By Aaron Aroriza, Uganda:
We quietly walked down the narrow street, hand in hand – me and my friend. Old houses lined either side of the street creating a sanctuary for us. They looked to be residential apartments and there were no cars on this street. It was beautifully paved and clean – and was peaceful until we met a group of young men who looked excited and were making funny noises. We had walked in opposite directions then but now they were back in front of us walking towards us. The noises started again and this time we were aware that we were the focus of those chants – monkey chants. To ensure we didn't forget this walk, the four young white men threw ripe bananas at us and then animatedly chanted some more. They didn't look like they intended to harm us. No. They only wanted to remind us who we were. In my mind I was thinking: how can a country blessed with two of the world's best soccer clubs also be cursed with four of the world's worst racists?
We had one more country to visit before our vacation was over. It was a peaceful country then and the people there were hospitable. The 'democracy' bug hadn't hit yet. We told our guide we were from the source of the Nile, the river on which his livelihood depended. “Oh, you are from Ethiopia”, he beamed. What an ignorant African: I thought. (It was months later that I googled the source of the Nile and to my shock discovered two other countries which claimed the source. Oh, how ignorant our country has kept us: I thought then). I told him what country we were from anyways. He found it hard to pronounce. He would later introduce us as his Africana friends. Great – like he was Americana himself. One of the people he introduced us to seemed interested in knowing which exact country we were from. He recognized it immediately when we told him. He could even pronounce the name correctly. “Oh, your national soccer team was here sometime back. We beat you guys 6-0,” his lips parted into a mischievous smile. His eyes weren't smiling, “you Africans don't know how to play soccer” he added. So these people really weren't African. Granted we were black and they were white. But on the map I could see their country on the same continent with our country. And that continent was Africa. And I thought we would all be Africans. How naive of me!
We were at our home airport at long last: Back to our beloved country where no one would direct monkey chants at us, where no one would call us Africana. The check-in queue was long but my friend and I patiently waited. Our turn would come soon. Two more people and then it would be our turn. A white couple skipped the queue and the black lady behind the desk served them with the widest smile I had seen that day. Our turn came, or rather my friend's turn. I was behind her. After she had been served, a white man, confidently rolling his travel bag, disregarded the queue and came straight to the desk. The African lady put my passport aside and received the Mzungu's. I'm quite sure she hadn't seen a more irate African that day. I threw the biggest tantrum I could humbly muster. I had had enough. The Mzungu culprit told her to sort me out first. It sounded like an order. She meekly took it. She looked at me from head to toe, then again from toe to head with disgust in her eyes. She must have been disgusted at my ill-behavior, disgusted at my total lack of respect for those superior to us – she and I. Angry at me for not knowing my place. But this racist Ugandan girl served me anyways.
My uncle came to pick us from the airport. I introduced my friend to him. Her surname wouldn't do. He wanted to know her first name too. He wanted to ascertain her tribe. “Ah, that's good. So she's one of ours. I thought you wanted to bring for us someone from the north. Those people are unbearable, they are monsters. You can't marry someone from there. They are a terrible tribe.” My uncle had heard rumors about me and the black beauty I had been spending way too much time with. He was subtly letting me know that black beauty wouldn't be welcome to the family.
A few days later I went to check up on my vacation friend. Her parents wanted to know my name: My surname. They asked for my home district, asked for my father's name and his profession. My father's name didn't ring a bell and my home district is known for cultivation and crop growing. My friend's district is known for cattle farming. We might be of the same tribe but we are still different. “I don't want you getting too close to my daughter young boy”, my friend's mother told me. I had failed the interview, lost the race.
And I was angry at all of us Africans who condemn racism and yet harbor tribal sentiments and embrace tribalism. We want the monster killed yet we are busy breast-feeding its young ones. Aren't we just hypocrites? Hypocrites who deserve the monkey chants we get? Who deserve to lose the race?
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