Different, not less

2017-02-22 06:00
Kuni DitiraSocial Observer

Kuni DitiraSocial Observer

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Why do we always look down on people who are different from us?

A girl who is studying in town is lodging with me. My grandson also lives with me. I gave her a cellphone because it is difficult to contact her if somehow we miss each other after school.

She jokingly told my grandson that she has never touched a cellphone before. Now this young one cannot fathom the idea that someone has never touched a cellphone.

He thinks a cellphone is an appendage that everybody has. How can an 18 year old not have a cellphone? He now takes her around the house pointing at things. This is a stove – we cook on a stove, and a kettle is used to boil water. This is a bed and a pillow, we sleep on that.

She sees the joke and just plays along.

This made me remember my visit to America. Firstly, I was tired of speaking English for weeks.

Secondly, I was tired of fielding questions about South Africa. People outside Africa think we come from the jungle. When we went to the zoo, it hurt me to hear a woman say that the zoo smells like South Africa.

Seeing my white teeth, they would ask: “Do you have dentists in South Africa?” Or even more startling: “Where did you learn to use the fork and knife?”

At one stage, we were at a picnic with my American friend’s colleagues. I was so tired that I left the group and went to sit apart from them.

My friend accused me of being anti-social. But really?

I also remember a story of a young man from Africa who went to America as an exchange student.

The family he was staying with showed him fruit and went on explaining that this is a ba-na-na, this is an a-pple – as though he had never seen fruit before. They were afraid that he would embarrass them with his lack of knowledge.

I am sure people are even amazed that we wear clothes and we do not ride on elephants. The prejudice may be because of the images of Africa these people see.

If you read a book called Maru by Bessie Head, you will see how she explores racial prejudice against the Basarwa. How the Batswana treated the Basarwa like animals because they were not like them.

Is this not how we behave? How we think?

If you are not the same, you are a lesser human being. This is the root of racism. We treat other races differently because they do not look like us. They do not do what we do and do not dress the way we do.

If we do not understand you, we hate you.

We are using ourselves as a yardstick.

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