See the World Through My Eyes

Theory of a Black Man

Black man country
On the flight to Ethiopia, I meet a friendly gentleman by the name Hakim Geteye. He introduces himself as the mechanical technician on board with over twenty years experience. It is his last day on the job so it’s understandable why he is in a good mood. We talk about airplanes (duh!), the economy, world politics and various other general interest subjects. One subject that especially catches my interest is inequality. I can’t believe it when Hakim tells me to expect racial discrimination in Ethiopia. On probing further, he tells me that quite a number of Ethiopians do not consider themselves African; the reason why they treat fellow Africans ‘differently’. I refuse to believe him. I just can’t imagine my fellow African mistreating me just because I am… Afican! When I get off the plane I am lucky to find a seat in the waiting area at Addis Ababa‘s Bole International Airport. After three hours trying to get comfortable on the hard bench, I decide to have a drink at the restaurant at the far end of the lounge.

It starts with a sneer from the waitress after I motion her over, which I ignore. I choose to assume that it’s not meant for me. I keep calling out to her until at some point I figure she could be deaf [It happens]. So I decide to walk up to the counter and order my drink. As I walk to the front of the restaurant, another customer who has just walked in calls the waitress over to his table. I am astonished when she shoots past me to serve this particular customer. I feel small and angry. Another customer who I assume is Ethiopian, notices the helpless look on my face and decides to help me out in one sentence.

” White people tip, black people don’t”.

Black man at the door.
I have 5 minutes to get to the Hilton. I managed to clinch a deal with some Israelis who want to set up a meat processing plant in the country. Today, they  want to sign off. If this goes well, I could end up with a very good package. I break into a run and I’m at the entrance in no time. This is one business I wouldn’t dare lose. At the door, I am stopped by the security guard who asks me where I’m going. For a moment I pose trying to catch my breath and just as I am about to inform him he nature of my visit, a tour van comes to a halt at the hotel entrance. A group of tourists seemingly European alight from the bus and pass between me and the guard. As if by instinct, the guard scurries off to say jambo and karibu to the new visitors while lowering his hat and clasping his hands together in humility. They ignore his greetings and head to the reception. Mr. ‘Security’ comes back and continues interrogating me on the nature of my visit. I am angry. I glance at myself in the reflection on the floor-to-ceiling windows. Don’t I look normal? I am smartly dressed in a dark suit, black tie and white shirt. WTF (It’s not what you think). Anyway, I ignore his question and empty my pockets of coins and my cellphone as I walk through the metal detector in the foyer. As I pick my items on the other side, the guard ‘kindly’ remarks that that ‘it’s not a must’ that I pick the coins. Why? Because it doesn’t ‘look right’ for a man in such a ‘nice’ suit to walk around with noisy coins. By this time, I am shaking from rage…

Black man cuisine.
This food is dry. I ordered rice and fried beef but i didn’t expect it to come without some gravy. I signal to the waiter and ask for some soup. She politely tells me that they only serve gravy or soup when one has ordered fish fillet or pepper steak. I ask her to then explain how I am supposed to eat such a choking-dry meal. She politely tells me that it’s a management decision and that there is nothing she can do. I am furious.  I then ask her to bring me ketchup, maybe it’ll help. She hands me the ketchup and I proceed to make my food edible. After a minute, I realize that she is still standing there. I smile at her and politely tell her that I am fine. The ketchup will work just fine. She politely responds that she is waiting for me to finish with the ketchup because the management requires her to repossess the ketchup after the customer has had their first squeeze. She takes the ketchup and deposits it at the counter. Does this sound a bit too familiar? Agony is…

Black man justice.
A huge mob has surrounded the bus that been victim to hijackers a few moments ago. The leader of the faint attempt is forced to come out of the bus that is now parked diagonally in the middle of the road by angry citizens. Like a pack of hungry hyenas, they erupt into a frenzy, baying for his blood. The suspect kneels in front of the bus and pleads for his life. The crowd goes wild, and for a moment all one can hear is “Kill! Kill! Kill!”. They have had enough. They start pelting the suspect with stones. Huge stones. One can clearly hear the impact as the stones land on the suspect’s head. For a split second, I witness the suspect’s temple split open from impact. The crowd wants more. Someone in the crowd pleads for mercy on behalf of the suspect. He goes silent when another person accuses him of being a sympathizer. It is sad how frustrated the citizens have become. There is little anyone can do at this point. Part of the key people in the crowd that can change this whole picture are three police officers. Against the requests of civilized by-standers, the three officers refuse to rescue the suspect. Minutes later, the suspect lies dead on the street, his skull crushed underneath a 60 pound stone. No one knows his name or why he’s lying there on the street. A citizen with the same right to life as you and me…

Black man down.
I don’t know when this happened  but I am sad at what we’ve turned into. What makes us not want to be associated with who we are? What makes us treat each other with contempt? We are all to blame. We are quick to smile at foreigners and also quick to judge and condemn our own. Funny, I’ve heard black women wish that they had blue eyes and blond hair. I have seen black people take drugs to lighten their skin. Where did the black pride go? I don’t condemn you. I believe you have your reasons….

7 responses

  1. Kiumyamuthaka

    I’m so glad you wrote about Black Man Justice, that clip really bothered me plus another that I saw where the crowd proceeded to set two men on fire over two sacks of potatoes…I have not been the same since. Keep fearing I may suffer the same fate..wrong place wrong time.

    Also Fuck the police! They stood there and watched, they had control over the situation, but they have been known to hate paperwork, so watching the crowd stone the ‘hijacker’ to death was really just to make their work easier? WTF? What if it was mistaken identity..

    Ok I’m done ranting. I’ve let it all out. Woosah! 🙂


    July 15, 2011 at 9:06 PM

  2. JazzUp

    This is a white man’s world, man! If you look at those negative circumstances, it might even make you angrier that you were dressed and acting like a white dude. That’s how many “brainwashed” blacks who work for big companies, international organizations, or embassies behave in cities like Addis: they drive the fanciest cars, live in some of the biggest villas of the town, spend their evenings in expensive restaurant etc. They don’t seem to think that there are very poor city dwellers around. Sorry, though you have to get through this sort of shock.


    July 17, 2011 at 1:39 AM

  3. ahenda

    got me thinking: are we confned,are our minds and hearts destined to remain in society’s constraints of Sex,Religion,Color,Race,third World Mentality and Wealth barriers….

    very good read.. i like the analogies-very engaging.. i can relate to all scenarios.

    *claps* keep ’em coming Sir! 🙂


    July 19, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    • I agree, and unless we liberate our minds to the extent that we can appreciate human beings as one in every aspect, we are headed for a fall. I appreciate that this one spoke to you 🙂 I will keep them coming…


      July 19, 2011 at 4:53 PM

  4. I enjoyed reading this blog immensely and was especially touched by the issue of injustice (black on black)…

    For decades we’ve blamed the white man (the colonialists) for our misfortunes. It seems that we continue to experience neo-colonialism and are in danger of losing not just our African pride, but our ability to empathise with each other.

    I also just ranted about something similar and yeah….. wooosah!!


    July 21, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    • hey Braintatoo 🙂 been a while… I am humbled that this one caught your attention. Same color discrimination is the most dangerous. I have good reason to believe the post election violence of 2008 was caused by such. Unless we learn to appreciate each other as permanent neighbors in this continent, we are headed for a fall. Big up to you Braintatoo!


      July 21, 2011 at 4:26 PM

  5. muducrucial

    I have enjoyed this article especially the different scenarios which we all have experienced one time or another.

    But in my opinion we as Africans have failed ourselves except say certain communities that still “keep it real” if i would use those words.

    Let us compare Asia and Africa just a little. When the white man went to Asia with his religion, writings, politics and ideology the Asian man picked up what was useful to him and retained his heritage(well we can say 70%)especially when you look at customs,religions etc.

    Well when the white man came to Africa the African was convinced that his education was rubbish, his religion was witch craft, his social customs(we still hold on to very little of our culture esp urbanites) and took up the Whites mans view from dressing to language etc.

    I agree change has to come from ourselves. Our way of thinking and attitude must change in order for all of us to realize not just a united Kenya, united Africa but a united planet where we do away with segmentation on colour basis, gender, religion, politics etc.

    Have a good one


    July 27, 2011 at 5:54 PM

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