Race

Why Being A Minority Can In Fact Be Beneficial

My niece attends a predominantly Asian school. It may sound baffling to some seeing that we come from an African nation. However, as a result of the construction of the Kenya-Uganda railway line over a century ago, Kenya has quite a significant number of Asians of Indian origin. Some, 4th generation Indians born and raised in Kenya. So being a community that values giving back to society, we have a number of schools that are predominantly Asian.

For many Kenyans, the idea of enrolling your child in a school where he/she will be a minority is quite scary. We all love to feel safe and as a result of that, we prefer to stick to the familiar. My niece’s mum values exposure and good education. So when her little one got admission to this school, she was elated. She saw this as a wonderful opportunity for her child to be exposed to so many things beneficial for her growth and development. She did not look at her child being the only black face or part of the very few black faces in a class of 30 or so Indian kids.

While in high school, we had only one girl of Asian origin enrolled in our school. It was a boarding school with an estimated 300 girls and 700 boys. In our 4 years in that school, she was the only Indian. It is a known fact that many Kenyans of Asian origin lack a strong preference for boarding schools. I can only guess that the fear of having their children as minorities and away from home is what deters them from considering boarding schools in Kenya.

Photo Credit: Google

Photo Credit: Google

For this girl, it was actually a marvel to us for sometime. Mind you, two of her brothers had been in the school before her and had performed exemplary in their finals. I remember us waiting with bated breath just to see how this girl would handle being assigned dorm duties. We all had our own individual dorm duties but the fact that we were not used to seeing Indians in boarding schools which were predominantly African, we were curious to know if she could equally bend and mop like the rest of us.

I tend to feel that sometimes being a minority goes a long way in changing your views about others. For this Indian girl, I’m sure she would not hesitate in sending her own children to a good Kenyan boarding school in future. By experiencing being a minority in one, she is better placed to understand how things work and the fear of her children being in danger while there is significantly minimized.

If my niece were to attend college in a town overseas where black faces are countable, she will be better placed to deal with culture shock, I presume. She may even be in a stronger position to explain to ignorant people what race is all about if by any chance she experienced some form of racial profiling.

The reason why racism exists is because we have not been exposed to other cultures in a minority position. I have a friend of mine who relocated to China quite recently and judging from the WhatsApp messages I frequently get from him, he is having the time of his life experiencing a different culture and food. I recently suggested to him that he starts a blog just from getting that feeling of enthusiasm from him.

Looking at myself as an individual, I have been in safe situations all through my life and sometimes, I get the jitters just thinking about how I can adapt to an unfamiliar environment. I do not consider myself a racist per se, but I’m ill equipped to handle a situation where I feel like I’m the only one who looks like me. Get the drift? However, it does not mean that I would not jump at an opportunity to experience other cultures.

Through mingling with other individuals who do not look like us or think like us, we in the process expand our world view. Most of these racism incidents are perpetrated by individuals who have grown up safe. Deep down, these individuals equally fear being in a position where they are minorities. However, they cover up for this by acting superior.

When I see some Kenyans grinning dumbly at foreigners, I know that we have a long way to go. We need to interact more with people of other races to understand that they are just like us. Humans who eat, sleep, walk, talk and work. The only difference lies in our respective cultures. Africans and people of African descent overseas complain a lot about White privilege and the likes. Yet in my own country, we are guilty many times of treating people of fairer skin like little gods. Aren’t we also contributing to White privilege in a way?

It would be better if we took time out just to fully understand how other races functioned. Not that I’m on a mission to praise my friends and relatives. They are just but few examples who decided to take the plunge of being in minority positions no matter how scary it felt at first. In truth, those examples challenge me to want to try the same.

Any thoughts?

 

 

Why The Constant Need To Identify As African/Black?

Before you accuse me of being ashamed of my roots, I shall first and foremost state that, I’m every inch proud to be from the African continent. However, I’m getting a little irritated every time I read or get to hear an introduction by someone of the same roots as me, which goes in the lines of…

Hey, I’m so and so, a Medical Researcher and Black…

or

Hey, I’m so and so, a Linguist and African

or

I’m a wife, mother, culinary expert, with an environmental degree and Black/African…

I know you are probably wondering by now what my beef is with this. Take a seat, I will tell you.

You see, over time, Africans or anyone with an African origin have grown so defensive of their roots, to the extent where we are constantly trying to prove our legibility to other races. I have a huge problem with such introductions because, whether the initial intention behind them was to communicate a certain pride in one’s heritage or culture, they always seem to emit a kind of justification for being African/Black vibe to them.

But why do we, as Africans, feel the need to keep on justifying the fact that we are of Chocolate skin and of kinky hair? Why do we always feel the need to state our occupations and achievements then add the fact that we are Black/African? Why isn’t it as common as it is with us, for other people from different races to identify themselves as

An Engineer and White/Asian/Arab

or

A wife, mother, culinary expert with an environmental degree and White/Asian/Arab?

I know many will argue that Africans are the ones who have been through a lot in terms of oppression and the harsh vagaries of life. I mean, there was slavery, colonialism, racial discrimination, poverty, disease…you name it. So ultimately, an African or someone with African roots who is an achiever irregardless of these factors, will automatically want to add the term I am Black/African in their introduction of themselves.

This just goes on to prove that despite efforts in the past by other races to try and put down the African or Black man or woman, an African can still rise up and become a successful medical doctor or mother or wife or environmentalist or linguist. We just have to keep on reminding these people that Black/African people can indeed be something in society.

However, I tend to disagree and with all due respect to all movements which have been formed in the past, in regards to fighting for the Black/African man/woman’s rights. I applaud such movements as a matter of fact, because they have gone a long way in addressing the plight of races that are stubbornly being still considered inferior by a section of close minded individuals.

But as much as we want to drive a point home that we can still be achievers, I think constantly alluding to our races exhibits a form of desperation of sorts. And so what if I’m Black or African? It doesn’t matter my heritage because all human beings are equipped with similar bodily functions irregardless of race. Along the way, we forgot about this and started looking at our skin colors as a basis for judgment of other people’s abilities.

If we are to successfully do away with racial profiling, then we better stop emphasizing on the point that we are something, yet from the African heritage. We need to focus on where we are headed as individuals other than on constantly devising ways, of justifying why we have been able to achieve this or that, irregardless of whatever stereotypes have been put in place in the past, concerning us.

Unidentified African woman. Twitter.com

An unidentified African woman. Twitter.com

In countries from the African continent which have successfully to some large extent, tried killing ethnic profiling, doing away with descriptions of self as from this tribe or that has been adopted as a tough stance. This has worked in Rwanda which experienced the harrowing genocide in 1994. Nobody constantly introduces themselves as from this tribe or that tribe in the said country.

In our bid to try to show the rest of the world that we are making it irrespective of what has been said of us in the past, we are constantly reminding the world that we are indeed different. Yes, our skin colors may be different. Our experiences may be very different indeed. Our cultures all the more different but we all eat, sleep, talk and breath.

It would be refreshing to see a Black or African man or woman who perhaps is a blogger/writer but who chose to only identify with the country of origin. Say British or American or Australian and did not allude to the African/Black part only to have his/her readers get pleasantly surprised when they finally discover he/she is Black or African.

And yes, I’m every inch African but if I were to relocate to a country where my skin color stood out from the rest of the population, I would constantly allude to the fact that I’m from Kenya. I may experience the culture shock, I may take a hellova long time to adjust to my new environment, hell, I may even be lumped in the category of the “Black Community”and start being referred to as a Black woman, but I would continually identify myself as Kenyan.

It might surprise some of my readers that while biracial individuals are considered Black in the West, here in Africa, they are considered the most prettiest/handsome looking individuals. We of darker shades marvel at their latte and caramel shades and silkier, softer hair and may not really call them African. My latter statement not intended to ridicule the fact that as a result of not being considered purely White or Black, quite a number of Biracial individuals suffer identity issues. What I’m driving at is the fact that what might be considered a minority elsewhere, may actually be a source of marvel and beauty elsewhere.

Plus constantly trying to prove people wrong only ends up in some form of deep frustration. Remember, we all sleep, eat, breath and talk. We are humans.

Any thoughts on this?

 

Judging One Another Based On Skin Color Or Ethnicity Communicates A Lack Of Knowledge

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 usingĀ  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.

twitter.com

twitter.com

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.

Footballer, Dani Alves. alicephotos.esy.es

Footballer, Dani Alves. alicephotos.esy.es

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.

Is My Status Elevated If I Date Outside My Race?

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?