Yes, Africans can be racist too.
Disclaimer to all Team light skin fans and haters, just because our skin is a shade lighter, doesn’t mean that we’re a different race. We are black as well, African to the core, probably even more African than some of you. Like, enough memes about light skins this, light skins that. If a light skin girl won’t respond to your cat calls on the street, it’s not because her skin has anything to do with it, it’s probably because you had the audacity to shamelessly equate her to a cat, thinking that she’d turn around and respond. In reality, she just doesn’t have time to entertain your behavior (as most girls don’t). Fool stop.
Now that that’s out of the way, on to today’s topic.
If you’re reading this (it’s too late lol), I know you’re already judging me, and that’s fine, but first hear me out before you start pointing fingers and decide that you’re done with this 10-year-old who doesn’t have anything sensible to say. So, racism.. There are two definitions of racism, according to my best friend Googz. The first is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. The second definition that shall be my focus, is, ‘racism is the belief that all members of a race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races’.
When I say I am racist, it’s not that I have anything against people who are not black, no, that’s not the case, in fact, I believe cultural diversity is a blessing. The thing is, the mentality I (as many of us) have or have had when it comes to certain things, makes me seem racist, because it shows that I may believe all members of a race (e.g. let’s say Caucasians), possess characteristics specific to that race, distinguishing it as superior, and distinguishing us (Africans/Kenyans) as inferior. Elitist would go ahead to say this discussion is about neo-colonialism as well as inferiority complex, well, whatever name you want to call it, it all boils down to mean the same thing, to some extent.
- In the streets.
Has anyone ever been in a matatu and either you or someone else is shocked that a foreign person is in that same matatu? What about a foreign person walking in CBD, leave uptown alone, that’s not that big of a deal, walking in downtown? What about Caucasians in toi market buying mtush?
Let me be honest, on some occasions, I have shamelessly felt a tingle of excitement on seeing such things, because a messed up part of me still equates being of foreign origin with having a lot of money. I mean, how could they possibly be walking on the streets like common mwananchi, don’t they all drive Mitsubishi? So, how could people from such races subscribe to footsubishi? Come to think about it, I really feel dumb for my messed up mentality, as should all of you who can relate to this. I don’t know if we believe that if your skin is a couple of shades lighter, that the money is always following you. I’m not the lightest person, but I’m sort of light skin (on good days), so, if that was the case, I’d probably be stinking rich by now, but sadly, only bananas are following me. Lol.
- Speed of service.
This isn’t something foreign, I bet most of you will relate to this. So you walk into a nice restaurant looking to feast and enjoy the beautiful day. It’s not the Mama Nani’s fish and chips self-service joints (which I absolutely love btw. The kuku soma is always bomb dot com and I love the concept of standing while eating because I hear it will help me grow past my 4 inches height – I’m still waiting). You’re at a fine dining restaurant so you sit down, decide on what you’ll be having and the waiter comes to take your order. Unfortunately, the waiter you get that day has had a terrible day and comes up to you with attitude, but you don’t let that get to you, so you give her your order and move on with life. After a while, a Caucasian couple enters and sits next to you. The same waiter who was serving you, goes to attend to them, this time she has the widest smile and the friendliest attitude ever. You decide, it’s whatever. Then the most interesting thing happens… the couple gets their orders brought to them years before yours, even though their meals look more complicated to prepare than yours. With that in mind, state and explain, using relevant examples, how one’s race affects the speed of service? (20 marks)
- Let’s talk about hustle.
A while back, a picture was going around of a female Caucasian conductor in a matatu, and I must admit that I myself was taken aback. A white person as a conductor? How is this possible? The fact that, that picture was making its rounds in whatsapp groups and on social media shows that I am not the only racist in this country. It was strange for most of us because that was a foreign concept, literally.
Recently, just when I thought that I’m older and wiser, a friend sent me a picture of his Asian uber driver, and again, shamelessly, I was a bit shook.
We are not racist because we hate or discriminate other races, no, we are racist because we equate all white people with a certain superiority, that they can not hustle and do noble jobs like the rest of us. We are racist because curved in our minds is the illusion that hustling is only for black people. How can white people do such jobs to make a living? We are the ones to drive the ubers while they sit back left only to be driven, we are the ones to be makangas while they own the matatus as part of charity work.
Number one: White people can’t talk Kiswahili or sheng’.
There is an assumption that everyone who is not black can not talk Kiswahili. I am personally a victim of believing this stereotype. Real story, so, I have a project thing I’m doing, and the person I work with is white.. not light skin or pointy, like straight up mzungu. So, the work I do requires that you know how to speak Kiswahili, and if you can speak a bit of sheng’ here and there, the better. So on the day for auditions, I remember sitting there completely nervous, then this Caucasian girl walks in, (I thought she’s being auditioned as well) and immediately my ego shot up, and I knew there’s no way she’ll beat me at the audition, because I mean, she’s white, of course she doesn’t know Kiswahili. I got the shock of a lifetime when she opened her mouth and she knew more sheng’ than I did. Better yet, she was already working there and was one of the people who had to approve if I’d be taken or not. I was humbled.
Number two: Why do people feel the need to change how they talk when they are talking to a white person?
Today if a white person gets into a taxi, the taxi driver will probably change how they talk and try to ‘weng’ a little. If a man from Nyeri came with his Kikuyu accent and talked to the same taxi driver, the taxi driver will not feel the need to adapt to this Nyeri guy’s accent. In the same way, we are so quick to forgive a French man who talks English in a French accent, or an Italian speaking English in an Italian accent, we even call it sexy, but we make fun of a Kenyan talking English with the influence of their mother tongue, saying that shrubbing is shady. Why is that? Inferiority complex, or whatever you want to call it, it’s just not right.
Number three: Why do we forgive foreigners for not being able to speak our National languages?
Leave mother tongue alone, it would be madness trying to learn all languages in this country, but let’s talk about our national languages here, Kiswahili and English. So a friend of mine told me such a sad story the other day, and I feel the need to narrate it. So my friend and a friend of his had gone to a Chinese restaurant in Nairobi. The person who was supposed to serve them was Chinese.. okay, that’s fine, no problem there. Now the problem came in where this Chinese guy didn’t know Kiswahili and English, so he could not even communicate with them. I get it, it’s a Chinese restaurant, but gaddam it, this is Kenya not China, people who go to the restaurant would be Kenyans! It get’s worse though.. the people working with this guy had the shameless audacity to tell my friend ‘Ah just understand, He doesn’t know English” SORRY WHAT?! JUST UNDERSTAND?! First of all, why is he serving people if he can’t speak the languages spoken in the country? He should even know Kiswahili sanifu for crying out loud. Second of all, are our minds still colonized this much that we feel like that is all okay and that we should just understand? Take a country like France, French is a beautiful language and they know that, they value their language so much that in some shopping centers, you’d have such a language barrier trying to communicate with them that you either would have to speak the language or have a translator, and it is allowed, because it is their country and as a foreigner you have to adapt to the language they speak. Here in Kenya, on the other hand, we are required to have a translator to get services in our own damn country. Utter nonsense!
Photographers! I love photographers and absolutely admire their work, it’s a skill and an art. However, and I say this with a lot of love, I don’t understand why some photographers have no African women on their Instagram pages or on their websites. I know everyone has preference, and that’s fine, but in my opinion it doesn’t make sense for your Instagram to say that you are based in Nairobi, KENYA, but your photos are ONLY of white people. Don’t get me wrong, I love the pictures, the women are downright beautiful yes, and I have no problem with them, I just wonder, for the ones who don’t have any Africans on their pages, is it that they don’t know even ONE beautiful African woman, with dark skin and beautiful kinky hair or is it that they believe only foreign is beautiful?
I’m amused at what I see happening to white people in coast when they are buying things. It is automatically assumed that a white person has a lot of money to spend, so its okay to overcharge them on products. I mean, it won’t hurt their pockets, and in any case it’s not like they would know. Literally a Kenyan could buy a pair of Maasai shoes at Kshs.500, a price that would triple when a white person comes to purchase the exact same thing, as though the white person has a garden at his backyard where he plants money trees.
- Racism at work.
It breaks my heart when I see people getting jobs just because of their race. I’m down for people getting jobs because of what you can do, white, black, red, an alien, it doesn’t matter, if you are qualified, well and good, I will be celebrating you, but if it’s so evident that you are not qualified but get the job just because you have a certain skin complexion, your hair looks a certain way or you speak in a certain accent, nah, that doesn’t sit well with me, and personally, I don’t like standing.
Today I confess that I am racist, and if you can relate to any of this, welcome, you are racist too, we’ll be starting a chama soon lol. We are racist because we do not believe in our Africanness for all its worth, we are racist because we believe that other races are superior to us, we are racist for choosing people because of where they come from and not who they are and what they can do. Call it whatever you want, at the end of the day, we all need to smack ourselves for the messed up mindsets we have adopted over time that have made us subconsciously believe we are not as good as other races. Colonialism ended years ago, now we need to train our minds to get out of that mentality, and to see that everyone is running the same race. Black, white, yellow, brown, we are all here just trying to survive. Race really doesn’t matter.
What racist actions have you seen in Africa? Feel free to share in the comments down below, we’d love to hear your stories.
Credits: The paintings in this post were at circle art gallery, done by an artist called Michael Soi. (Check my instagram for links). Photography on the other hand, was done my amazing friend Tracey.
So that’s it for today. Thank you for reading. Connect with me through my email, or through any of my social media handles. Till next time. Chao.
Remember to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud. xx
Grow x Glow.