Back in June 2013, a Belgian national stopped me on the staircase of the Westlands mall. He needed directions to the Westgate mall and had understandably, ended up at the Westlands mall instead. Those two names could confuse any foreigner.
I offered to show him the way and out of gratitude and courtesy, he insisted that we have coffee together at one of the coffee shops upon arrival. Now the most interesting bit is that, while on normal occasions I would walk into a coffee shop and nobody would be fretting all over me asking what I needed, the fact that I was in this man’s company threw the staff into a frenzy.
All of a sudden, we became the center of attention with everyone jostling to serve us. I chuckled to myself then, knowing that the staff present at the coffee shop had mistaken us to be in a relationship. Little did they know that we were complete strangers, who had happened to bump into each other, a couple of minutes back and ended up chitchatting.
Of course if I had been in my own company, I would have been served alright because this is a reputable coffee shop with well trained staff. But then I wouldn’t have ended up feeling like each one of the staff was trying really hard to catch my attention. I would have had my coffee and walked out without causing much of a frenzy.
However, on this particular day, I felt as if I had been given a certain sense of importance, that I wouldn’t have been given on a normal day in my own company or in the company of someone of the same race as me. And seeing that we were just about the only ones in the whole coffee shop on a very chilly Nairobi weekday, from where the staff stood, I could sense that they were all trying to figure out how me and this man ended up being in a “relationship”.
As much as African-Kenyans may try to pretend that they are past that stage of viewing other races as superior to their own, there is always that underlying awe in us, directed at an African woman dating or married to a man, who is of a different race. The same is not so strong for an African man married to a woman from another race.
I have in the recent past watched a couple of interracial couples where the woman happens to be African and have on most occasions, ended up with more questions than answers. I admire interracial couples as they just go on to prove that love can concur all boundaries.
I’m also aware that for two people of different races to decide to get into a solid relationship, they were willing to fully understand and appreciate their different cultures. That is not an easy feat. It needs a lot of sacrifice and an open mindedness on their part.
However, I always seem to get the feeling from some of the interracial couples I have observed, that the woman has suddenly developed this heightened sense of importance just from being with this man. I have encountered African women in a relationship with a European or American or Asian or Arabic man, in their dainty high heels, perfectly done make up, not a hair out of place, with a character that seems borrowed.
This has always got me wondering why we don’t go all the way to act this way with our fellow African men. Why does it seem that with a foreign man of a different race, we suddenly develop this inherent need to elevate our status? And if I was to get into a relationship with someone of a different race, would I equally feel the need to discard my old personality? Can’t my old personality appeal to this man who is in love with me?
I tend to think that Africans in general suffer from intense inferiority complex. We may claim to be liberated and capable of exercising democracy in our respective nations but the shackles of colonial mentality are still with us. The fact that we many times fail to appreciate our own is testament of how deep rooted this problem is.
I am yet to encounter several relationships of two Africans, where the woman seems to be trying too hard to please this man she is with as is the case with the interracial ones. And by trying, I mean to the point where it is obviously noticeable that she is on a mission to upgrade her status to match that of her husband’s or boyfriend’s.
We claim to be strong women who can never change for a man but I tend to think otherwise when it comes to interracial dating. If society treated me with the kind of importance that I encountered at the coffee shop with the Belgian national, wouldn’t I be equally pushed to feel like I needed to act differently while in his company just to prove society right?
Are we in the first place, dating foreigners of different races for the right reasons or just to prove a point? Could the fact that we consider our own African men to be on a much lower scale, when compared to their brothers from other races be actually a figment of our own imagination? Must I act in a certain way just to be with this man of a different race?
Do you have any answers to my many questions?