Racism

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?

Are A Woman’s Strong Features A Determinant Of Her Desirability?

What makes a woman feminine?

Is it the shape of her face, her soft curves, the roundness of her bottom…? Are these attributes of hers considered female, what men are going to look at and say “wow, she’s hot!”? What about a female who naturally has strong features, otherwise considered “manly” or “masculine” in many quarters?

I sought to find out what 3 men thought about dating a woman who fell in the latter category. One mentioned that he wouldn’t mind the masculinity factor, as long as she possessed all the qualities he looked for in a woman.

As a matter of fact, for him, those special qualities would surpass her physique. However, he was quick to note that sometimes, the physical attributes of a woman contributed to the attraction factor, from the opposite sex. But all the same, he went on to mention female sport figures who possessed obviously, very strong features that he considered attractive.

The next man gave a complete no. He was very certain that he would not even be the slightest bit attracted to such a woman, just from looking at her strong features. The third mentioned that he tends to look at the physical attributes first in a woman.

He admitted to this being superficial and a mistake on his part. However, he highly doubted that he would get past the masculinity factor, in a bid to know more about her as an individual and what special qualities she possessed.

Well, not to judge these men for their honest opinions, I think the answers they gave me, are in truth a reflection of what many men and women alike, think about the desirability factor of a woman, considered to possess strong features.

Tennis Star Serena Williams. Photo courtesy of New York Magazine

Tennis Star Serena Williams. Photo courtesy of New York Magazine

One such woman regarded as masculine by many, happens to be tennis star, Serena Williams. To many, Serena could be confused for a man. Never mind the fact that she recently got engaged and could be walking down the aisle very soon. This is just proof that someone of the opposite sex, despite all the hullabaloo surrounding Serena’s physique, found her attractive and is willing to spend the rest of his life with her.

As an individual who has recorded huge successes in the tennis field, it was inevitable really for Serena to look the way that she does. An immense amount of training goes into becoming a professional in specifically, sport. Back in the day, when Serena and her sister were just beginning to learn the ropes of tennis under the tutelage of their father, they were just but normal skinny girls. But it would take a lot to mold them into the huge stars they have since become.

To exhibit the kind of strength and endurance that Serena exhibits on the tennis court, significant effort goes in building the right physique for it. And this is evident on many female athletes engaging in sports that need a high level of stamina, not only Serena whom many have singled out.

I tend to find musician Pink, equally possessing quite strong features which can be partly attributed to the fact that she’s also a gymnast. Many of her performances have seen her suspended in ropes while performing various tricks on stage. You need the right body for that.

Musician Pink during one of her performances. Photo courtesy of Google.

Musician Pink during one of her performances. Photo courtesy of Google.

Sports aside, in my usual routine of poring over the Internet for information, I quickly discovered that there are certain features in women, considered masculine. A square jaw was one of them. Some women I saw being pinpointed as seeming “manly” happened to possess square jaws.

There was equally the racist factor that singled out certain African-American women as being masculine just from their looks and what others considered linked to their heritage. It is sad that the former first lady of the US, Michelle Obama and British supermodel Naomi Campbell are some of those  Black women, whom if you dig deeper in the Internet, you will find many trolls calling them male or other unsavory names. A cruel reality of the many forms that racism can take including bashing genetics.

British Supermodel, Naomi Campbell on the runway. Courtesy of Elle.

British Supermodel, Naomi Campbell on the runway. Courtesy of Elle.

Back here in my country, the physical attributes of a woman equally seem to play a huge role for many in the desirability factor. There’s what biology and society’s standards of beauty have over time portrayed to be feminine. For quite a number, a woman is defined by the soft features that make her feminine. If she seems to lean more on the strong features, then something must be wrong, we tend to assume.

The fact that men are considered visual creatures may also partly contribute to this deeply entrenched idea of what a female should look like. Not to seem like I’m bashing the male, but it is accepted by many, that men look at a woman’s features that are different from theirs and therefore attractive to them. If the woman appears to look like a male, then definitely the whole idea is kind of distorted and the man can be forgiven for reacting with unmasked surprise, at this turn of events.

However, the often, negative, unmasked surprise goes both ways. Women may tend to question how female a fellow woman is, if she seems to come across as male. We assume that if this is how we look as females, then the rest of us should look the same. Quite a close minded view, you might be tempted to conclude.

Well, when genetic factors are at play as they always are in determining our individual physiques, there’s nothing much we can do about it. Looking at this whole issue from a feminist view, regardless of how a woman’s physique is, what she possesses in her mind, is far more important than a pair of well sculpted legs that may appear manly to some.

We need to stop this objectification of women, that tends to place more emphasis on what is considered sexy in a woman, at the expense of her talents and what she is capable of doing. Many women in the sports field are increasingly being objectified while pursuing what they are good at. It could perhaps be the reason why the likes of Serena Williams, have constantly endured castigation over how they look.

For many, if she looks like a male, then she definitely acts like a male and quite a number of men, may shy away from pursuing such a woman. Physical attributes have little to do with a person’s personality and a woman who possesses strong features, may turn out to be the most feminine in personality. However, many can agree with me that changing deeply entrenched perceptions may prove to be the hardest.

Thoughts?

Who Said Small Town Girl Can’t Make It Big?

First and foremost, I would like to announce to my readers that I’m officially back in the blogging scene therefore, expect to see more of my posts from now henceforth.

So let’s jump right into today’s topic!

Quite recently I remembered a conversation I once had with someone I intended to date. I’m a small town born and raised girl. Well, not necessarily small town per se. I have grown up in locations considered major towns in Kenya but if you compare those major towns to Nairobi, where I currently reside, they are no match to the city. And Kenya, for my foreign readers is not a very large country. It’s big alright but not to the magnitude of Sudan, Brazil and the likes and not as small as The Central African Republic. Somewhere in the middle of very large and small. Anyways…

I have always considered our current Cabinet Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Dr. Amina Mohammed as a role model. Secretly, I have also harbored the desire to one day venture into Diplomacy.

kenyan Foreign Affairs CS, Amb. Dr. Amina Mohammed

Kenyan Foreign Affairs CS, Amb. Dr. Amina Mohammed. Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.

So we were on a first date and somewhere along the way, my conversation with this guy veered toward school and career ambitions and for some reason, I mentioned that I would like someday to go the Diplomacy way in my career. This guy looked at me with a somewhat sympathetic smile and said, “Wewe msichana wa Nakuru uko na hizo mafikira?” For my foreign readers, he simply wondered how I thought I could make it to be a Diplomat, being a chic from Nakuru (my current hometown). Well, I was somewhat offended but being a first date, you kind of don’t show it. However, that particular subject ended at that point and we talked of other things instead.

Well, to cut a long story short, we barely dated. It didn’t work out very early on which was just as well, seeing that this guy wasn’t quite the ambitious type despite his surprisingly, good education.

Anyways, let me state to all and sundry that Amb. Amina Mohammed is actually a small town girl. A “very small” town girl who was brought up in Amalemba, Kakamega and attended schools in the then Western Province of Kenya before proceeding overseas for her university education. We talk of counties nowadays. Plus, she is of Somali descent where for a long time, educating the girl child in the community, was not considered that important. So anyone who thinks that small town girls from marginalized communities can’t make it big are thoroughly mistaken.

I tend to think that society has over time drafted this image considered “ideal” for a woman to make it big. She has to be the sophisticated type, from this exposed family, born and raised in a big city, beautiful, well traveled, of a certain skin tone…blah, blah, blah. The same happens in other parts of the world not necessarily in Africa. Just last month, a West Virginia Official in the US lost her job after referring to Outgoing First Lady of the US, Michelle Obama as an “Ape in heels”. With yet another woman of high standing, agreeing with her in the comment section of the offensive post on Facebook which read;

“It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels,”

From the above incident, it is pretty obvious that society has over time set standards considered ideal, for a woman to make something of herself. And we tend to not quite believe that hard work, ambition and determination is often times all it takes, for a woman to be where she wants to be in life. I consider Michelle Obama one of those self driven women, who were ambitious enough to achieve what they wanted.

She did not come from a well to do family, but that fact did not stop her from making it to top universities to pursue her career of choice. It’s not a matter of what color her skin is or whether someone, somewhere, considers her a cousin to a primate, it’s all about what she has achieved as an individual and the possibility of a Black woman, to carry herself with such grace and end up as a First Lady of a superpower.

Many girls have been made to believe that they cannot achieve anything just from that mere fact of where they come from. Almost like their destiny has been mapped out for them by people who hardly know better. So she’s from a small town or community, then she only needs a basic education, a man to marry her and children to raise that will keep her busy.

Society does not realize that we are killing the dreams of many girls who could have otherwise made something great out of themselves. Who is society? Society is you and me who decide to give a free pass to girls from certain backgrounds just because we assume their social standing equates to success. Society is you and me who look at a woman’s skin tone and decide whether she can make it to an advertising billboard or not. Society is you and me who stereotype girls who come from remote, dusty locations as uncultured, unexposed and unworthy of any forms of success.

It might surprise you that most women who go on to become such great people came from places that can hardly be located on a map. They were not necessarily beautiful, vain or monied. They worked their way up. Got scholarships to study in prestigious universities, maximized on their special giftings and displayed a certain level of intellect that amazed all those who interacted with them.

I can’t really blame that guy I was on a date with for being stereotypical. I actually attribute his reasoning to what he has grown accustomed to seeing. Women not believing in themselves enough to come out of their areas of locality and actually achieve something tangible. It may have sounded really foreign to him that a woman somewhere thought that she could become something, he hasn’t seen other women becoming in that particular locality.

Women should stop believing in these baseless stereotypes. Women need to believe in themselves to the point where anything is possible for them to achieve. I still consider Amb. Amina Mohammed a role model. I still hope that someday, I end up in diplomacy. If it so happens, you my readers will be the first to know that I made it 😉

 

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.