A few days ago I came across a piece on Mwebantu new media’s facebook page written by Brian Mulenga, in where he makes the controversial statement: “Zambians are racist”. In his text he writes: “We hide behind our supposedly friendly nature but always we try to be more Zambian than other Zambians of a different colour.”
Zambians are known to be very friendly and welcoming, and in my ten years here I’ve never experienced true racism. But as a white person you will never be considered “African” or even “Zambian”, and when you treat people different due to their skin colour it is indeed racism.
As Mulenga points out, many of the whites in Zambia have been in this country for longer than some of the African tribes. So why are they considered less African than the black citizens? Well, I think one reason why whites are never really considered to be “African” is because they themselves never wanted to be “labelled” as it. The word itself carries a reminder of low status. So in a way the whites have chosen not to be accepted as Africans.
Throughout colonial history the Africans were at the bottom of the scale, hardly even second-class citizens in their native land. The whites were the rulers and then came to keep a higher status in society, something we can still see in Zambia today. For example it’s easier for a white person to be trusted and given a managerial position even without having the proper references. That too is racism.
Yes, there is a level of racism in Zambia, we are all guilty of it, blacks and whites alike. But in the end we all bleed red, we are born and we die, we cry, we laugh, we get up in the morning and get on with life. For the love of Zambia we have to embrace each other, not shun each other, break the stereotypes, not build on them. Only then can we be :
“One Zambia, one nation”.
Click here for Brian Mulengas full text.