`A black person cannot be racist.' Please read on. Untrue as that is, I find it thought-provoking that it is actually an opinion held by some. My initial reaction to it had been one of pity--pity for my friend who obviously wasn't as `open-minded' and `well-read' as I'd fancied myself until recently. So I took it upon myself to explain to him, with the aid of a dictionary, that racism is, `...the belief in the superiority of a particular race,' which of course could be any race. Strangely enough, when I was invited to take part in this issue of Global Express, my thoughts went back to those words. In retrospect, instead of treating the instant as a chance to show off my `intellectual prowess', I should've been more interested in the basis of his belief.
I was born two years before my country gained independence from Ian Smith's government, so I obviously have no first hand information about that era. The history books I read at school told me of the injustices blacks in pre-independent Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) suffered under the white regime. Not too far from home until fairly recently, apartheid in South-Africa had been specially set up for the purpose of disadvantaging non-whites. The slave trade of the 17th - 19th centuries would probably epitomise racialism as my friend sees it. It would appear that history has defined the word in its own way to different people. I wouldn't be surprised if many black people, particularly those from countries with histories like those of Zimbabwe and South-Africa, share the belief that black people cannot be racist.
My dictionary further defines racism as `the encouragement of racial antagonism.' It is quite easy at times for some of us to become so wrapped up in playing blame games, to wallow in self-pity and to enjoy all the sympathy that comes with being `the poor victim' without realising that instead of helping wounds to heal, we are causing them to fester. We all have an important role to play in moving on from the mistakes that have been made in the past. Different levels of melanin in different people do not affect the fact that we are all just that--people! Part of the history of Zimbabwe tells of how Mzilikazi rebelled against Tshaka, the Zulu King, to build his own nation, the Ndebele. As part of his campaign, Mzilikazi tried to subdue the Shona, raiding them for their land, cattle, women, etc. My faithful dictionary defines that as tribalism but the driving force doesn't seem to differ much from that behind Cecil John Rhodes' desire to conquer Africa from `Cape to Cairo'.
Sir Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder sang about the perfect harmony that ebony and ivory create on a keyboard and asked the question, `why can't we?' It might be worth our while to take a lesson from the piano and appreciate and enjoy our multi-coloured keyboard!
Nelly-Joyce Katito, Zimbabwe