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African Imbalance

November 09, 1986

Lynne Cheney, chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, cited the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights in defense of her decisions to remove the endowment's name from the credits of the controversial PBS documentary, "The Africans," and to withhold $50,000 which had been earmarked for promotion of the series ("Humanities Chief vs. PBS' 'Africans,' " by Judith Michaelson, Oct. 28).

Cheney claims that "The Africans" is "an anti-Western diatribe" with no balance--which is patently preposterous.

The true imbalance lies in the fact that for 300 years Western educators, clergymen, politicians and the mass media have distorted the facts concerning Africa's people, history and culture. Hence, when a scintilla of truth is revealed by a modern documentary, it is certain to be condemned as racist, imbalanced and "politically tendentious."

To be sure, "The Africans" leaves a lot to be desired and deserves criticism for its rambling content, poor quality and inadequate treatment of great African civilizations.

What Cheney and the endowment should seek is truth , not balance. In such a quest they would come to realize that the true history of religious hypocrisy, colonial exploitation, slavery and genocide in Africa, whether exposed by "The Africans" or historians yet unborn, cannot, will not and should not flatter the West.


Chairman, Coalition Against

Black Exploitation, Compton

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