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. Certainly Conrad appears to go to considerable pains to set up layers of insulation between himself and the moral universe of his history. He has, for example, a narrator behind a narrator. The primary narrator is Marlow but his account is given to us through the filter of a second, shadowy person. 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. It would not have been beyond Conrad's power to make that provision if he had thought it necessary. Marlow seems to me to enjoy Conrad's complete confidence -- a feeling reinforced by the close similarities between their two careers.
As long as we continue to ignore Africa’s continuous wallowing in senseless poverty and destructive failures, as long as the Congolese or the Haitian remains the poster child for poverty and lack, we will remain undignified. As long as we continue to ignore our own self-assessment and soul-searching, we will remain the undignified race. Sadig Rasheed, one of the leading African politicians of the 1980s, once told Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski: “I worry about whether African societies will be able to assume a self-critical stance, and much depends on this.” I add: Our dignity — and even survival — will depend on this.
To be clear, my definition of racism is that it includes all acts wherein a person generally acts more negatively towards individuals of some races than they do toward individuals of other races. This holds true across situations where the person is exercising power granted to them by society (like a policeman who treats black people more harshly than white people) or whether they’re simply exercising power inherent to them (like a person who prefers to beat up white people instead of beating up black people). It also spans negative actions that are not violent per se, but are important to a person’s life in other ways (like an employer who refuses to hire people of Hispanic ancestry).