Sorry, I’m Not Black...?
I am often asked where I am from. It is because I don’t speak Konkani or Hindi. They expect me to say, “Mumbai” or “Chennai”. I then say I am from Kenya, and see the perplexed look on their face. It’s like their brain is scanning for the meaning and the closest it lands on is “Canada”. Then I say, “No, KENYA”. They frown in confusion. I wait a few seconds, allowing time for their brain to reboot; then out of boredom I hand them a life-line and say, “It’s a country in East Africa.” The “East” escapes them, but “Africa” registers! Oh! Kenya! But if you are Kenyan why are you not black? I feel like saying “I don’t know. Maybe because God made me this way?” Instead I ignore the question and smile.
I have this happen to me quite often, but the most pathetic one was, at the Dabolim Airport in Goa. My daughter and I were travelling to Kenya and our passports and tickets were being inspected by an army guard before we were allowed to enter. He looked at our passports, looked at us, looked again , then finally said: “Why are you not black?” I was worried that that would be a criterion for this gun bearing soldier not to let us travel. What was I supposed to say? Sorry? I just stared at him. He smiled and let us through. I was wondering that if that was his job, would not have met other brown people with foreign passports? I wondered if he asked a Goan bearing a British passport why he/she was not white?
How can anyone not know about Kenya? We have been targeted by Al Qaeda when they bombed the American Embassy in Nairobi in 2008. In 2012 a leading Mall in Nairobi was attacked by the Al Shababs . Killing people randomly, and targeting non-Muslims. President Barack Obama is half Kenyan! Kenya’s main tourist attraction is the great migration of the wildebeests from Masai Mara to the Serengeti in Tanzania. It is one of the wonders of the world. So, why don’t people in Goa know about Kenya?
Another comment I encounter about Africa is “Africans are so poor. Why?" and I become defensive and say, "90% of Indians are poor, Why?" This results in a stalemate. If India is not poor, why are so many of their citizens seeking manual jobs in the Gulf and Europe? If India is so rich why do people not have toilets, or adequate water supply? Why does India have slums? (Slum Dog Millionaire)
I almost fell off my seat when a prominent criminal lawyer – not my lawyer, by the way – said that he represents many Africans and other foreigners in Goa, who are drug dealers or rapists. He then said, and I quote: “There is no rape in Africa – even in Europe, everyone sleeps with each other, so how can there be rape?’ What? Did he actually get a law degree? This is the educated echelon of society. I was too shocked, but also afraid to say anything because his son was representing me (not a criminal case). I should have said that no one has a right to force him/herself upon another sexually when the other person is not consenting.
Another lawyer also from Panjim, (I’ve met a lot of lawyers since I’ve been in Goa) said to me that it is in the genes of the Africans to be hostile and that is why they were violent.
He was representing us in a case, so I did not have the guts to disagree with him. He was the type who bore grudges and did not talk to you. So I betrayed my people in my silence. But my personal opinion is that we all have a propensity to be violent, given the circumstances. Is there no violence in India? Did the Indians and Europeans not go to war with each other? Are the Isis members only Africans or Arab but rather a mixed cross cultural group who terrorise the world? As you can guess I am a coward, and incredibly scared of lawyers who are handling my matters. (Big and fragile egos!)
Another lawyer who took a vacation in Mauritius said: “The blacks working in the banks were actually efficient”. So evidently racist. If you are black you are supposed to be uncivilised? I have met so many people who call the Africans “negroes”. In which century are you living? I get so shocked, especially when Goans do that. Aren’t our people all over the world? Many Goans work on ships or in the Gulf. They have met and associated with people from different parts of the world. Don’t they come home and talk about their experiences, and enlighten their family?
I wonder if this level of ignorance is because of the education system in India. The curriculum is specifically focused on the country. Children get to learn how amazing India is, and how “smart” the politicians are. India is the largest democracy! While every adult Indian has the right to vote, in most case the vote is influenced by the media, and who paid it more money to publish them. The average Indian basically believes everything that is fed by the media. The media only shows the poverty in Africa and not its wealth, and development. I pick the newspaper and hardly see any news on Africa. By the way why has Modi not gone to Africa yet?
I am a Goan Kenyan, and I am not black because I was born in Kenya to parents who migrated to Kenya a long time ago to earn a living and have a better future. They became Kenyan citizens but their hearts were always linked to Goa. They had two homes and my siblings and I were taught about their life and love for Goa and Kenya.