The reality of standing up

Happy Monday everyone! I hope that you and your families are all doing well. Thank you once again for joining me for some Monday reading. As you have noticed, a lot of the pieces I write are about things that perplex me and things I still have no answers to. I guess, I want people to be as perplexed as me and ask themselves the same hard questions I have been asking myself. 

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I have always been a loud-mouthed person…I always speak up to injustice and wrongfulness without second guessing and I have never found it hard to stand up for other people even if I am not particularly interested in what has upset them. I guess you can say I have an unprovoked fighting spirit. In this respect, I do not think I work well in bureaucratic environments because I believe in rebelling against ‘the system,’ (yes, I see the irony of this sentence considering I am an aspiring politician). However, because of this nature of my character, there have been many situations where people have asked me to voice their opinions on their behalf – which I have, and I have gotten myself in some trouble while doing so. Not that I really cared about the trouble, as I said, I like to speak epically in situations where I feel there has been some sort of injustice committed. What I always questioned was why don’t people just stand up for themselves? If they think something is so wrong, why don’t they just say it… I would. How ignorant was I? I stubbornly thought this for a while and even asked people why they don’t just protest themselves. It took me a lot of these questions to realize that the reason I could protest so easily was because of privilege. Privilege in the simple fact that I had always been the person to cause this sort of trouble, so I was handled in a different way to someone who was quiet and did not necessarily know how to fight people who had more power than them (institutional power in the examples I am thinking of). Privilege in that I have always been supported so I have always been taught to stand up for what I believe in, even if I am alone in that belief. Privilege in that I come from a good home, so I have never been scared to speak up even if it means losing that position or job. I began to understand that people do not have these privileges to back them up in certain situations and so, if it is between accepting something unjust or ending up in a compromising position, the former is the logical choice.

While I am using a personal example to explain the privilege that is associated with standing up to injustice and/or inequality, this privilege can be exemplified on a much larger scale. Looking at Zimbabwe, the question has been asked by young people time and time again… why is no one standing up to any of the horrific things happening in the country? I have asked my older family members the same thing, why have you done nothing all these years? Things are getting worse and worse and yet none of us are standing up. One of the answers came to me during the Black Lives Matter Movement. I couldn’t help but marvel at what was going on in the US and I thought wow, why don’t we just do that too! The honest answer is that we are afraid, we do not have the same privilege of protection that Americans do. If an American dies in protest, there will be international outcry but if a Zimbabwean dies in protest (which thousands have over the years), it will not even make an international news story, if even a Zimbabwean news story at that. Our government would kill us without questions of morality or humanity if we dared to protest for a better Zimbabwe.

Another reason Zimbabweans do not protest even though we are suffering is also something I did not consider because of my place of privilege. I have lived in peacetime my entire life, I have never witnessed a war or even layed eyes on a gun. Due to the political complexity of Zimbabwe, even if we were to get through the protest stage alive, a war would most likely erupt. It is easy for someone of my generation, who hasn’t witnessed much violence to say “let’s fight!” because we do not know what the reality of that means. I look towards other African and Middle Eastern countries who have stood up to their governments and I see the somber reality of what would happen to my home if we dared to stand up. So that really leaves us between a rock and a hard place. Either we continue to live through tyranny, or we die.

Through understanding these realities of privilege in areas of life that most of us don’t even recognize, I understood how hard it actually is to stand up (in any context) when you are against a side that has all the power. While I can do it on a small scale and not be as worried about the consequences, the situation of Zimbabwe breeds deep, generational consequences. So, I speak to Zimbabwean youth who have asked their parents time and time again why they have let all this unfold, to understand what standing up in this situation may mean. In such complicated situations as these what would then be the best solution? Do you stand up or do you hang on to the semblance of security you have?

“If you build the guts to do something, anything, then you better save enough to face the consequences.” 

 – Criss Jami, Killosophy

A changed self image

Happy Friday everyone! It has been longer than one month since I wrote to/for you last! Although for me, it seems like it’s been much longer. I had a well needed break and the most warm and loving holiday period spent with family and friends 💗 I hope you all had the same and entered 2021 on nothing but immaculate energy. After the holiday period, I had the longest January ever (I am well aware that January is not over)! But for the most part, I have gotten over my covid and I am feeling healthy and energised enough to write something potentially interesting. Before I get to the actual topic, I just want to say that I know so many Zimbabweans are struggling at the moment. Since December, people have been dying from covid at a rate that we were not prepared for in the slightest and I just want to extend my condolences to anyone who has lost someone recently, I am very sorry ❤️ Those who have relatives or friends who are still battling or are still sick themselves, I am sending you love and light and God willing, you will all be ok. I thought about making this piece a covid-follow up seeing as I just went through it all myself and faced all covid politics, differing medical opinions, healthcare failures and so on but honestly, I do not know how to report on covid in Zimbabwe because like everyone else, I have absolutely no clue what is going on. Everyone is kind of left to fend for themselves as soon as they get the positive result and everyone just has to hope that they are making the best decisions for themselves or their loved ones.

Instead, today, I’d like to start a discussion over something I witnessed a few years ago. It was a very regular experience but it was something that really perplexed me and stuck with me ever since. My mom needed to go into the pharmacy so I was sitting in the car waiting for her… I was bored and she was taking long so I started to just observe my surroundings. For contextual knowledge, this was around the time where there was a forex shortage in Zimbabwe and people would spend days and even sleep in bank lines with the hopes of receiving some money from the bank. We were parked right in front of a bank and the line wasn’t too long but it was significantly long and new people were joining it. I paid no attention to race but I looked at the people in the line, there were men, women, old, young, some with babies etc. and a lot of people were chatting which made me think they had been in the line for most of the day. Suddenly, a very old women (who was black) walked straight to the front of the line, assuming that people would let her through because was a senior citizen, honestly I thought they would let her through as well but they did not. She tried to talk to people in the front of the line and ask if they would let her through but they instead caused a lot of commotion and sent her to the back of the line. I was very disappointed but I thought nothing of it, I guess fair is fair. But something stunning happened a few minutes later, a middle aged white woman got out of her car, walked to the front of line, waited for the next person to be called and confidently walked into the bank without saying a single word to anyone. No one in the line said anything to her either. I was sitting there, with my mouth open wondering what exactly just happened. Still, I did not think it had anything to do with race, I was just shocked that nobody said anything to her. So I continued watching, intrigued now and I actually noticed a pattern, there were only black people standing in the line but there were a number of white people entering and existing the bank. They were all wanting the same thing from the bank but some were waiting to get it and some were simply going in and getting it.

www. history.com

I thought about the incident for a while and realised that I have seen similar things happen quite regularly. People say that colonialism is over, slavery is over apartheid is over and they are right, these things are over but the remnants of them still exist very dominantly. During such times, a very clear hierarchy of racial significance was developed and that hierarchy clearly still exists in the minds of many. White people always have and still demand respect and authority. I am very much ok with this, where I saw the problem was with how little respect black people regard themselves with. The white people thought it was their right to ignore that line and walk straight into the bank and do what they needed to but the black people also thought it was their right as well because did not show a single sign of protest. Instances like these remind us that the historical wrongs have been drummed into our heads and we have to actively unlearn these feeling of ‘less-than’ or ‘better-than.’

While I have mentioned that I see these displayed feelings in the majority of black Zimbabweans, there is a group which also does the exact opposite. Zimbabwean black elites have re-gained authority and respect but not in a way that is conducive to anyone in the country. The groups I refer to do not only demean generationally white Zimbabweans for lacking Zimbabweaness but they also demean other black people that are of a lower social strata. These groups are a prime example of when one regains agency, self-love and respect for oneself from a place of hatred for the other rather than genuine self-love. A lot of people may fall into this trap because of the lack of re-enforcement of the significance and importance of black people, without these reminders of love, there is usually space to breed hatred for the group that has made you feel lesser. Why I think this is important is because I see African-Americans slowly building up their pride of being black and of being of African ancestry but I do not see the same pride coming out of Africa. The pride which is growing here still somewhat has an element of comparison to the white man, rather than just pure love and respect for oneself. I think it is mainly because African’s do not like to address race, it is a topic we are very uncomfortable with and so if it is never spoken about, no one knows how they should be acting or remedying the situation.

“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”

Bertrand Russell

This quote explains exactly what is going on in Zimbabwe. Black and white is very clearly still divided in all areas and I really struggle to understand why. Who does this division serve? I may be poking the bear here but to be frank, racism made a little more sense before. A group was made to feel lesser for purposes of power, domination and capitalisation. But now, it is blatantly clear that a skin tone does not make anyone better than anyone else so why do we still treat each other differently based on it? It makes absolutely no sense for either group to be harbouring so much hatred. What I would want for the people of Zimbabwe is for each and every black person to remember that regardless of the past, this has been and always will be your home, that you are worthy of respect, equal treatment and you should demand it from everyone including each other. Ask your other friends why they may speak to white people differently to the way they speak to you, why they change demeanour when dealing with a white person and when dealing with a black person. Demand explanations and demand change because that is the only way we can get rid of this ridiculous hierarchy which exists. For white Zimbabweans, it is time to seriously take heed of the privileges that exists to your advantage in this country simply because of how the world is constructed. You are every much as Zimbabwean as everyone else but the work towards a more unified country involves you as well and the way you choose to treat and socialise with everyone else you come across in this country.

Diversity Hire

Happy Friday everyone. It has been almost a month since the last post! The time has just completely gotten away from me. I am back in Zimbabwe now (for the holidays) and I am extremely happy to be home. Today I am here with a topic that particularly vexes me to my core.

I have a ‘friend’ (in The Netherlands) who always praises my accomplishments with grace. In the humblest way possible, I have achieved a lot as a student and young woman; I have a good paying job (I have had about three jobs since I started university), I have never had trouble finding or keeping a job, I am a straight A student (B if it in involves numbers), I have interned in very good positions, traveled the world (for reasons of accomplishment) and received recognition for my achievements. So, this friend sees all of this and acknowledges and praises my accomplishments every time there is a new one. However, each time, she adds something to the praise that makes me want to scream.

“Oh, they saw an African student so they saw an opportunity to fill a quota” “They needed to throw in some diversity” “They saw brown and immediately gave you the job/position” “How could they not give the job/position to an African female” “Oh they just needed to show that there are brown students” “You’re lucky that diversity is the in thing now”

Although she’s the only one that says statements like this, I know that she isn’t the only one thinking them. And even though I consider her a friend, I have never actually corrected her. The first time she said it; I have achieved a position she had not and she yelled “oh yes! diversity!” and truthfully, I was confused so I didn’t say anything. Then after that, I felt like it was an awkward thing to bring up later on and rectify, seeing as I had let it go the first time.

Diversity hire was a social innovation designed to right historical wrongs and give minority groups equal opportunities for the same achievements that had been denied to them for decades. Somehow, majority groups turned this into a negative thing; a degrading thing. As if it so inconceivable that someone from a minority group could achieve the same (or even better things than them). All achievements awarded to non-whites are seen as a diversity handout. I focus here on race because even though I am a woman and woman are under-represented in the work place, with my person experience, no one questions a position I have gotten because of my gender but rather, my skin colour or nationality. I can imagine that for a white female, they face the diversity stereotype, but for someone like me, my race will always overshadow my gender.

http://www.workable.com

The reason that diversity hiring became a thing is not because minority groups needed a lower threshold of personal and professional achievement, it is because their achievements were denied for years. So can you imagine how degrading it feels when these achievements are finally recognised and there are people thinking that you only achieved them because of the same attributes that you are actually trying to overcome. I have seen this treatment happen to many people; where their hard work is belittled by people who jump straight to the diversity reasoning. What is so confusing to me is how someone could find it impossible that someone of colour could not achieve something without a helping hand. This friend of mine who aways jumps to diversity reasoning does not consider herself racist in the slightest but I think her line of reasoning is racism in one of its purest forms.

I brought this up to my mom when I was applying for my undergraduate degree because I was getting a lot of offers. However, in some of the offers, there was an amendment of bringing diversity to the campus, so I was confused, I knew my grades were exceptionally good but I still couldn’t tell if I was being offered positions on the basis of that or because universities were truly trying to bring ‘diversity to the campus.’ It really bothered me. My mom’s response was “who cares,” for whatever reason you’re being given these opportunities, you are being given amazing opportunities. She explained that I should just make the most of all of the opportunities regardless of how they were achieved (although she thought I was stupid for thinking they were about diversity in the first place). When I internalised what she said (only years later actually), I realised that it bothered me so much because constructs of racial oppression still existed in my mind. I felt that I needed to prove to these people who doubted me and my achievements as a brown women, were because I was a capable and hardworking women. Due to this hierarchy of importance that still exists, it felt that if they thought I deserved my achievements then I did.

How ridiculous, right? Wrong, it was not ridiculous of me to think this way because so many children are brought up to think this way and question their own abilities simply because they look a certain way. So my post today not only aims at correcting the misperceptions of people who think anyone achieves anything because of how they look but also to address people who may question the achievements they have gotten. To the first; stop and consider that someone may actually just be a brilliant person capable and worthy of the opportunity and recognition they have been given. And to the latter; you deserve each and every single opportunity and recognition you have been and will be given and even in moments where you doubt yourself, remember that you have the ability to succeed in that role you have been given. Even if you question your deservingness, do not let that stop you from proving that you deserve even more.

Left for Dead

Happy Monday everyone! I would like to thank you again for coming and reading the thoughts I have to share with you today. I hope you are all doing well or at least keeping your head above water; sometimes that is all we can manage and if you are managing it, well done!

Throughout ‘civilisation,’ there have always been people/ groups/ entire communities/ countries who have been left for dead by the rest of the world but did not die. I had a conversation about this with someone who held the sad position that it would’ve actually been less evil if the forgotten or left behind would’ve just died as opposed to fighting for some semblance of existence after they have been left for dead. I see the allure of this argument because sometimes it is just like; what is the point? As I mentioned in the last post, I still cannot answer this “what is the point” question but I firmly believe that the ones left for dead would not be better off dead.

It is probably important that I elaborate somewhat on who I am referring to when I refer to people left for dead. In an individual sense, I refer to the poor. As much as we would like to believe that we have changed as a collective humanity, the truth of the matter is that we always leave the poor in society behind. We pretend they don’t exist and hope that somehow; on their own they will better their lives. I actually intend on writing a full post on this sometime in the future because of all the countries I have visited in my life, the common thing I see is how badly every society treats the poor. In terms of groups and/or communities, there are always marginalised groups within society who either ‘look weird’ or ‘behave weirdly’ who are left out of what it means to part of that society. They are the group left alone because for some unknown reason, the rest of society does not want to interact with them. In terms of entire countries, you all know them, mine is one of them. The countries whose history has been erased or re-written. The countries whose people are seen as lesser and the ones that are never considered in ‘global problems.’

In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With more Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message, memento mori, you too shall die. 

Peter Godwin, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa

Thus, my focus today on those who have been left for dead is the Zimbabwean people. For the life of me, I don’t get it. Never in my life have I met people with the same or even slightly similar spirit as Zimbabwean people. We are earnest, hard workers, always happy (truly I do not understand this one), we like to talk, we love strangers and we are very expressive with emotions. When I meet people in different countries who have been Zimbabwe, naturally, I always ask what their favourite part of the country was and 100% of the time, the answer has been “the people.” Zimbabweans are always smiling, even when something bad has happened (because we have a toxic habit of turning everything into a joke), but I think that is how we survive all that has been hurled at us. We smile at each other and we laugh together.

The sad part of this, I suppose, is how surprised I am that Zimbabweans are still so happy, because we have been forgotten time and time again and left to die. Sadly, that is what is happening; Zimbabweans are dying, from things that could easily be avoided. And why is that? because the people that are supposed to care, never have. I am currently writing my thesis on the desperate state of Zimbabwe and whether it can be attributed to the destabilisation caused by colonialism or the corruption and inefficiency of our independent governments. While writing, I realised that I don’t actually care about the answer to that question; I do not care whose fault it is that Zimbabwean people are suffering, I just care that they are. But if we are to tackle the question of blame, it is both to be blamed because all governments Zimbabweans have had treat(ed) the Zimbabwean people as dispensable. We have come secondary to capital, political influence and political ideology. We have been tools to create profit and we have never been treated as anything more than that.

But we have not died. After segregation, oppression, genocide, economic crisis, poverty, disease outbreaks… Zimbabwean people are alive and pushing through. I have always said that if Zimbabweans had to see the fruits of how hard they worked; if the work actually went into the country and not into the pockets of the nefarious then Zimbabwe would be one of the richest countries in the world. Because Zimbabweans work HARD but it is because that is all they have ever known. They have had to work hard since the dawn of time to just keep their heads above water. So while we struggle with one uphill battle after another, while I see people breaking their backs to feed themselves and their families, I will still never believe that Zimbabweans would be better off if they died. We have a spirit of survival and while we may have been left for dead time and time again, there will come a time when life is breathed into all of the lives of Zimbabweans who have managed to persevere through and we will live on for those who have not been so lucky.

“We’re hungry but we’re together and we’re at home and everything is sweeter than dessert.” 

Elizabeth Zandile Tshele a.k.a NoViolet Bulawayo

The End of a Historical Cycle

Hello everyone 💕

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Do people still read the news anymore? I personally do not, for one plain reason; it is depressing and stressful. I went through a period in the last few weeks where I had totally given up on humanity because I was internalising everything I was reading on the news and social media. I am devastated with the state of the world because it just seems to be bad thing after bad thing for people across the world who are really and truly just trying to survive. So, I kept asking myself the question of “what is the point of it all?”

Truthfully, I still don’t know. I got several answers from several different people that I asked the question to but none of them were really satisfying enough for me. I had someone say that I am feeling that way because I am only focusing on the bad news. But you tell me, when was the last time you saw good news in the news? Lately it feels like everything is falling apart. However, the more I thought, the more I realised that this might actually be a good thing. Things are falling apart but I think humanity needed things to fall apart in order to remedy the messes we have created.

What I realised is that the suffering I have been seeing in the past few months is not new; people have been suffering in these ways for decades. What is new is that we are talking about these problems and nothing other than these problems. So, yes, it is overwhelming if someone takes in the information that is being put out but we need to realise that these state of affairs have always existed but now we have no excuses for ignoring them. Inequality, war, patriarchy, capitalism, climate change, poverty, hunger, death, violence; they have always existed and we have always made excuses for them but we are entering an era where we realise that there aren’t anymore excuses left to use.

http://www.biodiversityrevolution.wordpress.com

However you choose to see it or whatever you choose to call it, we are at a pivotal period in human history where we are being forced to change the way we live. Even though we have been trying to fight it and wait for “things to go back to normal,” things are not going back to “normal” and they shouldn’t. The way we were living as a human race benefited a select few and left the rest of the world in pain. Truthfully though, it is very possible that things could go back to exactly how they were. It is up to us and how we choose to deal with this awakening moment that we have been given.

We look at history and we read about monstrous events and think; how could people let that happen, if I was there I would never be part of that. While in our own era, we sit idly back and watch horrors taking place on a daily basis. In a way, we have become desensitised to everything happening around us, it is overwhelming so how can we even begin to remedy an ounce of suffering happening around us? But this is a time where we can deconstruct and reconstruct these systems that govern our lives. Because everything is unraveling, we can change the way we live in relation to each other and ourselves.

“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” – J.K. Rowling

In all of my soul searching about the current state of the world, it was evident that I was definitely not the only one thinking that we are in a state of despair. Ergo, I hope that I have given you a different perspective in which to see and judge the current state of the world. It is a state that we need to take seriously and really look at what is going on and what we want for the future of the plant and humanity. Call me naive but I sincerely believe that we can change the world; it is possible to live in a better world. The approach to life we have now is broken and that’s ok, we should not be aiming to mend it but to create new approaches.

A different type of Socialization

Happy almost-weekend everyone! I hope you have all had a good and prosperous week! Today, I come to you with a topic which I still have a lot of questions and assumptions around.

After reading copious amounts of history on former colonies and what happened to them after colonisation; how most of them ‘failed’ according to the Western standard of success, I could not wrap my head around the ‘why.’ Well that is mainly because there is no single reason for this outcome but today I will address one of the reasons that are chiefly responsible for these ‘failures.’ Western culture is one of individuality and this is rooted in almost all of the institutions and social norms in Western countries. The hegemonic dominance that then came with colonisation forced colonies to also adapt to this idea of individualism. However, the culture in the ‘failed’ states is one of communality and togetherness. Adapting from community oriented systems and ways of living to structures which promote individualism is something that countries such as Zimbabwe could not master and probably never will.

http://www.adventuretravelnews.com

From time immoral we have based our living around community and living together. What was mine was everyone’s and a single persons achievements were that of an entire community. This still exists – but it is getting less and less as Western influence permeates each generation. My point though, is that, when Western systems were introduced (introduced being a very passive word compared to how these systems were implemented), African (as well as South American and Asian) communities had to adapt and change their entire way of living. Take capitalism for example, in order to be successful in a capitalist world, a person has to be individually oriented and not worry about how their actions will affect the greater ‘community.’ This change was easy for some but for most of the country it was an unimaginable shift in the way life was viewed. In many respects, individuality is reserved for privileged societies. You can be an autonomous and stable individual in the Netherlands because you have the means and opportunities to sustain yourself through the systems that have been built for citizens. However, in places like Zimbabwe, individuality is seen as more of a burden because the support and help of a community is needed just to get by. This is probably the reason we are still very much community oriented as a people and why we fail in systems that demand us to abandon our communities for the goals of prosperity, growth and development.

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” 

― Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

Now while I talk of the impact this had on the reception of Western institutions, cultures and expectations in these countries very briefly, there is a host of literature out there if you are interested in the topic; which can explain it in much more depth than I have. While I have mainly spoken about this contrast on individualism and communalism in the past; it is something that still very much exists today. I was so shocked when I moved to The Netherlands and I observed how much time people spent alone. When I first moved, I loved it! As I have mentioned, I come from a very tight knit community where everyone’s nose is in everyone’s business so I was quite relieved to move somewhere where nobody cared what I was doing with my life. Dutch people make small talk and that’s about it and I liked that because at home, you can’t breathe without at least ten people knowing about it. But recently, (and I’m not sure if this is because of corona or because I’ve just been away for so long), I long for the inquisitiveness and the constant noise of having people around. I have started to notice how lonely people were in this part of the world. This is not to say that Zimbabweans aren’t lonely or that there are no tight-knit communities in Western countries, the dynamics of socialisation are just very different.

I was speaking with a Dutch friend who could not believe what I was telling her about the way we socialised as a community, how much we shared and how much time we spend together. She thought the concept of ‘sympathising’ was such great, revolutionary idea (because they don’t do that here). For those who do not know what sympathising is; when someone dies within the community, the rest of the community come and console the immediate family of the deceased for about a week or two. People bring food and come and spend days on end with the family; grieving, praying, eating and remembering the person who has died. This is what I mean when I say that we NEED our communities, it is not only about economic interdependence but we have had a system of emotional interdependence from as far back as I went into history.

So yes, we have ‘failed’ in the realms of economics, politics (this is not part of this conversation though), and development. But, I don’t think our togetherness and communality is something we are willing to or are even capable of sacrificing. On this same line, most Zimbabweans have the spirit of ‘if we suffer, we suffer together.’ If someone is left behind, we will go back and get them and start the journey all over again. So, many have argued that this is why we have remained stagnant. There are many country-specific reasons that ex-colonies have ‘failed’ to be prosperous, however, this cultural dynamic is one that really got me to think because it is a dynamic that challenges me being on the cusp of both realities. I would always vote for the community oriented world but I also had to understand that the choice came from a place of privilege; I have never gone hungry and I have never struggled. I am one of the lucky ones who actually has the benefits from both worlds. But, it is still something that needs to be seriously considered as we are living in a time that needs the stability and love of communities more than ever.

A Misconception

Good morning everyone! Thank you very much for coming back and reading 💕

Last year, I had a politics lesson that left me with a lot of displaced emotions towards the comments that were made by some of my European peers. The topic in discussion was along the lives of slavery and lack of freedom, both in the past and in today’s societies. Some time during the class discussion, someone raised their hand and boldly stated that “African, South American and Asian people who still have housemaids are essentially modern day slave owners.” The sentence struck me and I immediately wanted to get up and slap this person. My professor saw the look on my face (as well as that of another Asian student in the class) and drew attention to our reactions and asked why we found the statement so outrageous. The problem was that, in that moment, I was angry that something like that had even been said and when I am emotional, I usually cannot make a sensible, conducive argument, so all I said was “I disagree.” My professor, (bless his soul) noticed how uncomfortable I had started to feel so he did not pursue my apprehension any further. A year later, I have gathered my thoughts and emotions and I feel like I can now explain it in the way I wanted to back then. Now, my explanations are based on personal experience and what I have observed around me so this is not to say that there is no mistreatment of household workers around the world but the comment made by my peer was made with absolutely no sensitivity to the topic and with no educational basis whatsoever.

I think it is important for me to first highlight the argument she was making. She stated that housework and child minding were tasks which no one would want to do for as little as they are paid in ‘our counties.’ That was it. That was her entire basis for calling three continents modern day slave owners. I realise now that this argument said more about her mentality than it did about anything else on the topic. The fact that she saw this job in particular as slave work shows exactly where her references to reality come from. Other jobs earn the same amount for jobs people enjoy less but I do not think she would have called these ‘working people’ modern day slaves. Honestly, I was so confused by the entire argument and worse so, the debate went on for some time. To me, it seemed like common sense; if we used this argument then we are all slaves aren’t we? My family members earn good/decent money but still may dislike their jobs so are they slaves? Additionally, there was no education on economics in the regions she was referring to. She stated that maids were underpaid but according to whose standard? According to Western standards, more than half of the African continent is underpaid. I also don’t think there was even a number in mind, just the equation of housework + a black person = slave.

My upset was not only with the insensitively of it all but it was also with the fact that there were people who truly didn’t understand the dynamic me and (the Asian) student tried to explain – because we seemed to have the same relationship with our maids. I think there is no other way for me to explain it than to talk about my maid; someone I consider my second mother. Yes, she has been paid by cook, clean, wash clothes and look after us. But, Irene, has been in my life since I was 3 years old. She has fed me (still does every time I am home from university), bathed me, rocked me to sleep, been a friend, a confidant, nursed my heart when it was broken, taken care of me when I was sick and a long list of other things which are not obligatory for her. I/we have been there for her in the same way; we have fed her, clothed her, celebrated with her, mourned with her, taken care of her when she was sick and a long list of other things which were not obligatory for us. It is love in its purest and truest form. She is family; even though technically she works for the family. This dynamic is not unique to me, all the Zimbabweans I know actually have this relationship with their maids; its normal. So you can imagine my shock and confusion when I heard a statement like that and really I wondered where such ideas came from. With more thought however, I realised that it was simply from a place of ignorance; she did not understand the situation she was so boldly referring to, which is also allowed, we all make misinformed statements.

I am sure her ideas and those of a few others in the class did not come from nowhere, however, I implore everyone to at least have a semblance of true knowledge on a topic before you boldly state opinions on a topic that might actually offend or upset someone. What is more is that this conversation genuinely became an argument in which us (with real life experience) submitted and kept quiet because the idea of fighting someone on your own cultural upbringing which they know nothing about is emotionally exhausting and draining. Nevertheless, I thought it should be something that I should try and explain because this misconception exists from sordid historical references. Even so, I hope people who think this way will question themselves on why, do some research or reach out to some friends who might have the answers and really try and understand the perspectives and lived experiences that are different from yours.

The Coloured Community

Los Angeles 2017:

Stranger: “Wow, you look so exotic, what are you?”
Me: “Coloured”
Stranger: [gasps] OMG, you can’t use that term!

Firstly, I was annoyed with being called “exotic” hence my blunt, one word answer and secondly, I was confused by how someone of a different race just told me how I should or should not refer to myself and my own race. After that, years of traveling around America and Europe taught me that “coloured” in Southern Africa meant something completely different compared to the rest of the world. Where I’m from coloured symbolises a community and a culture, whereas elsewhere it is a reminder of racist, derogatory terms used during slavery. So I got groomed into telling people that I am “mixed race” but I am not mixed race…

Both of my parents are coloured, which would mean that I am technically not a mixture of black and white, I am a coloured person made from two coloured people. Complicated…I know. However, my want and need to identify as coloured is not just about the technicalities of my racial makeup, it is about the meaning of coloured in my country. The history of our community is a sordid one which we have turned into a celebration of belonging. The beginning of coloured or mixed race people was a story of slaveowners raping their slaves and so came about mixed people. So we started from a violent and pessimistic story which then got worse over time. Because of how we came about, we were not accepted by either races. We were an embarrassment to both black and white and we fitted neither category. Even now, we are definitely not considered white but we are too diluted to be considered black either so where exactly does that leave us? It left us creating our own coloured community which is comprised of people who have never really belonged anywhere else.

We have our own neighbourhoods, our food, our accent and our own culture. You could go as far as saying we have our own language because when I use coloured slang no other person can understand me except a Southern African coloured person. What is more is that we relish in our culture, we are extremely proud of it despite its stereotypes and negative aspects. We cook our curries and have our braii’s wherever we go, our accent is strong and distinguishable and our party spirit (which is unmatched) follows us no matter where we are.

The top picture is my family members when they were younger (my mother’s generation). The picture on the left is my friends and I just last December and the picture on the right is my baby brother and I. As you can see, we are all different shades of brown but we all still identify as coming from the exact same community. We understand jokes that no one else will and we see life and each other in a different way. So, yes, I am proudly coloured and that word means more to us than people will ever understand.

Lately, however, coloured or mixed race people have become something of a trend which is both shocking and quite sad. Everyone suddenly wants little mixed babies with caramel brown skin and curly hair. So after we went from being the rejected race, we are now being fetishised into the ideal physical appearance. However, what is being done is what society does with everything; make the positive aspects of something trendy while never understanding the history or pain something carries with it. Yes being seen as beautiful in society is great but we found ourselves beautiful long before you did. What needed to come before the aesthetic appreciated of a mixed person was the understanding of how we have come to be and the struggles we have faced. The struggles of being called a ‘half-breed,’ ‘half-casts’ or as having no race at all. The struggle of being identified as drunkards, lazy, aggressive, school-drop-outs teen parents, incestous and a long list of negative stereotypes. While these stereotypes are not representative of us, we are far from perfect as a community but we are a proud community. We are thankful for each other and we will always stick by each other no matter the circumstances. So all of this is what you need to understand if you want to appreciate what it is to be coloured.

July 31st

Twitter.com/31July/04072020

Hello everyone. I hope you have all had a good start to your week and I would like to thank you again for coming back to read and for sharing my posts with your friends and family. It has been extremely interesting and exciting to have people message me on follow-ups on what I have been writing about. I never intended this blog to be a sort of investigative journalism space but I feel like it is unintentionally turning into that and I am ok with that so long as everyone remembers that I don’t really know anything. What I mean by that is that I am not intentionally eliciting any sort of action from anyone, my posts are intended to be thought-provoking and I am glad that they are getting people thinking. A handful of people messaged me after reading the last post asking what the solution to the problem would be and what they should be doing to protect the future of Zimbabwe. At that point, I realised what I had been unintentionally but subconsciously intentionally doing; getting people to react to what what was going on around them. But I truthfully do not know what we should be doing. A part of me, the pessimistic part, realises that the only cry that will be heard is that of violence but the other side of me would never dream of a Zimbabwe which was at war with itself or anyone for that matter. We have always been known as being peaceful, no matter the circumstances and I honestly would never want that to change.

So this leaves us where exactly? Zimbabweans are exhausted and there seems to be no light at the end of this tunnel. A few weeks ago, I had decided that I would remove my name from my blog; or at least change it because I was scared. People had suggested it to me but from the beginning of this blog, political expression was always a fear of mine. ZANU-PF: I know there are a lot of non-Zimbabweans that read this blog that won’t know this terminology as much as Zimbabweans would but I will try and elaborate in instances where I can. ZANU-PF is the current and only ruling political party Zimbabwe has ever had and they have made it crystal clear that freedom of expression, freedom of assembly or freedom of conscience are not freedoms any Zimbabwean’s possess. Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri, Netsai Marova and Hopewell Chin’ono are present day examples of the violence and corruption ZANU-PF uses to illicit fear in anyone who considers speaking up about their incompetence and lack of empathy in governing the country.

Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova are three brave and inspirational women who were protesting against mistreatment of Zimbabwean citizens during lockdown measures. They went missing after the peaceful protest for around 36 hours and when they were eventually found, it was discovered they had been abducted by police officers whose goal was to punish them and teach them a lesson about opposing the government. They were badly beaten, sexually assaulted and traumatised from the experience. They spent 2 weeks in hospital during which time they were ‘officially’ arrested for falsely claiming that they had been abducted by government officials. So, yes, after everything they had been through, they got arrested so that the lesson was not only taught to them but to everyone else who may have had the courage to stand up to the government. Hopewell Chin’ono is a Harvard educated Zimbabwe journalist who, despite the danger, reported on the corruption and looting of the current and previous governments. Chin’ono’s home was invaded and he was arrested by police officer for “eliciting public violence” through his plea’s for Zimbabweans to do something about the misery they are living in. Hopewell is currently still in prison and has been denied bail on no legal grounds. Both of these hopeless situations happened in the last two months. So, yes, I am terrified. But I realised that it would be quite hypocritical of me to hide behind a pseudonym or no name at all as I am writing for the purpose of change; mainly in the way people think, but change nonetheless. How can I preach that we need to do better for future generations and the future of our country and our world when I am afraid to show my face for causes that matter the most to me.

I have seen extraordinary things come out of Zimbabwe this year. People are actually speaking up regardless of the consequences it may have for them; I firmly believe that it is because at this point, many Zimbabweans have nothing to loose; they are fighting for their lives. People are making noise. There still isn’t as much noise as their should be but I am proud of my people who are petrified of going missing, being tortured and being killed. I understand the fear, I truly do but I have always said this and I will continue to say it until people understand: there is strength in numbers. The reason ZANU-PF has been able to continue these acts of tyranny is because these brave individuals usually speak up alone with little-to-no support, thus making them easy targets. If all of us say ‘Zvakwana’ at exactly the same time, what can they do other than listen to us? Zimbabweans have forgotten that the government serves us, that we hold the power and the longer we accept abuse, the further they will take it. That brings me to July 31st.

I haven’t been in Zimbabwe for a little over a month now so I will be honest and say that I do not fully know what is going on. Due to a countless amount of Whatsapp messages and social media posts regarding July 31st, it hard to know what exactly is going to be happening. Additionally, we know that president Mnangagwa has re-issued a lockdown and a 6pm-6am curfew for all Zimbabwean residents under the false pretences of covid-19. The reason for the lockdown is actually to stop people from gathering and demonstrating. There have been demonstrations by Zimbabwean nurses over the last few weeks, who refuse to work because of lack of pay and ill-treatment by the government. The president and the entire political party know that Zimbabweans have had enough and they know that if we stand together, they are finished. So they are preventing this at all costs. July 31st is supposed to be a day of demonstration by all Zimbabweans. It is supposed to be a day that we peacefully take to the streets to show the government that have had enough of their corruption, looting, violence and incompetence. I know many people are reluctant to take place for a number of reasons;

  • Our last march is not a positive example to look at because it gave us this government. We marched peacefully to end the Mugabe reign and it brought us an even worse ruler. In many ways, Mugabe had a soft spot in the heart of the Zimbabwean people and that awarded him 37 long years before we protested against him but the Mnangagwa government could not last 2 years with the most understanding and gracious of citizens so a change is definitely not something we should be afraid of.
  • Nothing will come of it. Well then we have nothing to lose.
  • Fear of covid. Wear masks and don’t touch each other. There are people all over Zimbabwe having house parties and going out so I think the covid excuse is being misused in instances that benefit people.
  • Fear of violence from the government. Obviously this is the most tricky one because this is a real and legitimate fear but I want to remind everyone reading this post that you are privileged. You have a computer or phone and internet access which means you have clothes on your body, a roof over your head and your belly is full. There are millions of Zimbabweans who are living hand to mouth, who do not know where they will sleep tonight or where their next meal will come from and that is because of the simple fact that our government is not taking care of its people. I am not asking you to die for these people but I am asking you to consider the fact that we are not them as a result of sheer luck, we were simply dealt a better hand and our children and children’s children could be living a life like that if we continue to ideally sit by as people are being mistreated all the way to their deaths.

I know for many people, it will be irritating to read this from someone who isn’t even in the country, someone who cannot stand on the street herself on July 31st but it is not a lie when I say that my heart aches not to be there. Regardless of the outcome of our last demonstration where upwards of 60% of the country took place, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I felt so powerful with masses of people chanting the same things as me and longing for the same things as me. Diaspora Zimbabweans forget that what happens at home effects them too even though they may not have to deal with it on a daily basis. Just because we aren’t there physically, it does not mean we cannot do anything, we can make noise, raise awareness and be there for those who are acting on our behalf. We are all in this together and I am certain that the course Zimbabwean history will be changed sooner than we think.

Re-Colonization?

Hello everyone 💕 It has been a while and a lot has happened since I last wrote.

I actually want to start the post today by paying tribute to someone special who was recently lost in our community. Death is a difficult thing and I think it’s even more difficult when it claims someone young; someone who had their whole life ahead if them. Miguel Antunes will be dearly missed by all of his friends and family and I pray for the strength for each and every one of you during this difficult time. 💗

(China in Africa: The real story)

Today, I would like to look at the somewhat dubious relationship Zimbabwe has had with China over the past few years. It is no secret to any Zimbabweans that behind all the smoke and mirrors, much of our country is being run by Chinese businessmen and politicians. Some might go so far as to say that our politicians have sold the country to China. Now, granted that Zimbabwe is a small drop in the pool of China’s current exploits, I think it is still something that Zimbabweans need to be weary about, or at least informed about.

When I arrived to Zimbabwe in December, I was pleasantly surprised to see that some construction was being done in the airport. But when I looked closely, I realised that the new section of the airport that was being built had Chinese signage. I was quite confused because Chinese is not nor has it ever been a language that is spoken in Zimbabwe. When I processed it for a little while, I actually wasn’t very surprised that this was happening, after all, there has been an influx of Chinese residents into Zimbabwe over the past few years. China wrote off a lot of our debts in the past years so some ‘accommodating’ signage is the least we can do right?

The China-Zimbabwe relationship actually started at the wake of independence. Robert Mugabe struggled to find support in the fight against Ian Smith and China reached out a long, unwavering arm. This a where a sort of love affair began between the two nations. Ever since, Beijing has always supported Harare and vice versa. Even when Zimbabwe was sanctioned by Western countries for gross human rights violations and China was encouraged to break ties, they did not. Instead, they offered political and economic assistance and bought gold (mines), platinum (mines), diamonds (mines) and real estate in the country to ‘boost’ the economy. Mugabe cherished the relationship and always had incredibly inspirational things to day about Xi Jinping:

“Here is a man representing a country once called poor; a country which never was our coloniser, but there you are. He is doing to us what we expected those who colonised us yesterday to do. If they have ears to hear, let them hear.”

(Robert Mugabe on Xi Jinping, China-African Cooperation Summit 2015)

It is understandable, when reading this to sympathise with what Mugabe meant. The country faced a lot of social, political and economic turmoil after independence and much of it can be attributed to the fact that the new politicians did not know how to govern the country they had just been given. A lot more support during the transition was expected from colonisers; in this case the British. Support that was promised and never given. So, no one really knew what to do with Zimbabwe; how to run an entire country, to follow through with what was promised to the people and to appease the international community. And again, China extended their other hand when Zimbabwe needed it and got more and more involved in the running of the country. But now that time has gone by, I do not think it was China giving to us at all, I think it was the other way around. Engulfed in the pressure and whirlpool of his mistakes, Mugabe let more and more of the country get sold. China was the only supporter of Zimbabwe or Mugabe for that fact but what was forgotten is that in politics there is no such thing is blind support. It has now reached a point where most businesses operational in Zimbabwe are Chinese owned and most political decisions are made with China as a main concern.

What is the harm? – I have actually heard people say this. Yes, our country is the most devastating state it has ever been in but accepting blind capital injections from outsiders will not fix our problems. What do we do when China decides they do not want to keep giving Zimbabwe a ‘free-ride’ or worse, when they decide that the country is theirs to take? What happens when China decides that Zimbabweans are obsolete? That what they want from the country can be achieved without Zimbabweans, which is the exact environment we are setting them up for right now.

(CNN.com)

This is what happens. It will start slowly, where there are sporadic cases of Zimbabweans facing abuse at the hands of Chinese bosses; just like this but I think the racism and xenophobia towards Africans in China at the moment tells us that it will not stop here. In this instance, an employee (Kenneth Tachiona) was questioning their boss on some late/missed pay, at which point the boss decided that it would be ok if he shot his workers. Although the shooter, Zhang Xuen was arrested for it, my confidence in the Zimbabwean justice system is nil and I am sure absolutely nothing will happen to him. Although the Chinese embassy claims this was an isolated incident, it was captured on tape so something tells me that there are many other ‘incidents’ which have gone unmentioned. There have been low murmurs of human rights violations on Chinese mines but there have been no actual reports on them, apart from this one, which was caught on tape. There have been some reports by the Zimbabwean Environmental Law Association (ZELA) that Chinese owned mines often operate under “dangerous, harsh and life threatening” conditions but I believe that our dependence on Chinese businesses will mean that none of these violations will be rectified.

I know that as a people, Zimbabweans are used to riding the wave. We let things get done to us time and time again and find ways to adapt rather than fight back. I believe this is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. We need to wake up when it comes to situations like these and think of the future of our country. Obviously if it were up to us and not ‘our’ politicians, we would not be selling our country bit by bit but this is the current reality of what is going on. The question is whether or not we will do anything about it or, rather, whether or not we can do anything about it. The world is changing faster than any of us could have anticipated and I think now is as good a time as any for Zimbabweans to take charge of their own lives and their own country.