White people still hold power in Africa, including Kenya, because they colonized us and continue to exploit us, our people, our resources and perpetuate the colonization of our minds.
The devastating effects of that colonization are still so present today, even in ostensibly “small” things. A family friend of mine has chemical burns all over her back and chest from her use of skin bleaching creams to achieve the “lightness” which is now exalted across sub-Saharan Africa. My (mixed, half black) mother grew up in Nigeria but she looks down on black women who do not straighten their hair and go for “ethnic” (her words) braids, etc. instead. And it’s not just her, there are many Nigerian women who toil to straighten their hair, wear wigs, whatever it takes because straight hair is still seen as the standard for “professionalism” etc. My father grew up in Africa but only dates extremely light skinned women. When we take domestic flights in Nigeria, having a white pilot is seen as a mark of prestige and safety for airliners. When we drive to Port Harcourt (one of the main oil terminal ports in Nigeria) we drive past massive compounds built to protect white oil workers and provide them with their own schools, running water, power and the whole 9 yards. When we fly out of Nigeria back to the West, we follow the path of our resources which have been perpetually stripped from our countries of origin for centuries for the benefit of white people. We follow the path of the over 10 million black Africans which were stolen from their homes and shipped to the Americas as slaves. And these exploitative processese are ones that continue to this day. White supremacy is present in sub-Saharan Africa. You don’t need to control the government of a place to control the minds and resources of a people you worked to subjugate for centuries.
So yes, white people still have privilege in Africa, even if they face discrimination.
For more on the disturbing, exploitative history of white people in Africa which continues to this day please check out this amazing post by atane.
If I could add to BiA’s already eloquent post, every time I hear about restaurant/shopkeeper scenarios like the one described above with the white woman in Kenya, it is always an “account” from someone else. We don’t know what happened. For all we know, she committed some sort of cultural faux pas. You can’t go to a foreign country and ignore customary practices and norms, but these are things many white expats and vacationers don’t think apply to them. What this white woman took for discrimination against her because she is white could be a reaction to her oblivious actions.
In Nigeria for instance, you accept things with your right hand and kids aren’t supposed to talk back to adults. Kids being respectful and deferential to elders is a big deal. You don’t address people old enough to be your parents and grandparents on a first name basis. You call them auntie or uncle, or ma or sir. If you enter a room and there are adults there, you greet them cordially. You just don’t saunter in and out like they are your mates. My dad is a professor, and some of his academic colleagues were white. Their children were completely unruly (in the Nigerian sense). They would address grownups like they were equals, call them on a first name basis, would argue with adults, wouldn’t greet adults etc. Now, one could say they were kids and they grew up in western cultures that give children that kind of autonomy, but their parents aren’t kids and they know the culture of the people and country they are in, and they refused to correct their children’s behavior and abide by the norms of their host country. That is disrespect. After a while, people will be cold to you. White expats and travelers rarely see the role they play in their negative experiences. It’s always someone’s fault, never theirs. Also, the deference for older people does not end when you become an adult either. You still address and greet them accordingly.
Be that as it may, it is entirely possible that the white woman in Kenya met a shop owner who didn’t serve her because she is white, but to meet several of them all refusing to serve her because she is white is unfathomable, and it goes back to my earlier point of the white woman perhaps committing a cultural faux pas. Many shopkeepers make their livelihood on tourist money. They would love nothing more than for white people to come and spend their cash on their wares. Who goes into business to not make money? To many Africans, white people are synonymous with money. They will bend over backwards to accommodate them. My dad traveled a lot when I was younger, and when he would arrive with his white colleagues, the taxi drivers and other people in the airport would rush to carry the white people’s bags first. All of them were junior to my father and they were his assistants. Still, their whiteness meant they were attended to first by taxi drivers, completely ignoring my father. They were falling over themselves to grab his white assistant’s bags. Unless your taxi driver, waiter or shopkeeper is Robert Mugabe, life in Africa for white people is pretty awesome.
However, I can tell you plenty stories (both accounts from others and personal) of white people denying Africans service in their own country. All these expats go to exclusive restaurants and clubs that cater to them, and they send their kids to private schools only for their children, and on and on. They do not acclimatize themselves to the people or the local cultures. They make their own rules and subject local people to their ways, when they should be abiding by the customs of where they are.
There was an uproar on the internet 2 years ago about a restaurant in Accra, Ghana that had a “whites only” policy. The staff tried to pathetically play it off like it was a joke. Alright, where is the punchline? Nothing quite as hilarious as anti-black racism and denying black people service in their own country. That’s so funny! When the story broke, I saw the usual shock and indignation, but I wondered whether these people are really that oblivious or in denial. This can only be shocking to people who really have no idea about what is going on with white expats all across Africa. Things like the restaurant in Accra are the rule, and not the exception. I know it may be hard for some people to digest that, including many Africans who have white expat friends. Some are so far removed from white expat shenanigans in their own country that they don’t even know that these places that cater only to white expats even exist. That’s the idea; they don’t want you to be privy of what they are doing in your backyard.
White expats are free to come and go wherever they like, and Africans are very hospitable and accommodating. It’s not a problem for us. We embrace everyone. Go to any event or venue, whether you’re catching a show at the Shrine in Lagos or at a festival like Chale Wote in Accra, you will see white people getting on with no problems. However, Africans aren’t free to roam carefree through white expat circles and communities. Let some area boys wander into a compound for white expat Shell workers and see if they won’t be detained or even shot for trespassing. I suppose that this is where the token African who has been “accepted” into the fold will beg to differ, completely ignoring the reality. This is also where the white expat who doesn’t live in an exclusive white expat compound will say they’re not like that, also completely ignoring the reality that the majority of them are exactly like that. The massive fences they’ve built around their exclusive expat fortresses should be a sign. The fact that they don’t want their kids to go to schools with black children, which is why they have their own schools just for expat kids should be another sign. I don’t know how many more signs we need really. On the occasions that you see black children in one of these expat or “international” schools, then it means that their father is an “Oga at the top” or their parents are very important. You won’t be seeing a market woman’s child there, that is certain.
This is an uncomfortable truth many would prefer to skirt around, deny, act like it’s not there, or focus on “good” white expats. I get why white people would act like this isn’t the reality, but for the life of me I don’t get the black African people that ignore their own debasement. What are they getting out of it? Ignoring it doesn’t change the fact that this is the reality. Anyway, the idea that somehow these white expats who are in control of everything and everyone around them are now victims of anti-white racism isn’t the reality. It also tells me that the person making the anti-white racism charge doesn’t know much about the relationship dynamics between white expats in African countries and the locals. Either that, or they’re one of those white people hellbent on making reverse racism a thing, facts and reality be damned.
When we read these accounts of anti-white racism from blacks posed as “innocent questions”, the first thing we need to take into consideration is the source and their objective. It’s very rarely a benign, innocent question. The person asking usually has an agenda. It’s a loaded question, and their query is a guise for what they really want to promulgate; which is the idea that black Africans are wantonly discriminating against whites in Africa. It’s always a loaded question. Anyone with a lick of sense or awareness of the socioeconomic and power differences between white expats and Africans wouldn’t even put that idea forward. Reality would not allow it. They would be embarrassed to even suggest it.
Hell, even my liberal use of the term expat is loaded. When you hear expat, what do you envision? Expat is synonymous with westerners and whiteness. I gave some thoughts on it here. I don’t have a problem with the term, but it’s usually used to describe white foreigners. White expats get catered to and they live carefree when they move to black and brown countries. On the flipside, black and brown people moving to western countries aren’t called expats, they are called immigrants. No one bends over for immigrants. In fact, they are met with hostility. They have to worry about making sure their documentation is up to date, and the undocumented ones get deported en masse.
In black and brown countries, expats have tea in their consulate’s office when they update their status. There is no mass deportation of white expats who have expired visas. You don’t need to know the history of Nigeria before you as a white person moves there. Before a black or brown person moves to the US, they pretty much need to know everything about US history. By the time they’re done, they’ll probably know how often George Washington took dumps in his day to day life. I’ve always said that if you want to learn about US history, ask an immigrant trying to get their papers. Those people know their stuff. Outside of scholars and historians, most actual Americans don’t know shit. Immigrants know more about US history than the average American citizen. White expats aren’t burdened to know a damn thing about the people whose country they are living in. The only thing they are experts in are bars, clubs, restaurants and where the sex workers are. They might not speak the language or know the cultural norms, but they always know where to drink and where to go to have sex with the locals. Funny how that works.
tl;dr - Some white people have wonderful imaginations.
When a great man like Nelson Mandela passes, it’s also common to wonder if we’ll ever see his kind again. But there’s no doubt that the Nelson Mandelas and Martin Luther Kings and Václav Havels of the 21st Century are stridng among us. But you can’t see it, because if he or she was shaking hands with world leaders and greeted by adoring throngs and serenaded by children’s choirs, then they wouldn’t be the next true Mandela or King or Havel.
No, the next Nelson Mandela of the world is rotting in a jail cell tonight, just like Mandela nearly withered for 27 years on Robben Island. Or he is on someone’s terrorist watch list, or she is segregated and searched every time she travels through an international airport. Somewhere, government spies are reading the emails of the next Nelson Mandela. They are tracking his cell phone and listening to his calls, or monitoring her meetings with their undercover cops.
Many of the other people who today are uttering bland platitudes about the dead Mandela will go back tomorrow to heaping scorns on the living ones. They are the shameless radio hosts and TV pundits and their army of dittoheads who see an advocate for justice and call him a “Communist,” who look at someone who wants to liberate her people and brand her a “terrorist,” who find someone willing to live in a tent city to call attention to inequality and call them a urine soaked rapist, who lash out at someone who dares to believe in peace as “naive,” or a “dirty (bleep)ing hippie.”
The next Martin Luther King or Aung San Suu Kyi could be anywhere right now — advocating for gay rights in Putin’s repressive Russia, playing the piano in front of a line of riot police in Kiev, getting arrested in Raleigh to fight for the voting rights of minorities and young people or growing up in a small village in Pakistan, dreaming of peace even after a flying robot has killed his neighbors.
Today’s Václav Havel is fighting for the unspeakable today, so that the unspeakable will be normal by the time that he or she is old or dead. Gay rights are his segregated water fountains, economic inequality is her apartheid, fracking is his mercury poisoning.
The Nelson Mandela of the 21st Century is right here, right now. We just can’t see it. We’re too busy spitting on him and calling him a terrorist."
“We’re so bad at sex and then we wonder why women aren’t like, really aggressive about sex. We think it’s cause they don’t have as much desire as we do. That’s how stupid men are, that we think ‘they’re just weird, women are like fucked up in the head cause they don’t wanna just fuck all the time. If I was a women, I’d just fuck everybody. Why don’t they wanna fuck all the time? I do’. Of course you do, cause when you fuck, you get to fuck a woman! When she fucks, she has to fuck a guy! Wildly different experiences. For a man, 100% of the time, it’s the greatest thing that ever happened in his entire life. For a woman, about 40% of the time, when she’s being fucked by a guy, she’s thinking ‘I’ll get over this in a week. It’s not the worst thing. I’m not gonna cry this time’
“Another thing that proves how bad men are at sex is that after sex, you’re looking at two very different people. The man just wants to lay there, be cool and the woman wants to cuddle…’Why is she so NEEDY?’ She’s not needy you idiot, she’s horny, because you did nothing for her. YOU DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. HER PUSSY IS ON FIRE BECAUSE IT’S GONE UNFUCKED COMPLETELY. Of course you’re fine, you climbed on and went “KFHGSKG” and rolled off. And she’s on you because she’s like ‘WH-at SOMETHING ELSE HAS TO HAPPEN, THIS IS BULLSHIT!!” If you fuck a woman well, she will LEAVE YOU ALONE. ‘Thanks a lot buddy, zzzzz’”
Shannon Gibney is a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). When that’s your job, there are a lot of opportunities to talk about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. There are also a lot of opportunities to anger students who would rather not learn about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. I presume MCTC knows that; they have an African diaspora studies program. Back in January 2009, white students made charges of discrimination after Gibney suggested to them that fashioning a noose in the newsroom of the campus newspaper—as an editor had done the previous fall—might alienate students of color. More recently, when Gibney led a discussion on structural racism in her mass communication class, three white students filed a discrimination complaint because it made them feel uncomfortable. This time, MCTC reprimanded Gibney under their anti-discrimination policy.
Elevating discomfort to discrimination mocks the intent of the policy, but that’s not the whole of it. By sanctioning Gibney for making students uncomfortable, MCTC is pushing a disturbing higher-education trend. When colleges and universities become a market, there is no incentive to teach what customers would rather not know. When colleges are in the business of making customers comfortable, we are all poorer for it."