Contrasts among colours, in fairytales, in the world of media, among people. Life is full of contrasts. Many of us have the habit of seeing the world in black and white. It’s often more easy. Much of what we are reading is built on that opinion that it is contrasts in this world; the evil against the good, the crime against justice, USA against Soviet, the people against the dictator, Jesus against Satan etc. It’s not so simple. It’s the opposite, it’s very complicated, sensation: The world is not black versus white!!
Reason: The humans are neither black nor white, they are complicated, they do have both black and white inside themselves. That’s why we are so different – that’s why the societies become different.
The Arabic spring started with a revolt – the people against the dictator. The end we don’t see, but we have seen something scary, somebody wants to use the situation when the strong man is not there. The people were not one. Most of the countries are in a bad situation except Tunisia, which have got a new constitution and a democracy that will prevail.
What’s scary is that Islamic groups are increasing, also in the western world. It is intolerance that is spreading. And it is the opposite of what most Muslims believe in Islam as the religion of peace.
A very visual contrast is skin. I am a white man – muzungo – in a black society. It’s a very exciting experience. I am feeling almost like the headline of a Norwegian newspaper in 1962: “The railway to Bodø is opened – a Negro was there”! I am watched like something strange, something they have heard about, but not experienced. Somebody is steering, somebody is sceptic, and others are kind. It is a few muzungoes living in Kitengela, so we are not uncommon. The boda-boda drivers are joking about us, but now they have seen me so many times, so I am not an interesting person any more. If you are going to Nairobi, nobody bothers. Are you going for a walk and do meet people, they say, “How are you?” Sometimes you answer “mzuri sana” and they are they smiling very much. Once a boda-boda stopped and the lady wanted to great me with shaking hands. A man living not far away greets me with “how are you brother?”. Very kind. But not many (if any) want to speak to me – even my neighbours.
I have best contact with my American neighbour. She has a 2 years old daughter. She is coloured, the mother is very white and the father is a luo, has studied in Kiev and felt racism very much on his body. The daughter loves animals, she loves them and run after them if possible, they have got chicken and our cat is very popular, My neighbour does all she can to give the daughter the possibility to become a Kenyan – trying to teach herself Kiswahili. I do think it will function very well because she is growing up in a Kenyan environment.
Visiting the market, prices go up significantly if you shop there, also if you are native and goes along with a white. Therefore, I do not participate in the marketshoping. In stores with fixed prices this is fortunately not possible. Travelling by matatu they will often try to charge you more if you’re white. Fatma released once because she said it was she who paid for me. I think that it does not really matter for me if I pay 50 or 100Ksh for a boda-bodatrip from Kitengela and home. (50Ksh = 3.50). Should you however to a national park tourist prices quite different for residents of the country. They pay 300Ksh, I pay from 50 – 90U$D. In one case I did pay cheaper because I’m a “permanent resident”. Is this discrimination? No, here we are talking about being a resident or a visitor ? a tourist.
There is little discussions about the white residents . They were the colonists who came to Kenya 100 years ago , drove away the natives and started plantations . They got here with its top-down approach to the natives. ” The white man’s burden ” as Kipling called it. Karen Blixen and her husband were one of them. Karen Blixen was acquainted with the natives on the farm and was a kind of mother for them, she told in the novel “Out of Africa”. Nevertheless, claims author Ngugi wa Thiongo that she was racist. I would say she was a child of her time. She was one of the few who understood the opportunities they had in the future. The times of Maumau was brutal with their massacres, guerrilla warfare and concentration camps – and the uprising was brutally suppressed by the British in the 50thies. When Jomo Kenyatta and the other Kenyan leaders arrived in negotiations with the British in the 60thies, it seemed that ” Uhuru ” ( independence ) was a possibility. Many British (and it was part Norwegian too) farmers sold their farms and moved back to their home country. Many also chose to stay. Although many Kenyans thought the idea of getting back lands, it was not conducted any reversal of the land. The white farmers are still there and operate the most efficient agriculture in Kenya. Everyone knows that if they are kicked out, Kenya will be a new Zimbabwe. That’s no one wants. The Indians who came with railroad construction, are no one want out. They were the despised of all a hundred years ago, but the skilled businessmen they are, they are important for the economic activity in the country. Somalis however, there is no big deal with – they are going out according to President Kenyatta.
Besides: Most tourists coming to Kenya is white – and tourism is one of Kenya’s main sources of income. Taking care of tourists is important for Kenyan economy.
Some white Kenyans have actually meant something important for Kenya, especially as the family Leaky found traces of the oldest people in Africa. Dr. Leaky and his researchers found that the primeval man came from Africa. It is discoveries done in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania showing it. That primeval man was coloured, it is perhaps not so many people think. He/she had to protect herself from the scorching African sun. As people moved northward, the need for this type of protection was less, and the skin was paler. Pale faces are us.
A fun episode: When we driving across the hillside through kambaland a week ago, I quickly noticed that people watching who was in the car when we drove by. When they saw me, they started waving eagerly. Some places where people gathered under a tree could almost sounds like a shout as we passed. And there were kids there was jubilation even greater. Felt almost like an important person there we travelled through the countryside.
I grew up in a all-white community in 50 – and 60ies. We learned in school about the negroes in Africa and song Torbjørn Egner’s song about Vesle Hoa Hottentott. (Have later experienced Hottentot Mountains of South Africa.) Set still not left with any kind of top-down feeling towards negroes in Africa after schooling. This was while the freedom process in Africa was going on, and we had great sympathy for many of their leaders like Nkruma, Lumumba, Kenyatta, Kaunda and Nyerere. When I was a student at the University of Oslo, I met the first black man – from the U.S. of course. It was exciting. The studies of History also report a different Africa than what we were taught in school at the time.
Although I find that the meaning of brown colour has disappeared over the years, and that the people behind depressing clearer. It happened ia through my teaching activities, Red Cross refugee operations, but not least, to come to Africa. Here I have even been married.
Here is a little story that I think says something about this:
A father stood and watched some youngsters playing football. Afterwards he said to his son: “The negro boy is certainly good at playing football.” The son replied, “Who do you mean?” “He, coloured alien”. Son: “Do you mean Mike with the green t-shirt?”
Is there racism in Norway? It hangs well up again. Fear of the unknown also creates racism. On the other hand there are so many new Norwegians in Norway today that we do not feel that there is something scary. And you come in on them; they are also highly human, just like us Norwegians.
Is there racism in Kenya? Many say no. The Kenyan culture is so tolerant that it can accept anyone who is willing to respect the others. We see this everywhere: Churches, mosques and temples are scattered, some is virtually next-door. We read in the newspapers, however, that there is a tendency towards Islamism among young people Swahili areas along the coast. Here al – Shabab their potential recruits. But is it not so worldwide – especially among young people – also in Western countries?
What is the main problem in this country, Kenya, is therefore not the contradiction between blacks and whites, but tribal antagonists. They are sometimes quite large in many places. It’s also racism and it is hard to understand for us here in the west. Closest is well the situation in the Balkans.
There is a topic that I would like to come back to later.