racial discrimination

Is The World’s Fascination With Africa Hypocritical?

A couple of weeks back, I happened to get into a conversation of sorts on a page I follow on Facebook centered on a certain meme. The meme in question had an individual announcing their desire to visit Africa, with the other person insisting that the individual be specific on which country in Africa, they would like to visit. Of course our opinions happened to be varied with other page mates concluding that a section of us were simply being overly sensitive.

However, I think we have very valid reasons as Africans to be skeptical about the world’s fascination with Africa. Having been categorized as a third world continent for the longest time possible in addition to getting quite negative coverage by the international media, we can’t sometimes really help wondering whether people from other parts of the world, genuinely appreciate our continent.

In certain cases, the desire by others to visit the continent has been in essence, to confirm whether Africans still lead lives as the primitive people they have since been largely branded to be. Not forgetting the fact that a majority of countries in the African continent have a dark history of colonization and therefore, are still a tad bit distrusting of the intentions of foreign visitors. Not that we feel a repeat can happen but past experiences tend to shape present perceptions.

Africa is a continent made up of several nations with very distinct cultures and ways of life but that has not stopped the rest of the world and especially the West, from failing to acknowledge this fact. Hollywood has often seemed confused and thoroughly ignorant about Africa when basing movies and shows  on the continent. It is always disconcerting for an African to watch a movie or show, that decides to mix two African languages, from two different countries and then try to pass it off as a movie set in one particular African country.

Even more upsetting is having to keep explaining yourself in a foreign country as an African, that where you come from is not plagued by war and disease. The idea that Africans still walk around naked, live in makeshift homes, possess primitive ideas and the likes, has failed to completely fade from the minds of  Westerners who seem to still feel the need to “discover” the continent.

I understand that for foreigners of African descent, their wish to visit Africa has always been to connect with their roots. For us Africans who have been born and brought up in our motherland, we may many times fail to understand this specific need.

Perhaps, we find it absurd that they would just desire to be in the continent, without being specific with which country in particular because for us who come from the continent, we can easily trace our roots. And our individual roots, happen to be centered around a particular locality and not the continent as a whole.

voiceofafrica.fm

Indeed one of the arguments that came up in the aforementioned conversation on the page, was related to this inherent need by African-Americans and people of African descent from the Caribbean, to visit the continent. However, this does not completely erase the fact that our continent happens to be the most misunderstood by many, often basing their view of the continent on hearsay.

Call it inferiority complex, sensitivity or what but Africans are increasingly getting tired of having to justify their legibility to others who are not from the same race or continent. Issues of racism and racial discrimination do not make it any easier for us. It only serves to heighten our skepticism of the world’s interest with our continent.

It should be understood that histories of oppression by others who felt superior to us, have contributed largely to Africans feeling the need to protect themselves from hypocritical intentions. We may argue that issues of xenophobia are perpetrated by Africans to fellow Africans and therefore as an African, I have no right to conclude that only those not from the continent discriminated against us and oppressed us.

Xenophobic attacks such as the ones witnessed in South Africa are deeply rooted on colonialism and the fact that Africans felt divided and denied of opportunities at that particular dark time. I’m no advocate of senseless killings neither am I trying to lay blame on the colonialists at this point in time. However, how a nation chooses to heal from past hurtful experiences, determines the way forward for the development of the nation in future.

I would like to believe that many South Africans have healed but there is still that percentage, that has not completely healed and are therefore willing to incite and attack their fellow brothers and sisters, whom they feel are taking away opportunities meant for them, the original citizens.

As a continent that is forever trying to get to the same level as other continents and many times falling short in the process, our main concern is being genuinely accepted as capable of competing on the same level as other continents. It may seem like a far fetched idea to many but past branding of the continent as incapable has contributed to our wariness. We may many times fail to understand other people’s intentions or might even be right about their hypocrisy, who knows?

The Kenyan-Indian Connection

Nairobi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta after their press statements at State House in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh (PTI7_11_2016_000128B)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta after their press statements at State House in Nairobi, during the PM’s visit to Kenya. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh

The day before yesterday therebout, I chanced upon a post by a local media station on Facebook, claiming that the Kenyan-Indians had requested to be recognized as the 44th tribe of Kenya. So I was curious to read the comments and the vitriol that spewed from Kenyans could not be masked in the comment section. I’m not sure if the Indians among us read those comments and what they felt about it.

As I have already mentioned before on my blog for the sake of my foreign readers, the Indian community came to Kenya in the 1890s to aid in the building of the Kenya-Uganda railway. Many opted to stay and bring their families after it was completed. So when we are talking about the Asian community, as we like to refer to them in Kenya, we are talking about 3rd and 4th generation Indians who only know of Kenya as their home.

It may surprise you though, that the Kenyan-Indians upheld their culture and still practice many if not all, of their Indian cultural practices to date. It may surprise you further, that many Kenyan-Indians have chosen to get married to their fellow Indians and stick to their close knit way of life. To the other Kenyans, this tends to come off as snobbish and probably racist?

It’s not something we openly talk about but when given a chance, Kenyans can really talk ill about the Asian community. This was evident in the many comments I scrolled through on the Facebook post. Many of the bitter complaints arising from the kind of treatment metted unto them while working for Indian bosses, who have a reputation of being hard to please and too harsh for their liking.

In essence, I think Kenyans would really appreciate it if their Indian brothers and sisters chose to intergrate with them. I also think that the foreign culture of Indians in general greatly confuses them. It is a culture that is rich and Kenyans would love to understand it but fail miserably at it, with the level of silent suspiscion between the two groups that simmers just beneath the surface.

My childhood best friend in the 8 years of primary school happened to be a Kenyan-Indian. I have equally worked for an Indian boss. Therefore, when I talk about the Asian community, it’s not out of bitterness or a need for vindication. It’s basically to bring issues to the fore, that have for a long time been swept under the carpet yet they affect our Kenyan society.

Trust me, there are many Kenyans of African descent who have worked for Indian companies and bosses and have a long list of complaints regarding unfair treatment. But why is this so? Methinks colonialism and ancient Indian culture played a huge role in contributing to this kind of sour relationship between the Kenyans and Kenyan-Indians.

During colonial times, of course the Black Africans were at the lowest on the tier. As a result of their skin color and culture considered primitive by the colonialists who had their own hidden agendas, the Black Africans were looked down upon and suffered many injustices as a result.

The Indians were of course lighter with silky hair and therefore not really prejudiced against as much as the Black Africans were. They were of course not considered to be of the same level as the European colonialists, but they were placed somewhere in the middle, above the Black Africans.

It should also be noted that the Indian coolies who came to offer labor in building the railway line, landed in Kenya at a time when colonialism was just taking root. Coupled with their ancient caste system that grouped individuals in society according to their social standing, it was inevitable really for the Indians not to look down upon the Black Africans.

By Independence, the enterprising Kenyan-Indians already had a presence in many economic spheres. Not so for the Black Africans in Kenya who had been long suppressed by the colonial system. Indeed one of the first president’s agendas was to eradicate illetracy among mainly the Black African community.

It is however unfortunate that the preceeding generations of the Asian community in Kenya, held on to what their forefathers believed in and passed it down to their own children. The Indians chose to stick to the familiar thus limiting their interaction with the other Kenyans in society.

At my time in primary school, I would still see Indian kids from different classes, opting to form a large group of friends despite their age differences. The memory is still vivid in my mind when my Indian friend once tried to include me in one of these groups.

One Asian girl in particular, carried on speaking in Gujarati despite my apparent lack of understanding and my friend’s obvious struggle in communicating back in the same language, thus opting to reply in English. It was the last I would agree to tag along. However, there were and are still those Kenyan-Indians, who do not mind interacting with the Black Africans as was evidenced by my friend back then.

I think the thing that irks many Kenyans the most though, is the fact that we have heard of stories where if an Asian got married to an African, he/she would be considered an outcast by his/her family. This was quite evident in the My Bukusu Darling saga, where an Indian girl in Western Kenya fell in love with her father’s employee, an African and moved in with him.

It was evident that her parents did not agree nor approve of it and many Kenyans doubted the union would last. It is not everyday we get to see an Indian marrying a Kenyan of African descent. True to the majority’s doubts, the union between these two individuals did not successfully weather the family storm. Quite soon enough, the marriage broke.

This and many other misplaced beliefs between the two groups is what makes genuine interaction nearly impossible. Over time, Kenyans have equally developed an attitude toward the Asians, that further hampers hopes of the two groups integrating.

When a Kenyan walks into an Asian owned business/company as an employee with a set mentality that he/she will be mistreated, then justified acts of sternness by the Asians present, will be interprated as acts of cruelty. It is what fuels the constant whines and complaints about difficult Asian bosses and causes others to steer clear of the Kenyan-Indians.

As for the Kenyan-Indians, the mentality that an African cannot be trusted to do a good job, be a good friend or an upright individual, is what creates that level of suspiscion that you can almost feel, when sometimes interacting with an Indian. The superiority complex that still makes a section of Kenyan-Indians, to view themselves as better and of a higher social standing than the Kenyans of African descent further stretches the divide.

The Indians in our midst are an enterprising lot that have greatly contributed to the Kenyan economy. However, some of these backward mentalities, religious and social stances that we stubbornly hold on to, are what makes Kenyans be wary of the Kenyan-Indians and harshly criticize their suggestion of being recognized as a tribe.

Why Are Kenyans So Fixated On The American Vote?

Photo Credit: Internet Sources

Photo Credit: Internet Sources

I said I will be gone for 3 months but the events that are unfolding in the US election at the moment couldn’t keep me away for so long. So I’ll just leave this here and resume my other preoccupation that is unfortunately, taking up too much of my time to effectively concentrate on this blog that I love so much.

I’m not a politics person but I can’t help but experience this feeling of dread in me that Republican Donald Trump could actually be winning this election. And I guess this feeling I’m experiencing is shared by many Kenyans. But we are miles and oceans away, so why bother?

When Obama became the 44th president of the US, it was euphoric for us Kenyans. Obama’s father is from our soil and despite the fact that Obama was born and raised in the US, Kenyans felt as if a part of them was represented in none other than a superpower.

We are Africans. And in Africa, ties are so important that we sometimes claim people belonging to the same clan as our blood brothers and sisters. But since I have quite a number of foreign readers following this, I will not delve into just how much we value ties. However, in our African minds, Obama is ours and that fact alone gave us so much comfort the period that he has been in office.

Come campaign time in 2016 and we have Clinton and Trump. Hilary is this prim and proper candidate who has quite a huge chunk of years of experience in public office. She definitely understands what running a country actually entails. Then we have Donald who according to many, is just but a privileged savvy businessman who does not have the slightest fear in speaking his mind. It doesn’t seem to matter to him whether he rubs people the wrong way or not but whatever is on his mind, he will just say it. Often statements intended to ruffle feathers a bit or a hell of a lot more.

And he does not seem to care whether Obama has relations in Kenya for that matter and what it actually means to Kenyans. Weirdly enough, Kenyans expected Donald Trump to actually care no wonder some of this dread we are experiencing at the moment at the turn of events. In addition, there are comments made by Trump in the past that kind of painted him as insensitive toward other races considered minorities and also as a super misogynist.Things I personally do not agree with.

So definitely, we are looking at this man who isn’t the slightest bit fazed by negative publicity arising from him speaking his mind and we are actually really scared, that all those things he said, could actually become a reality once he is in power. And we are more scared of the implications of it on immigrants from nations that Trump seemed to have quite unsavory statements to make concerning them. So what happens to Hispanics? What happens to Kenyans, Senegalese, Nigerians… in the US? Is he really going to build that wall at the border of Mexico and the US that he threatened to build? What if Kenyans get sent packing back to Kenya?

However, I will confidently say this and this is simply my opinion, that whether Americans decide to vote for Trump as the 45th president of the US or Clinton, it is solely their decision to make. We really have no influence as Kenyans over the American vote. Many of us are scared out of our wits by racism in my country, because it is something we haven’t quite experienced. Oh yes, we are familiar with tribalism which we engage in shamelessly on a daily basis, but we are definitely scared of being discriminated against because of color. And Trump seems not to really spare a thought for people of color on a frequent basis.

It should be noted however, that some of Trump’s supporters and I’m sure, who voted for him, are actually Americans falling in the Black and Hispanic categories and women who were privy to his previous sexist remarks. Meaning these people did not take his statements to heart or they chose to look the other way and focus on what they thought was good for their country. And that is why I emphasize that voting depends on the people of that country’s choice. It does not depend on emotions and thoughts of people from other countries who feel a connection to the said country like Kenya.

I personally was for Clinton and mainly because she is a woman who has defied odds to vie for the top office but I equally do not think that Trump is foolish. If he is going to emerge the winner, he will definitely have to reconsider some of his stances that he made public in the race for presidency. He will have to consider economic and diplomatic ties with other nations. He will have to look at what is best for America despite whatever public/private thoughts he may harbor towards certain people from certain races and religion.

You cannot run a nation and specifically a superpower, based on buffoonery and I’m sure that is something Trump and his advisors already know. So he may have exhibited all this unnecessary attention seeking drama during the campaign trail but if at all he gets the top seat, he has a lot of work cut out for him to do. And sending immigrants he considers a pain packing back home definitely, will not be at the top of his list.

So Kenyans, relax and focus on your own general elections come 2017. We have a lot of planning and decision making to do back here.

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?

 

 

The Day We Decided Black Lives Don’t Matter

There was a point in time when nearly every Kenyan desperately wanted an opportunity to settle in the US.

We had seen the movies.

They all did a good job in portraying the very green pastures that awaited us when we finally relocated. Perhaps we had living testimonies of relatives, who had gotten the opportunity to relocate and we could clearly see, how much their lives had transformed since the move. We yearned to be like them.

To go to a place where tribalism did not exist. Where many diseases had long been put in check. Bye, bye malaria! Where an employee’s efforts were duly rewarded with money that actually seemed to cater fully for one’s needs. Where there was gender equality and a man respected a woman’s opinions and allowed her to spread her wings and fly as far as she wanted.

Where civilization had happened eons ago therefore, the environment was way ahead of time as compared to ours. Where education was termed to be of better quality. Where there stood magnificent skyscrapers and spotlessly clean streets lined with well manicured lawns. We wanted to be the envy of our relatives and have them say “so and so is now an American citizen” in our absence.

My parents’ friends, a couple with two young children then, relocated to the US sometime in 1994. I was only 4 years old then but I can clearly remember the wife telling my mum the good news on a visitors’ bench at the Barclays bank, Eldoret branch.

She was even wearing a red dress that has stubbornly remained etched in my mind since. I surprised my mum quite recently, when I reminded her of the dress color her friend was wearing, the day she revealed that she was moving to the US. The land of opportunities. The family settled in Florida and have been there since.

But looking at my mum’s reaction back then I could already tell how much she would have equally wanted our family to be like theirs. I mean, anyone relocating overseas back then seemed successful. Blessed even. Unfortunately, social media hardly existed then and soon after, as much as my parents would have yearned to keep contact with their friends, they went out of contact. Occasionally, my mum mentions them and tries to imagine how they are as of date.

About a year or so later, one of my sister’s primary school teachers, a Mr. Were, relocated to the US with his family. And the reaction at the good news was pretty much the same. How we wished we equally had the same opportunity as them to have our lives transformed. To experience that exposure. We all viewed the US as a land where all our dreams had a sure possibility of coming true.

However, with the recent happenings, I guess we have been forced to rethink our views.

I’m not trying to imply that the US is nowadays uninhabitable. It is still a wonderful place, judging from the stories we hear from people of Kenyan origin, who have lived and worked there. I mean, they eventually got a Black president! One who surprisingly has Kenyan roots! So to some extent, Kenyans feel a deeper connection to this land of opportunities. I’m sure many of us would still want to relocate.

But the sad reality is that, Black people in the US still feel oppressed to some extent. Black men are increasingly dying senselessly at the hands of the police, who are tasked with protecting the citizen whether Black or White. If there wasn’t a problem in the US, then we wouldn’t be having movements such as the #BLACKLIVESMATTER.

From Trayvon Martin to Alton Sterling to Abdi Mohammed of Kenyan origin to Philando Castille to some who never got to be mentioned on the media, with Trayvon, a then 17 year old, being shot dead by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012. For the Black people in the US, they are starting to feel as if their kind is being targeted with violence of some sort. And they are increasingly getting pressured to speak up about it hence the Black Lives Matter movement. Just when did the world decide that dealing with a Black person has to be violent?

My intention in posting this is not to spread any form of propaganda. As a matter of fact, I have lived in Kenya all my life therefore, I cannot confidently state that I have valid reasons as to why there are such occurrences in the US recently. However, the world has since become a global village thanks to the internet and we in Africa, are getting to know about the happenings overseas.

We are starting to question whether we will be safe as people of African heritage if we got an opportunity to relocate to say, the United States, for example. Are we going to be appreciated for our heritage or are we going to be lumped together in the racial stereotyping, that a section of backward minded individuals have chosen to allude to?

The United States of America has come a long way in ensuring equality for all. I remember reading a feature on one of those Readers Digest magazines a few years back, where a story from a Black descendant of a Biracial woman in the United States is told.

This Biracial woman was unusually light skinned and could easily pass for White back then. However, due to her Black roots, she was still considered Black and therefore, could not ride in the first class carriage on the train.

The third class carriage reserved for her kind, was uncomfortable and her mother, in a bid to ease her daughter’s torment and have her travel in comfort in the first class carriage, cleverly dusted her face with face powder to try and trick the White train ticketing staff, into thinking she was White.

Her plan almost worked as the employees’ thinking she was White, allowed her into the first class carriage where she traveled peacefully for a while until sleep overcame her. While dozing off, her hat fell off and one of the staff, could clearly notice a line where the face powder began from the rest of her face.

Sadly, she was immediately relegated back to her kind in the third class carriage. Not without castigation and a tongue lashing. The story of humiliation because of skin color, had been passed down to generations and here was her great great grandson, still recounting it to a magazine writer.

I believe the United States of America has since gone past that period where it was an abomination for the races to mix. Black, White and Asian people share transport systems and amenities as equals with no discrimination of any kind. And since this is and has been happening for decades, I believe that whatever is currently happening can equally be put to a permanent halt.

As Africans, we equally have our own political and tribalism issues to take care of and counter. However, we are not blind to what is happening in other nations in the world. We would like to be assured that if we send our children to the United States for higher learning, they are not going to be targeted by some rogue, racist police at a store somewhere and therefore, shot dead at point blank because of seeming suspicious.

It would indeed tear our hearts to pieces just as it has torn the hearts of the families, who have lost their loved ones in recent times and have been left with the sick feeling, that their loved ones’ skin color might have contributed to their deaths. It would make us feel helpless that in our efforts to give our children a better life, we instead unknowingly led them to their deaths.

We still believe that the United States is a land of opportunities, where the likes of Barack Obama Snr were airlifted in the 50s, to get a higher learning education. We therefore hope that a permanent solution shall be arrived at, for us to live peacefully in the world irrespective of our racial backgrounds.

 

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 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.

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.

African Women And Sexism: Sara Baartman

As I was going through my Facebook Newsfeed earlier in the day, a status update caught my attention. It was something to do with an African woman once upon a time in history, being displayed to curious onlookers as a result of her unusually large derriere. As is my nature, I quickly Googled the story and what I read presented to me the worst form of sexism and racial discrimination that an African woman has ever had to endure.

I have to say that being a Kenyan, I have been very lucky to be spared racial discrimination of any kind during my lifetime. Not that I’m gloating over that fact knowing that there are quite a number of Africans in their own respective African nations, who have unfortunately had to endure being treated as minorities by foreigners in their land. My forefathers did suffer racial discrimination and especially during the colonial times. I’m sure it was a really tough and annoying time for them. Other people from races considered minorities by some backward minded individuals, still continue to suffer racial discrimination in this day and era.

Again, I consider myself very lucky to have been spared most of the harsh sexism that other women have unfortunately had to endure or grapple with on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean that acts of sexism do not elicit any form of reaction from me! As a matter of fact, just the mere thought of a woman being discriminated against because of her sex makes my blood boil with rage!

I consider it an injustice of the highest order for this poor woman called Sara ‘saartjie’ Baartman to be lured from her home country of South Africa under the guise of going overseas to work as a domestic servant and to be exhibited for entertainment purposes. It is said that she did sign a contract for it before leaving which is highly unlikely considering the fact that she definitely was illiterate. For my readers who are getting a bit confused, Sara is the woman I read about today after seeing the status update concerning her.

Born in the 1700s in the current Eastern Cape of South Africa, Sara was a Khoikhoi woman who was sold to London to work as a domestic servant as well as for the entertainment purposes. She was about 20 years old at the time. She would later be nicknamed Hottentot Venus. The reason why she was considered an entertainment of sorts was the fact that due to a medical condition, she had unusually large buttocks.

In addition to that, it was rumored that Khoikhoi women had elongated labias which hang down almost 3 to 4 inches in some women. This was attributed to the fact that since Africans were considered savages then, the body parts that were of normal size in other normal  human beings had to be abnormal in size in the so called “relatives of apes”. Don’t ask me why but I simply do not know what kind of weed the scholars of that age were smoking.

A disturbing picture indeed of onlookers "marveling" at Sara's so called unusual asset. Picture courtesy of www.telegraph.co.uk

A disturbing picture indeed of onlookers “marveling” at Sara’s so called unusual asset. Picture courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk

You see, being from a community that definitely practiced labia elongation in women, Sara could not have been spared from the practice. Labia stretching, also referred to as labia elongation or labia pulling, is the act of elongating the labia minora through manual manipulation (pulling) or physical equipment (such as weights), according to a definition by Wikipedia. The practice happens in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Malawi and some countries in Sub Saharan Africa. The Khoisan were equally known for it.

However, to the onlookers on Piccadilly street in London where Sara was paraded due to her skin coloring and the behind, her elongated labia was equally an oddity attributed to some African sexual stereotype. But Sara refused to expose her private parts considered sacred in her community though many would have liked to gawk at them and always had them covered in a small piece of garment.

Her exploitation caused an uproar among abolitionist circles. However the fact that it was claimed and proven that she had signed a contract, her exploitation was made to appear consensual on her part. Eventually, Sara was sold to a French man who took her to Paris where she continued to be exhibited in a cage together with a baby rhinoceros. She would later end up prostituting and bordering on alcoholism.

After her death at around 26 years of age, naturalist George Cuvier was given custody of her body which he made a plaster cast of, took out her brains and genitalia which he preserved in laboratory bottles.It is said that as late as 1975, Sara’s genitalia and brains were being displayed in a museum in Paris.

When I look at this whole narration of what this woman was put through I can only attribute it to the fact that her naivete was thoroughly taken advantage of. In addition, the racial stereotypes of the time contributed greatly to her exploitation. I find it the worst form of women degradation bordering on the primitive. The fact that a woman’s body part considered out of the ordinary can be put on show for people to amuse themselves is truly sickening. Worst case scenario is the go ahead given to the naturalist to continue making fun of her bodily aspects in death in the name of research.

I am indeed glad that I was born in the 20th century where racial stereotypes of such a magnitude had somehow been completely done away with. It is clear that even in primitive societies, there was objectification of women based on what was considered curious or sexually odd by their onlookers as opposed to sexually enticing in this age. Perhaps the stress of one’s private part being put on display, gawked at, groped, made fun of and  equally the pain of being equated to a wild animal on a daily basis is what drove Sara to a life of prostitution and alcoholism in the end.

It may have been painted to seem like she was a savage without feelings yet this was an African woman who was as normal as the women of other races then. The only difference was her skin color and level of exposure or education! And maybe what was considered an unusually large butt then could just have been an average big butt today! How times change that big butts nowadays are considered a must have by a section of women and men alike!

Seeing how disturbing her story is, I can now understand why a South African chief told off celebrity,  Beyonce, for wanting to write and star in a film based on the life of Sara. South Africans still have a long way to go when it comes to matters healing. This is a country that suffered the extremities of colonial injustices for the longest time possible on the African continent. I can only understand why they would not want to stir up the racial discrimination they have endured in the past, with a film on a fellow country woman who underwent the worst form of it starred by a foreigner.

Perhaps they have a preference to let the past remain in the past if at all it only conjures painful memories. And isn’t it time that Sara was finally allowed to rest in peace?

Additional sources from a couple of articles on the Internet on the life and times of Sara Baartmann.