and World Bank, the ideological project crossed the seas into Africa, where countries were compelled to reduce the size of their governments. Like broad streets and formal suits in the Monrovian heat, this imported ideological project was completely oblivious of the new context, because there was nothing that could be called “big government” in Africa. Kenya’s entire national budget in 1980, before the arrival of the IMF, was two-and-a-half billion 1980 US dollars. The budget of New York City’s Department of Education in 1980 was 3 billion dollars. Lone dispensaries serving vast rural populations disappeared from the Kenyan countryside as the government was forced to cut down on social spending.

The diminished health budget was bad news for a country that was to be confronted with the AIDS crisis in the next decade. By 1998, 10% of the Kenyan population was living with the virus. The crisis disproportionately hit the gay community around the world in its early days, and living in a continent rife with intolerance meant that the gay community in Africa had to maintain a trade-off between visibility and access to medical care for a condition that was for a long time a virtual death sentence.

LGBTQI+ people in Africa could only dream of the milestones the American LGBTQI+ community had achieved for itself since the Stonewall Uprising. Homosexuality had been decriminalized in most American states by the 1990s, and in 2003 the Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in the whole country. This shift in attitude had been accompanied by an increasing acceptance and representation of gay people in art, entertainment and academia. In a historic moment on American television in 1997, Ellen Morgan, the title character of the ABC sitcom Ellen, played by Ellen DeGeneres, came out as lesbian, as did DeGeneres herself soon afterwards.

Swift backlash from conservative quarters followed. The most acidic attack came from Reverend Jerry Falwell, an influential evangelical fanatic who described the actor as “Ellen DeGenerate,” declared that AIDS was God’s punishment for a society tolerant of homosexuals, and later blamed 9/11 on “pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians.” He was emblematic of the culture war brewing in America around social changes such as gay rights, and his clarion call to rise up and fight the new menace was taken up by fellow evangelicals such as Scott Lively, who arrived in Kampala, Uganda in March 2009.

An otherwise unremarkable, generic American evangelical from California, Lively took on celebrity status in Uganda. He gave lectures and talks throughout the country to raise awareness about the “hidden and dark” gay agenda that was posing a threat to the social fabric of communities around the world. Westerners were recruiting children into homosexuality, he claimed, and Uganda was one of the venues for this depravity. Soon a raging animus against gay people swept across the country, and the new threat of homosexuality became a social emergency that was to be confronted. Lively was invited to give talks to the Ugandan parliament and cabinet on the way forward.

The result was the introduction in parliament of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a heavily punitive piece of legislation widely known as the “Kill the Gays Bill” for its prescription of the death penalty for certain “acts of homosexuality.” As is now familiar, the new context was totally ignored in this latest American ideological tussle to be imported into Africa: there was no widespread acceptance of homosexuality taking root in Uganda as it was happening in America. Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda; and homosexuals in Uganda never demanded such “lofty” goals as marriage. Their demands were as modest as they came: the right not to be physically harmed or jailed for being gay. The standards were already pretty low in Uganda, but they went even lower, because in January 2011, David Kato, a prominent Ugandan gay rights activist, was brutally murdered in his own home. Speaking at his grave, Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, an Anglican cleric later awarded the Clinton Global Citizen Award, unequivocally declared Kato’s death “a result of the hatred planted in Uganda by US evangelicals,” and urged the gay community not to be discouraged. “God created you,” he told them, “and God is on your side.”

3.

The 1969 Stonewall Uprising which launched a new era of LGBTQI+ activism in America was part of a wider civil rights struggle that a couple of decades later culminated in stronger inclusion of people of color, women and the LGBTQI+ community in wide-ranging facets of US society. These changes were particularly felt in academia, where traditional curriculums were quickly changing. A liberal education centered around names like Homer, Plato, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare and Dickens was being transformed to include names like Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Wole Soyinka and Garcia Marquez. Formalist literary theory was being interrupted by names like Derrida, de Man, Foucault, Adorno, Said and Butler.

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One of the people perturbed by these changes was a conservative academic by the name of Allan Bloom, who in 1987 put his thoughts together in a book called The Closing of the American Mind. His views were taken up and reemphasized by other conservative and mainstream authors such as Roger Kimball, Richard Bernstein and Dinesh D’Souza. These authors decried the assault on the traditional university curriculum and the resultant multiculturalism brought about by the diversification of the academy. They used a new word to describe these changes: political correctness, or PC, appropriating a term traditionally used within the Left to denote adherence to political orthodoxy. The new term exploded onto the scene of conservative discourse, with President HW Bush declaring in 1991 that political correctness was a new prejudice that had to be confronted.

Since the supremacy of the Western canon was so obvious to anyone, these conservative thinkers seemed to say, those who supported diversification did not really believe they were improving the academy; they were motivated by a shallow desire to be trendy, to appear progressive, to be politically correct. A key utility of the term PC therefore lay in casting aspersions of dishonesty to ideological opponents, giving the term a versatility that enabled conservatives to apply it to a whole other range of progressive opinions.

By the post-9/11 period, the term was being used to describe such things as human rights concerns about the War on Terror, implying that those who opposed torture were just being PC—they were being dishonest since they obviously knew America needed to torture some folks to protect the homeland but were opposed to it nonetheless just to toe the progressive line.

The Obama era was also arriving, and with it a new post-Reagan generation educated in the diversified academies. Mainstream traditions, social norms, conventions and categories were being challenged as a result. The shift was reflected in new discussions increasingly highlighting concepts and realities such as heteronormativity, white privilege, patriarchy, gender pronouns, trigger warnings, cisgender, safe spaces, wokeness, gender fluidity, microaggressions, male privilege, gender-neutral, cultural appropriation.

Technological changes reflected in the ubiquity of smartphones and the rise of social media meant that young people could directly assert these new values in the social sphere, and that, similarly, those who were uncomfortable with these changes could do the same. This opposing camp simply adopted the ready-made term PC to describe their opponents, and increasingly used terms such as social justice warriors, identity politics, snowflakes, deplatforming, call-out culture, red pills, outrage culture, victim mentality, reverse racism.

This strand of anti-political correctness raises legitimate concerns. Social media outrage can unleash punishment that is unbelievably disproportionate to the crime; and when those who have embraced new changes in language brought about by progressive advances refuse to leave room for error and gradual progress, the free exchange of ideas is seriously inhibited. In this sense this strand of anti-political correctness can legitimately claim to be fighting for freedom of speech—if only they were consistent. Instead they tend to be noticeably silent when conservative hypersensitivity is trespassed—say, when human rights activist Colin Kaepernick receives intense backlash for kneeling during performances of the US national anthem, or when an honor granted to civil rights icon Angela Davis is rescinded due to backlash over her utterances in support of the BDS movement, or when academic and political commentator Marc Lamont Hill loses his television job over a statement calling for equal citizenship for all people living in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Freedom of speech was also not the concern of a frothing New York septuagenarian who, tired from the arduous hunt for Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate, began shouting in 2015 about Mexico’s transfer of drugs, rapists and terrorists to the United States as he launched his presidential bid. When Trump was held to account for these utterances, he quickly adopted a familiar defense: those who were calling him out were obsessed with political correctness.

He must have been astonished by how easy and effective it was, because he ran with it, thrown back whenever he faced criticism for calling women disgusting animals, or questioning the impartiality of a judge because of his race, or mocking a couple who had lost a son in the Iraq War, or talking about his daughter in sexual language, or calling for a ban on the entry of Muslims into the United States. He used the term so much that his campaign became virtually synonymous with “fighting political correctness.” Whipped up by a demagogue for selfish reasons, political correctness began to be felt almost as a global emergency, so much that Trump’s victory was attributed to “the problem of too much political correctness.” Even Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was somehow attributed by some to too much political correctness, as was the rise of populist governments in Europe.

Meanwhile, an obscure Canadian psychology professor at the University of Toronto happened to be getting upset at being required to refer to students and faculty using their preferred gender pronouns. He made some videos railing against political correctness and uploaded them to YouTube. They soon went viral, and Jordan Peterson became an overnight celebrity and one of the largest beneficiaries of the reenergized anti-PC agitation of the Trump era. Peterson’s new fans were mostly in the conservative end of the political spectrum—the right-wing and Far Right constituencies that Trump had revitalized. To maintain his new-found fame, and the Jimmy Choos that came with it, Peterson had to feed stronger doses of intellectual validation to his right-wing followers. The Obama-era anti-PC strand concerned with the regulation of language and the number of genders on Facebook wasn’t going to cut it. He had to get more ambitious.

He went straight for the jugular and redefined the whole meaning of political correctness. Far from being hypersensitivity among social justice advocates, Peterson now claimed that the very existence of structural forms of oppression, such as patriarchy and white supremacy, was frivolous PC nonsense. Here are his words, as written in his 2018 book 12 Rules for Life and quoted in The New York Times:

“The strong turn towards political correctness in universities has exacerbated the problem… There are whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men. These are the areas of study, dominated by the postmodern/neo-Marxist claim that Western culture, in particular, is an oppressive structure, created by white men to dominate women…

“The people who hold that our culture is an oppressive patriarchy, they don’t want to admit that the current hierarchy might be predicated on competence.”

It is rather similar to what Richard Bernstein, one of the early ‘90s pioneers of the term PC, wrote in “Ideas and Trends,” his 1990 The New York Times article:

“Central to pc-ness, which has roots in 1960s radicalism, is the view that Western society has for centuries been dominated by what is often called “the white male power structure” or “patriarchal hegemony”.  A related belief is that everybody but white heterosexual males has suffered some form of repression and been denied a cultural voice or been prevented from celebrating what is commonly called “otherness”.

The World Wide Web was not in existence when Bernstein wrote this article, and Mark Zuckerberg was six years old. Bernstein’s concern was not such things as call-out culture. His main concern, as was Allan Bloom’s, was the assault on the Western tradition by the increasingly diverse and inclusive multicultural academy, diluting what to them was a key plank of Western civilization. These very values—diversity, inclusion and equality—are key tenets of progressivism, and are precisely what the reactionary Right, Peterson’s constituency, deeply detests.

It’s no wonder that Peterson is simply regurgitating the ideas of classical anti-PC conservatives—complete with their old ramblings about Western civilization—to give intellectual cover to his constituency. He has recycled their argument that support for stronger diversity and inclusion simply amounts to political correctness, with the stunning achievement that progressivism is nowadays conflated with political correctness.

4.

In this new strand of anti-political correctness in the Trump-Peterson era, to be a progressive is to be “politically correct.” Political correctness is not just about being too sensitive or policing people’s language anymore, it is also being sympathetic to progressive values, such as support for gender equality, racial justice or gay marriage. The utility of this powerful reactionary achievement has not been lost on politicians throughout the English-speaking world, with former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, for example, urging Australians to defeat political correctness by voting no in a referendum on gay marriage:

“And I say to you if you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no… and if you don’t like political correctness, vote no because voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks”.

By exploiting bipartisan concerns about hypersensitivity and the policing of language to recast progressivism as an enemy of freedom, Peterson exemplifies a movement that has turned political correctness into the most powerful rhetorical tool in use by the reactionary right in the Western world today. His description by The New York Times in 2018 as “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now” points to the strength of a movement that has co-opted all political stripes, making it very naively fashionable nowadays to say how much against PC one is—to clarify you’re not one of those crazy progressives who are going to reestablish the Stalinist order—while being totally oblivious of the reactionary manipulation behind current usage of the term.

It’s a rhetorical tool that is being employed to oppose progressive values around the world, including in Africa, where progressive demands can be stunning in their modesty: whether it’s women mobilizing against rampant rape and the murder of girls in the Men Are Trash movement in South Africa, or David Kato mobilizing against violence and incarceration of homosexuals in Uganda. PC, nonetheless, is said to be taking over Africa, with social discourse now littered with condemnations of a supposed progressive assault on freedom. It is the latest Western reactionary project to be imported into Africa.

But context, as usual, is a minor consideration, because there are no safe spaces in Africa, no debates on gender pronouns, no trigger warnings, no controversies over gender-neutral bathrooms. Gay people don’t ask to get wedding cakes from bakeries—they ask not to be jailed or assaulted. Transgender folks do not ask to be addressed in their preferred pronouns—they are rarely seen as they are. There is no hypersensitive language regulation in Africa—we play it rough. When you ask Muhammadu Buhari, standing next to Angela Merkel, about some comments made by his First Lady, he tells you the first lady should be in the kitchen cooking. When you ask Moses Kuria, a Kenyan legislator, about a new bill seeking to achieve more gender balance in parliament, he tells you that having a vagina is not a disability.

But a nascent progressivism exists—the kind that thinks LGBTQI+ people should be protected and integrated into society—and in the Trump-Peterson era this means that political correctness exists in Africa. The global clarion call to fight political correctness has been heeded. And the anti-PC warriors are not going to play around: they are going to bring a wrecking ball to the whole thing—that’s how we do things in Africa after all. They are going to gratuitously encourage ideas that harm others left, right and center, because they’re fighting for freedom, performing an important public service. They are going to write things like Jekwu Anyaegbuna’s piece, because the more offensive it is, the greater the public good coming out of it. Including that piece in a magazine issue themed “Inclusivity” is a very good idea, because it levels off the excessive political correctness aura the title evokes.

They are going to be “bold” and “fearless” in this fight, the adjectives Jekwu Anyaegbuna used to describe Enkare Review for publishing his story. Sanya Noel, the editor who took responsibility for approving the piece for publication, adopted standard anti-PC tropes to defend his decision on Twitter, stating that he has “always been interested in how rage works online,” and “the place for censorship, and when, if at all, we should use it.” He can’t for his life figure out when things got so bad that you can’t even publish a piece virtually indistinguishable from child pornography anymore.

Richard Oduor Oduku, a friend of Enkare Review and an avid anti-PC campaigner who is also one of the founders of Jalada, another reputable Kenyan-based literary platform, was even more forthright in his Facebook denunciations of the PC madness that was supposedly behind Enkare Review’s tribulations:

“Political correctness is probably the biggest threat to the freedom of creative enterprise, and it is sad that those who call themselves creatives are the key figures walking around with guillotines. I’m saying this because I have just read that Enkare Review editor Sanya Noel has resigned because of a story they published – a story by a Nigerian, a story deemed to be offensive to a bunch of moralists, activists, and literalists…”

Oduku further sounds a warning that our literature is being permeated by this PC madness, and it’s going to make our works inertly boring:

“So are editors supposed to carry out a story perception survey before they publish any story? Are we looking for inert pieces of work, pieces that do not elicit any reaction in us, pieces that only elicit positive reaction in us?”

5.

Seeing political correctness everywhere is a characteristic affliction of the anti-PC bubble. Our literature has always contained themes, events and characters that have made us deeply uncomfortable. There were no positive reactions elicited by the human sacrifice in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, or by the rape in J.M. Coetzee’s The Life and Times of Michael K, or the brutal female genital mutilation in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s The River Between, or the extortion and intimate partner violence in Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers.

Grotesque protagonists have always been present in mainstream African fiction. The artists’ portrayal of the grotesque has however been carried out with a discernible sensitivity to the topic at hand. There is a way Ngugi would have written The River Between that would have glorified and promoted female genital mutilation as a component of Gikuyu culture and tradition that should be celebrated and preserved, but he didn’t. This doesn’t mean he failed in his quest to put us squarely in the minds of those who support FGM—this he fully achieved—without turning out a work of art that could be used to promote this heinous violence against girls.

Achebe calls this sensitivity “artistic good faith,” which he accuses Joseph Conrad of lacking in his portrayal of Africans in the novella Heart of Darkness. The insistence by Conrad, Achebe says in his 1975 lecture “An Image of Africa,” to render Africans into an “inexpressible and incomprehensible frenzy,” betrays his lack of good faith:

“That insistence must not be dismissed lightly, as many Conrad critics have tended to do, as a mere stylistic flaw; for it raises serious questions of artistic good faith. When a writer while pretending to record scenes, incidents and their impact is in reality engaged in inducing hypnotic stupor in his reader through a bombardment of emotive words and other forms of trickery much more has to be at stake than stylistic felicity.”

To Achebe, malicious authorial intent can be deduced from a writer’s creation of characters whose words and actions celebrate extremely harmful ideas—such as the inhumanity of black bodies—without providing an alternative frame of reference for evaluating those characters:

“It might be contended, of course, that the attitude to the African in Heart of Darkness is not Conrad’s but that of his fictional narrator, Marlow, and that far from endorsing it Conrad might indeed be holding it up to irony and criticism… but if Conrad’s intention is to draw a cordon sanitaire between himself and the moral and psychological malaise of his narrator his care seems to me totally wasted because he neglects to hint however subtly or tentatively at an alternative frame of reference by which we may judge the actions and opinions of his characters.”

He concedes correctly that fiction has the license to be distasteful, but a boundary is crossed when a work celebrates prejudices currently active in society as a basis for the brutalization and oppression of a group of people:

“There are two probable grounds on which what I have said so far may be contested. The first is that it is no concern of fiction to please people about whom it is written… But I am not talking about pleasing people. I am talking about a book which parades in the most vulgar fashion prejudices and insults from which a section of mankind has suffered untold agonies and atrocities in the past and continues to do so in many ways and many places today.”

No matter how impressively a literary work has been put together, he says, the lack of artistic good faith in the treatment of such prejudices drains the work of literary merit:

“The real question is the dehumanization of Africa and Africans which this age-long attitude has fostered and continues to foster in the world. And the question is whether a novel which celebrates this dehumanization, which depersonalizes a portion of the human race, can be called a great work of art. My answer is: No, it cannot.”

Achebe, hardly a PC-obsessed Leftwing millennial, proclaims that he can look at a work of fiction and declare that the author is racist:

“The point of my observations should be quite clear by now, namely that Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist.”

One can accuse him of hyperbole if they ignore the context within which Heart of Darkness was written. The dehumanization of Africans celebrated and perpetuated by Conrad was an active legitimating ideology for the violence being unleashed on Africans in the Congo as this work of fiction was being written, and the very people who were reading Conrad were also taking the journey up the Congo River to embark on the colonial project, leaving in their wake an impressive roster of dead bodies and chopped limbs.

One can similarly paint the backlash against Enkare Review as hyperbole if they choose to forget that comparing homosexuality to sexual perversion—painting homosexuals as pedophiles—is an active legitimating narrative for violence and discrimination against gay people in Africa today.

6.

As Belgian steamboats were snaking their way up the mighty Congo River to subdue the Congo, a new art form was snaking its way into the global mainstream: the feature-length film. D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation came out in 1915, becoming the first American film to be screened at the White House. It was a glorification of the successful dismantling of racial progress in the postbellum South; complete with a heroic depiction of the Ku Klux Klan, a white terrorist organization. It featured a complete cocktail of all prevalent anti-black racial stereotypes, including that black men had an uncontrollable sexual desire for white women—a stereotype that would later take the life of Emmet Till.

During one scene in the film, a white man’s house has been surrounded by angry black folks. He is holding a pistol to his daughter’s head, ready to shoot her dead if they manage to break in, rather than let them have her. In what is probably the most striking scene, a young white woman jumps off a cliff and kills herself rather than get raped by the violently horny black dude closing in on her.

There was massive outrage when the film came out. Civil rights activist William Monroe Trotter organized demonstrations against the film in Boston, and the NAACP launched a campaign to have it banned. Griffith’s response will sound very familiar. He declared that those who were outraged supported censorship, and were intolerant. He even went ahead to release another film entitled Intolerance the following year. He then used what is today standard anti-PC parlance: he released a pamphlet entitled The Rise and Fall of a Free Speech in America.

Except that those intolerant PC snowflakes were vindicated. The film triggered violence against black people around the country, and white supremacy was reenergized. The KKK had faded off in the late 19th century, but the film’s success inspired its reconstitution and gave the terror group a massive surge in membership. KKK characters in Griffith’s film burned crosses and wore white costumes, so the terrorists started doing the same, something they had never done before. Before long, Billie Holiday’s strange fruit reappeared in Southern trees.

The Birth of a Nation was being used for KKK recruitment right into the 1970s, as journalist and author Dick Lehr discovered when he infiltrated a KKK meeting in the late ‘70s. It remains a constant reminder that the creation of a work of art can be an act of violence. Art is not as useless as Oscar Wilde would have you believe. Just ask David Duke.

7.

It is December 2014. The International Criminal Court has just announced it is dropping its case against President Uhuru Kenyatta, so 2015 is going to be a much better year for him. He had been accused of involvement in the 2008 post-election violence. We are told that the end of the trial means that President Obama can now come to Kenya. Three months later the White House announces that Obama is indeed coming. A couple of months later, crooked Nairobi streetlights begin to straighten up. The Stars and Stripes are showing up on flag posts along Uhuru Highway. Governor Evans Kidero is desperately trying to rehabilitate Nairobi grass. He is accused of painting it green. “Kidero Grass” is trending on Twitter. Air Force One touches down at JKIA on a calm July night. Auma Obama is there to welcome her brother Barack to Kenya. “I am proud to be the first Kenyan American to be elected president of the United States,” declares Obama in front of a wildly jubilant crowd at Kasarani Stadium.

Things get a little awkward during a joint press conference with President Kenyatta at State House. A journalist has raised the question of gay rights in Kenya. Kenyatta is dismissive. Obama is unambiguous: gay rights must be protected in Kenya. Conservative clerics are enraged. They had issued a statement before Obama’s arrival warning him not to “promote homosexuality” in Kenya. Homophobic attacks have increased in the run-up to Obama’s visit. A gay couple in Kabete has been evicted from their house and told to “go wait for your Obama” by the landlord, The Washington Post reports.

It is not the first time President Obama is wading through the murky waters of gay rights in Africa. When Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first introduced in parliament in 2009, Obama had denounced it and described it as “odious.” When the bill was passed last year, in 2014, he slapped sanctions against top Ugandan officials. This proves that homosexuality is a Western agendum, people like Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan American evangelical, are saying. People who fall in love with people of the same sex have been indoctrinated by the West. Ssempa, a close ally of Scott Lively, has been going round Uganda showing extreme gay porn—some of it featuring defecation—to stunned audiences, to prove that homosexuals are indeed perverts.

It’s 2019. Ssempa must be relieved. The weirdo doesn’t have to linger in dark corners of PornHub anymore to find material linking gay people to sexual perversion—he is born-again after all. He only needs to refer people to a short story.

8.

The anti-PC brigade will continue to fight PC ghosts in Africa through gratuitous offense. They will do much more stupid stuff. They will put out work that actively endangers vulnerable sections of our communities. You will call them out for spreading harmful ideas. You will be called intolerant. You will be called PC.

 

About the Writer:

Kamau Muiga is a writer, part-time lecturer, Afrophile and graduate student at the University of Nairobi’s Department of Political Science. His essay, “Bantu’s Swahili, or How to Steal a Language from Africa,” was shortlisted for the 2018 Brittle Paper Anniversary Award. He is on Twitter: @kamaumuiga.