I attended a High school in Zimbabwe, where race issues were ignored because black people were not significant. As I grew up I watched other people I went to school with go on with their life as if nothing had happened. As I reflect on this, I am not sure what I expected them to do. Were my black schoolmates psychologically groomed on how to handle living amongst white people that were prejudiced and just suck it up? I never quite understand why this had such a huge impact on me.
Attending that school felt like doing time at a prison. It was not a privilege at all, contrary to what others might think and I did almost 4 years’ time there. Except that I deliberately got myself into trouble so I could get kicked out. My expulsion a swift process and the rest is history. Looking back on it now, I realise how much of a rebel I have always been. At the time, that was little-ol-me taking a stand against being in a toxic environment. Many years later, I am still this way. I speak out and I do rebel, against injustices.
Of course, there was my parent’s embarrassment to think about. The shame brought to the family. How could I do something like this? How could I throw away such an opportunity?, the chance to go to a “white school”, the privilege of hanging and associating with white folks, as compared to ending up in an inner-city school with kids from the ghettos of Highfield, Glenview, Glen Nora, Mufakose, Tafara, Mabvuku, Mbare and so on. Don’t misunderstand me; my family did not frown upon anyone from the high density suburbs because historically, all black people in Zimbabwe came from the rural areas to the high density suburbs, before they came up and could afford to buy houses and live in low density suburbs. However, part of their aspirations was to have their children experience a different life, to what they had experienced whilst growing up. Therefore, me being expelled from such a “good school” was a slap in the face for them.
My problem was that my parents had been divorced, and our living arrangements had to be altered. The family home I grew up in, in Borrowdale was sold and my mum bought a little house in Southerton, one of the ghettos in Harare, Zimbabwe. Southerton was a great little neighbourhood. It was so small you could practically walk the whole neighbourhood in under an hour. It was vibrant, all the cool people I know lived there. Some handsome boys and beautiful girls. It was all love. My fondest of childhood memories come out of Southerton. I understand that my parents’ wishes were for me to get a great education at a great school. it would have been the crowning achievement of their ambitions. However, it didn’t make sense to me to be living in a ghetto but going to a private boarding school. I was conscious of my social class status whilst I was at school; and the racism at school did not help either. I could not see the point of why I was even there. I felt misunderstood, I was dying inside. I was drowning in a sea of white people and their unpleasant ways.
In terms of my identity, I always knew who I was. There was no confusion there. At school, I watched other black girls and boys act like white people. It was not their fault, I knew why I could not adapt to the environment and be like them. I likened my situation to the predicament of a “mixed race kid”, who didn’t quite fit in with the blacks or the whites, and encountered rejection on both sides. In my case, I was a black kid, whose parents were not wealthy enough. Never mind the racism and fitting in with the white kids. I also didn’t quite fit in with certain black kids either. I couldn’t relate to their lifestyles, I did not have, what they had and I was very conscious of it. I didn’t have Nike shoes to run in, or fancy pencils and crayons to draw with, I didn’t go to France during the holidays, and all that other stuff that people with money did. It ate at me all the time.
My parents and likeminded people had no clue about what it took to be associated with the white folks. What was understood and appeared to be privilege for them, was the most horrific psychologically damaging encounter for me, so much, such that to this day, I would never consider placing my children in a school or education establishment that was full of rich white people, or too many white people. It is never a privilege to be in such a situation. It is not a blessing to be a few of “a kind” within any establishment. There will always be hard lessons to learn during the experience. Unfortunately for me, the experience of my situation birthed the rebel in me. I suppose this is where my theology and current personal values stem from. The black theology about the black experience of my circumstance. Why does God allow race issues to take place? As I write this I reflect upon the Old testament and how God loved a particular people, they were his chosen ones. Maybe God was not for everyone after all. Maybe God favours some people over others. If that is the case, then it explains a lot, doesn’t it?
Non-the-less, I care about diversity and the acknowledgement by white people of black culture. Diversity issues are a big deal to me because I experienced first-hand how white folks behave towards black people, especially when their financial status works to their advantage, thereby making it possible to get away with injustices. Fast forwarding to this day age, you only need to follow various forms of media to come across stories worldwide, of white people getting away with shocking crimes against black people. White supremacy has been a problem globally. There are only a few countries that the Europeans did not dominate. Some people argue about the non-relevance of white supremacy even though the issues are evidently relevant today. Surely, some lives are affected if white people have the power to determine in what manner black people access their education, immigration, employment, housing, health systems, human rights and so on. To pretend that it’s not such a big deal shocks the core of my system. There will always be something wrong with white people thinking and acting like they have dominion over black people. To downplay white supremacy, is to advocate for the inequalities that already exist. Even in Zimbabwe, where the majority of white people had to leave the country due to political pressure, those white people benefited greatly at the expense of black people. Even still, the few whites that have been fortunate to remain in Zimbabwe still have the luxury of having black workers, whose treatment and living conditions are not much different to those of a slave. This has become normalised and I shake the very core of me. I meet white Zimbabweans that swear that they hate racism, they hate it so much that they don’t make changes for black workers, they hate it so much that until recently, they continued to be a part of the system that made them wealthy whilst black Zimbabweans remained poor and in poverty. Yeah right!