Wednesday, 10 December 2014

My 2 Cents on Racism

I have a black hoodie that Dad got me last year. It's about two sizes too big but the last time Dad bought me an item of clothing  was at least 10 years before that, so it meant a lot that he had taken the risk. I mainly wear the hoodie to bed or to go to the shops in the evening. The first time my sister saw me in it she joked that now that I had a 'Trayvon Hoodie', I should probably take care not to get shot walking around at night in it, and we laughed about it. We could afford to. Let's face it. The police post near my house probably doesn't have a gun... and if they did, you can be sure that they aren't doing patrols to keep the peace. What, with all those pubs at the shopping center where they can go extort bribes? Then there's the fact that no one is going to shoot me simply because I am black and wearing a suspicious-looking BLACK hoodie. This is Kenya, we are almost all black and can't use race as a basis to discriminate. When tribe and class isn't reason enough, we focus on the less evil colourism. (According to my spell check that last word isn't a real word... yet we are adding words like 'mahoosive' to the Oxford Dictionary. SMH)

Where I live may have made me a little less sensitive to racism. I've watched films about it, read books like 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and articles... even read 'Americanah' assuming that an African's perspective on race would have a greater impact than that of an African American's. I still feel that some things have to be experienced to be understood. I couldn't honestly tell an African America that I know what they go through. We may be the same skin color but I have no idea what they go through. History handed us different crosses to bear... and I am not sure whose is heavier.

Yesterday I read 'The Secret Life of Bees' by Sue Monk Kidd. It's a small book and I devoured it within hours, even though I was at work. I don't like bugs; most animals too... and some people. I am an unsocial being... as opposed to antisocial. Antisocial suggests that I have something against social beings when in fact I am simply unlike them. Nothing further to say on that. I wouldn't have picked up a book called 'The Secret Life of Bees' in a million years. But it had a pretty cover, could easily fit in my bag and cost only 50 bob; so I bought it over lunch. I have to say that was my best decision of the day.

Turns out a 14 year old living in the American South in the 1960s' perspective on race wasn't any easier to picture than my previous collective experiences. However, this story got to me because it focused on one white girl and four amazing black women who manage to create a slice of race-free heaven in the pink house that they live in. In the South. In the 60s... Wow.

In the book, I finally concluded that Lily Owens got it all figured it out when she mused:
"They (the Daughters of Mary) didn’t even think of me being different. Up until then I’d thought that white people and colored people getting along was the big aim, but after that I decided everybody being colorless together was a better plan. I thought of that policeman, Eddie Hazelwurst, saying I lowered myself to be in this house of colored women, and for the very life of me I couldn’t understand how it got to be this way, how colored women had become the lowest ones on the totem pole. You only had to look at them to see how special they were, like hidden royalty among us"

Everybody being colorless together sounds too good to be true. It probably is. It would take a miracle for us to stop seeing race as a defining factor. However, we can try to respect each other differences and appreciate that we are all human. I may not understand how African Americans feel... and their pain may be overshadowed by my own unique Third World problems... but I'd like to take the time to say that #BlackLivesMatter. #AllLivesMatter.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting read. Racism is still alive but as you rightfully put we have our own problems to deal with