The Other Side Of Racism

I grew up in South Africa, so I’ve always been really aware of racial conflict and the prejudice that can come with it. My country has worked really hard to make sure that there is a generation that cares more about your intentions than the colour of your skin…

We always talked about the aspects of racism… a lot…. and I also spent a lot of time apologizing for things I didn’t even do. The thing is, racism is very much about misguided hate and cultural ignorance. So why am I talking about this? Well, today I was walking down the street and… wait, first I need to make sure you know that I now live in Zimbabwe. There are a lot of similarities between Zim and SA but there are also a whole lot of differences – the positive ones are the reason I moved here and the weird ones are the reason I started this blog…. So, I was walking down the street in a small town in Zimbabwe and I greeted a stranger.

OK, I’m pretty sure I lost you there. I know it’s polite to greet people and throughout my life I have greeted a lot of strangers and none of those times have been worth mentioning. SO what makes this time different? Well, I guess it’s the way I felt and what I thought when I was greeting this stranger. I felt relieved and a faint recognition. Like I was relieved to see another person who has the same cultural back ground that I do. I felt recognition because for the first time in my life today, I felt like a minority. I felt completely out-of-place and seeing someone who could speak my first language, reminded me that I’m not alone.

It was a weird feeling. Really weird. I’m not really sure how I feel about this. On the one hand I feel guilty because in that one moment I obviously reacted to a part of me I didn’t know existed and I’m not sure I liked it. But on the other hand, this is not something that I do. It is not something I have ever done in the 25 years I have been alive and it is not something I think I’ll ever experience again, so technically I didn’t do anything wrong… I mean, it’s not like I disliked someone for having a different culture to mine or even liked this one who has the same culture I do more… I just felt comforted by not being alone…

Not sure how much sense that makes. This is just a moment in my life that felt different and made me feel like an outsider in my own life. Something I can’t explain but for the first time in my life I felt like a minority… I felt ‘different’… like I wasn’t allowed to be me… Since I’ve lived my whole life as a minority I find it strange that this sneaked up on me, now. Even all of those times we were in school and forced to learn the same piece of History over and over again and discuss the same one-sided books and we’re allowed to have an opinion and all those times you were looked at weirdly because of your appearance… even through all of those moments, I never felt isolated or like I wasn’t allowed to be this part of me that I can not change.

So, I guess today I just want to say: I may be a minority in a lot of aspects of my life but I refuse to allow anyone – even myself – force me to feel bad about it.

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