Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My racist toddler

When we picked a nursery school for our 4 year old daughter, racial percentages of the kids in the school wasn’t an issue. It was a highly recommended school and close to home, so it made sense for her to go there.

The fact that she is one of 3 black kids in the class also didn’t bother me until one Saturday morning when she woke me up with the statement “Mommy I don’t like brown people except for my family, I only like white people”. Obviously this shook me right out of my reverie of sleeping in and uninterrupted showers. I hesitantly asked “Why don’t you like brown people?” to which she responded “They are boring and they make me upset”. I try to make light of the situation and say “But sweetheart, brown is beautiful and it’s the colour of chocolate. We like chocolate don’t we?” Her response? “No, I like white marshmallows.”

So here I am sitting in my bedroom faced by my little racist toddler at a complete loss as to what to do or say thinking this child needs Jesus, but little things start to make sense e.g. how she wants me to make her hair “like Sally*”, she prefers Barbie to her darker counterparts and how she is always more comfortable around white people than around “brown” people.

I then had the talk with her about the fact that no skin colour is better than any other colour and that brown is beautiful. She eventually said “I like brown people Mommy” but I am not convinced she is convinced. Could it be that being part of the minority has made her hate who she is? Was it something one of the kids said? How does a parent deal with this? .

P.S. In the meantime I am making sure she doesn’t end up with my friend’s son the homophobe.

*names changed to protect the innocent

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Silent Generation

As 30 thirty-something born and raised in Zimbabwe, my generation had it easier than most. We could be termed the first fruits of freedom, the first generation to be raised in an independent Zimbabwe, a liberated land brimming with hope, excitement and possibility. The war for independence in the 70’s was a story we read about in history and Shona literature books. The economic meltdown of the recent decade didn’t affect us much because 80% of us had already packed up and left.

But for all we have been given it would seem that, as I see it, we have turned out to be the most complacent generation. The hope and freedom which was fought for and handed to me as part of the first independent generation of Zimbabweans seems to have fizzled in my hands. My lack of patriotic drive is something observed every time a crisis hits our country. With each catastrophe, I am vocal and opinionated – peruse through Facebook, Twitter and any major social media platform and I am there. I (try to) intelligently debate the issues with my loud, sharp and differing views, but it seems this is as far as it goes.

My apathy may be masked by my vociferous debates but it does not go unnoticed; I have nothing to show for my opinions or for my discussions across restaurant tables. What physical contribution have I made to my nation? What Zimbabwean causes have I championed and followed through? Besides watching my country fall to ruins, what have I done to ensure my generation goes down in the history books with a personal legacy that our children will be proud of? What will they say about me after I am dead and gone?

Being based in South Africa so much as happened here, major incidents that grabbed international headlines and many of those incidents involved our fellow Zimbabweans. Incidents of xenophobic violence in various communities, displacement of foreign nationals (mostly Zimbabweans) and poverty on all levels was the order of the day. With all those incidents, I was shocked, disgusted, saddened, moved...and I did what I do best, I talked about it - to my friends. But to those who had lost homes, been assaulted, and were affected by the senseless violence, I said nothing and the sum of my efforts were a few hours doing a charity drop on a Saturday afternoon. I remained the Silent Generation.

How did I become so impassive? Did I have it so easy that I have become hedonistic and self-serving in my approach to life and others, focusing only on the betterment of my life and the lives of my immediate family? I am supposed to be the voice crying out for justice and calling for or driving change from wherever I am. I am after all the generation that has known the best of Zimbabwe and what it represents and after all I have received, what stops me from speaking out and having a heart for those less fortunate? Surely this is the purpose we should all seek…To take on a cause bigger than ourselves and to make our mark on this world, make a difference in our countries.

It’s not enough to call for change, yelling “out with the old, in with the new”. Who amongst us is worthy to take up the reins and lead our country should the “old” be gone? We have the brains and the desire, but something is missing. And if we don’t work together to find out what it is that has us acting like observers in pertinent matters that concern our fellow countrymen, we will remain the Silent Generation.

P.S. Thanks to Tendai Maidza for co-authoring:)

The Devil Lives in Haiti

The Devil Lives in Haiti?

It would seem the devil himself resides in Haiti. Well that is the opinion of a number of Christians I came across on the social media platform Facebook.

They categorically stated that Pat Robertson was right when he stated that the recent devastation was a result of a pact that the Haitians made with no other than El Diablo himself many years ago that resulted in God nuking them in His wrath Sodom and Gomorrah style. (check out the video on YouTube..makes for fantastic viewing)

Now I believe in God, I do, but something about this statement made my bile rise. Not only because of the blatant judgment on the people of Haiti but for even suggesting that God Himself willed this to happen and to throw it in the face of a people suffering such severe devastation is for me the lowest form of inhumanity. Some of the “enlightened” messages included “people don’t want to accept that all these things happening are written in the bible and it means this is end. It’s a shame about Haiti though, may God be with them” The end is nigh? Is this 2012? I didn’t get that memo. Another gem which came after I stated my confusion “Brendah you need to ask God for wisdom. He will let things like this happen just so people can see the light…everybody sins but that nation was in much confusion, God was definitely going to destroy it” You know what, I would ask Him for wisdom but He seems rather busy. What with causing earthquakes and stuff.

As the people who were having this discussion were Zimbabwean I had to ask. Does this mean that all the mess that we are in is a result of some pact we made with the devil? Have we as a nation sinned so much against God that we are now paying for it through Mugabe and Zanu PF (though it’s easy to see how they can be seen to be devil spawn). Cause if this argument can be used for Haiti, it can be used for every other nation in distress.

Maybe I am theologically na├»ve but As I see it, bad things happen to people regardless of their beliefs and lifestyle. Haiti has had a rough time but so has Somalia, Zimbabwe and any other war torn, politically unstable, poverty stricken country we know. Some crises are man-made, some by the hand of God. But a response that links tragedy to a judgment of people and their lifestyle coupled with all the devil talk is a classic case of Christians being too spiritual for any earthly good and if God really did see it fit to kill over 200 000 people in Haiti for the sake of them seeing the “light” then I am not sure that is a God I am willing to serve.

P.S. Who else has noticed that the majority of aid organizations in Haiti as we speak are non-Christian?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Open Letter to Zimbabwe Unity Government

Dear Zimbabwe Unity Government,

A few months ago you took the time to urge Zimbabweans in the Diaspora (sidebar: I hate that word) to pack up and come back home to rebuild our ailing nation.

You urged the over four million Zimbabweans who have left home to return in droves and help “reconstruct and develop the country so that it could once again be the breadbasket of Africa rather than the "basket case". You said the Unity Government which was "stabilizing" was doing everything it could to provide a positive and welcoming environment for those returning to Zimbabwe, and that it was up to individuals to make use of the new opportunities being created.

At first I thought, this makes sense. The country is in need of building up and surely it’s our generation who has that responsibility to build it up. We are the ones next in line to lead this little pain-in-the-ass country, so surely it stands to reason we must take responsibility for it and make the changes it so desperately needs.

But then time (and boredom and possibly a bit of wine) had me thinking. Hang on, this guy is asking me to walk away from the life, friends and contacts I have built for myself the past 11 years? And for what? A promise of “new opportunities being created?” What does that even mean? I can’t see anything happening except more land grabs and the constant bitching and bickering in the Unity Government, that you dared fix your mouth to say was stabilizing.

I am irritated that you even felt you had a right to ask me to come back. For the past decade you have had no interest in my wellbeing. The most formative years of my life you were not interested in mentoring me or developing me to take over from you. You made it impossible for me to stay. You left me to fend for myself as an immigrant in foreign countries that showed more interest in my development than you ever did. We, the people you swore to serve and protect, have sunk to lows you wouldn’t imagine to survive, in some instances resorting to begging and prostitution just to make ends meet. We are the laughing stock of Africa (and Highveld Stereo) simply because you were too greedy and selfish to stop and think about the future, to think about me.

Now you want to use the information and experience you never bothered to invest in me to fix the royal mess that you made. I don’t think so. The way I see it you need me more than I need you so you better be bringing something a bit more appealing to the table, a bit more tangible than promises of “new opportunities being created” for me to even think about it.

P.S. And don’t even think of using the “patriotism” argument either. That died when you nearly arrested me for taking pictures last Christmas.

Yours-Not-Yet-Booking-A-One-Way-Ticket-Home
Bren