Some cultures have superstitious beliefs that are an almost inextricable part of their identity. Chinese belief in feng shui, acupuncture, lucky numbers and the efficacy of traditional herbal medicine is one example. African practices of witchcraft and exorcism coupled with the use of juju (objects considered as magical fetishes) are another. It’s this latter culture that Leo Igwe criticizes in his essay ‘Critical Thinking and the African Identity’.
As an African who has chosen critical reason over superstition, Igwe has been accused by his fellow Africans of thinking ‘like a white man’. It is a common slur; if a non-white person actually prefers logic and rationality over magic and mysticism, she’s a traitor to her kind, a Westerner wannabe. Igwe writes:
Whenever I try to fault or expose the absurdity of witchcraft accusations or the persecution of alleged witches or wizards, many people often urge me to set aside this my oyibo (white man’s) mentality. As if critical thinking is the exclusive cultural preserve of white people while mystical thinking is for blacks and for Africans. Personally, I am aware that the white race and the western world have recorded significant achievements in the areas of science and technology, in rational and critical discourses. They also have their own share of dark age nonsense, dogmas and superstitions.
But that does not make the values of science, reason and critical thinking western or white. The values of science and reason constitute part of human heritage, which all human beings can lay claim to, exercise, access, express, celebrate, cultivate and nurture.
“The values of science and reason constitute part of human heritage, which all human beings can lay claim to, exercise, access, express, celebrate, cultivate and nurture.”
With this elegant sentence and the rest of his essay, Igwe provides the answers to the questions asked at the beginning of this post: no, no and no.