I had a very astounding encounter on Monday this week. There’s an Asian Barbershop I walked into on a Sales mission, only to encounter the most ignorant kind of reasoning from the people present.
So I’m there, all salesish (if there’s such an English word even) and this Asian man pretended to listen for just about a minute or so, before breaking into a somewhat sympathetic smile. The kind of smile you usually give someone you assume is dimwitted or slow in learning. Then with that same smile on his ignorant face, he pointed upstairs and said, “There’s a salon upstairs for Africans.”
My friends whom I have shared that encounter with, all said that they would have thoroughly insulted that man. Funnily enough, I didn’t react with rage. I remember clearly telling him that the salon upstairs, already had a knowledge of the products I was marketing and were actually using a couple. Of course that did little to wipe that annoying smile off that man’s face but at least, I left that barbershop with my dignity intact.
On my way out, I couldn’t help chuckling at how ignorant all three men in the barbershop had come across. One chose to totally ignore my presence, the other chose to equally smile sympathetically at me and this one, whom I assume was the manager, thought it best to remind me that there was a place for my kind right upstairs.
Never mind the fact that he hadn’t seen the product and had no idea that it was in fact Caucasian manufactured. In his ignorance, he had assumed that since it was an African girl selling, then it definitely had to be an African product for Africans.
By narrating this, I’m not trying to insinuate that people from the Asian community are discriminative of Africans in my country. Although there have been some cases in the past, that came out as racially discriminative, I believe that where we are now as a country, we are past that stage where an Indian saw an African as inferior. And so my conclusion was that either this particular Asian man, was new in the country or had stubbornly (stupidly even), decided not to move with the times.
I’m reminded of the time recently, when our Rugby team won the Singapore Sevens tournament. A popular TV channel in my country decided to immediately celebrate the news on Facebook. So I was going through the comments and all of a sudden, I see a Kenyan of African descent, ignorantly stating that the win was in essence, a certain political party’s win.
His reasoning; since a majority of our rugby players are from a certain community and this political party is synonymous with party members from the same community, then the rugby team winning the Singapore tournament had to be that party’s win.
Needless to say, everything went pretty downhill fast from that comment onward. I read comments of Kenyans, bitterly trying to justify why their tribes were equally important and pointing fingers at others, who had sounded downright tribal in their comments. The whole idea of celebrating a great Kenyan win ended up being overshadowed by a simple misguided comment by a Kenyan, obviously lacking in knowledge.
As much as we may at times yearn to sweep things under the carpet, racism and tribalism are still very much alive and well. Back in 2014, during a Spanish League game, Barcelona’s Dani Alves an Afro-Brazilian, had a banana thrown at him by a racist fan. Instead of fuming, the clever footballer picked up the banana, peeled it and took a bite. The fan ended up being banned for life from the El Madrigal Stadium. http://www.edition.cnn.com
Looking at Dani, if you are from the African continent, you may be excused for mistaking him to be of purely Arab descent. However, this obviously very ignorant football fan, decided to concentrate on his African roots in particular and with an insinuation of an African being a monkey, threw the banana into the pitch.
The reaction the fan got from Dani must have shamed him for life. People of all races came out in defense of the footballer and all the footballers, who had previously suffered racial slurs and discrimination of sorts felt finally pacified.
It is indeed sad that no matter what strides we have made in civilization in the world, a section of people still choose to judge one another based on skin color or tribe. Tribalism greatly ails the African continent and indeed, quite a number of countries in Africa have suffered gravely from tribal conflicts.
The problems of race are so deep rooted that we now have a #BlackLivesMatter movement in the US, campaigning against violence toward Black people, according to an introduction given of the movement on Wikipedia.
In Kenya, we have a tendency of blaming our politicians for creating rifts between tribes. However, I tend to reason otherwise. I tend to conclude that Kenyans are equally to blame. If we indeed loved and appreciated one another irregardless of tribe, then no politician would have had the power in the first place, to incite us against one another.
We spend a lot of our time on earth trying to prove ourselves as being superior to others. If a certain tribe handles its matters in this manner, then the people of that tribe assume that they are way better than another tribe, which handles its matters differently. If a certain skin color is considered desirable, then the other skin colors are automatically gauged by the standards of this so called, desirable skin color.
This in essence should not be so. The world would have indeed been such a dull place to be in if all the people looked and acted the same. Methinks that racism and tribalism stem from a reluctance to be open minded enough, to learn about other peoples and their way of life. Possessing closeted views is what contributes to people judging each other based on trivial things such as skin color or ethnicity. The outcome of this is often stupid as evidenced in particular, by the rogue football fan.
As Africans, we cannot constantly lay blame on our leaders for brainwashing us against certain tribes. We are fully equipped with minds of our own and have a free will to decide on whether to utilize the wrong information that we receive or not. As the world, we equally cannot blame our lack of exposure to other races as our reasons for being judgmental of them. We live in a global village and choosing to learn more about a particular race is just but a click away.
Anyone engaging in tribalism or racism is simply lacking in knowledge. You have the power to acquire knowledge.