In this space, I keep revisiting the issue of Blacks and our getting a seat at the proverbial table.
During the past few weeks, I have been thinking that in addition to the Black race pulling up our boots and getting better at wealth creation and sustainability, there is some work which needs to be done by all residents on planet earth.
As a race, we are flawed as are all races. We are behind on certain achievements but that is at times a result of our history and socialization; both issues which we must work to overcome.
However, nothing justifies the treatment of many Blacks across the globe by those who think of us as lesser beings. I stand by the belief that without racism and the theft of our dignity and countries’ natural resources, my race would be much more advanced in what we have achieved and would not need to be working so hard at this time to take our rightful place in this world.
Yes there are no longer any countries with laws which force Blacks to be a lesser species, but it will take another generation, at least, to see us fully recover and shake off the shackles of our history.
Unless you have faced racism, it may be hard to comprehend what this scourge of an attitude does to a psyche. That moment when you are trailed in a store because of your skin colour and not because you look like a thief (although for many all Blacks are thieves and so much more…).
That moment when you are communicating through the telephone and all goes well until the other person realizes you are non-White and comments. “You sounded so smart. Did not realize you are Black.”
These are but few of the lighter moments of racism. The times when a Black person fears for their life or freedom due to racism will not be discussed here today.
When a country chooses to tackle its immigration issue I support that idea because especially poorer nations cannot manage to carry the financial and infrastructural weight of a large number of unemployed citizens from elsewhere.
But, when one of the main tenets of immigration control becomes finding dark skinned people who look as though their heritage is African and removing them from a country, that is no longer immigration control.
This premeditated action is racism. When someone yells at a fellow passenger on an airplane for simply sitting while Black in their assigned seat which is near to theirs that is racism.
The person being yelled at is a victim and when that victim versus the perpetrator is made to change seats that is also racism on the part of the flight attendant.
When one has never endured racism it is quite easy to see how they may not be able to identify certain racist actions and attitudes but for those who truly care, a little research and sensitivity goes a long way.
Spend the time to learn why what may seem like a simple act may affect a person of colour tremendously. No race of human being was made less than another.
Because a race controls the resources and a majority of the accepted ways of being does not make that race a superior one. It makes them more privileged.
So while my race of Blacks work at our weak areas it may be time for all races to learn to respect others who look and behave differently. Not all Black people are ill-mannered, smelly, illiterate, poor and all the other terms used to describe us.
Some of the world’s smartest, kindest and most decent people are from the coloured category.
Some of my fellow Blacks are so exhausted and annoyed they will no longer help the privileged to understand where their words and actions are wrong.
Notwithstanding that, there are still many of us open to helping those who care enough to make a change. Because you have always done something a particular way does not make it right. Because you have been raised to believe you are better certainly does not make you better.
May we all be the change we want in this world and may we all be proactive with being our best non-racist selves.
The writer is owner and managing director of Forrest Jackson Properties, a full-service real estate company in Kigali, Rwanda
The views expressed in this article are of the authors.