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Brittney Cooper. Screenshot from YouTube

American professor complains that time is ‘racist’

An American associate professor of women’s, gender and Africana studies at Rutgers University, says that time is racist.

Published: April 16, 2019, 6:47 am

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    In an interview with NPR affiliate WSIU-FM, Brittney Cooper claimed that Africans have a reputation for being late, because the notion of time itself was a white construct.

    “Typically, we talk about race in terms of black and white issues. In the African-American communities from which I come, we have a long-standing multigenerational joke about what we call CP time or colored people time.

    “Now, we no longer refer to African-Americans as colored. But this long-standing joke about our perpetual lateness to church, to cookouts, to family events and even to our own funerals remains.[…]

    “But today I want to talk to you more about the political nature of time; for if time had a race, it would be white. White people own time,” Cooper said.

    African time or Africa time in parts of Africa and the Caribbean, is a more relaxed attitude toward time. This is sometimes used in a pejorative sense, about tardiness in appointments, meetings and events.

    This includes the less rigorously scheduled lifestyles found in African countries, especially as opposed to the more clock-bound pace of daily life in Western countries. As such, it is similar to time orientations in non-Western cultures.

    African cultures are often described by anthropologists as “polychronic”, which means Africans do not manage time in a strict sequence.

    According to Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah, strict Western notions of time do not suit Africans.

    “One of the main reasons for the continuing underdevelopment of our country is our nonchalant attitude to time and the need for punctuality in all aspects of life. The problem of punctuality has become so endemic that lateness to any function is accepted and explained off as ‘African time’,” said another author.

    American entrepeneur Dave Hecker on his visit to Ghana, noted that the term “Africa Time” was widely used to describe tardiness, although he said he personally preferred GMT or “Ghana Maybe Time”.

    In October 2007, an Ivorian campaign against African time, backed by President Laurent Gbagbo, received international media attention when an event called “Punctuality Night” was held in Abidjan to recognize business people and government workers for regularly being on time.

    The slogan of the campaign is “‘African time’ is killing Africa – let’s fight it.”

    Reuters reported that “organisers hope to heighten awareness of how missed appointments, meetings or even late buses cut productivity in a region where languid tardiness is the norm”.

    Legal adviser Narcisse Aka—who received a $60 000 villa in recognition of his punctuality, “is so unusually good at being punctual that his colleagues call him ‘Mr White Man’s Time'”.

    Recently international journalists in the UK were kept waiting by the king of Ghana’s largest ethnic group who was visiting Alexandra Palace in north London at the climax of a Ghanaian trade exhibition, Ghana Expo 2003.

    The journalists had been informed that Otumfuo Osei Tutu II from the Ashanti would arrive at the exhibition at 11:00 GMT. His arrival time was then changed to 14:00, but the king did not show up until two hours later when the journalists had already departed.

    The BBC’s Africa Live programme aired a progamme to demand whether “poor time-keeping” was Africa’s worst enemy?

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