Wandia Njoya via fb
One reason why I get frustrated by identity arguments is because many times, we run to identity to hide from talking about politics or economics.
Take, for example, the tendency of Kenyan hotels or restaurants to serve whites and ignore us. The immediate reaction of many of us is to lament that we hate ourselves. But actually, those waiters dont hate Africans. Ask them, they’ll tell you as much.
What is happening is that the waiters are choosing money. And in global capital, the color of money is white. That’s why Fanon said that in the colonial situation, to be white is to be rich, and to be rich is to be white. To be white in Kenya means that you dont get stopped by the police. To be white in Kenya means that if you’re the headmaster of a school, rich people are more willing to bring their children to you. There are Kenyan companies where a white person is put on the board for the optics.
So that waiter refusing to serve you is not doing anything you dont already do. Or that your government doesnt already do to you. Every time you forget, remember Najib Balala whose job is to protect wildlife and promote your culture for tourists, not for you. This is not an identity problem; it’s a capitalist one.
If you want to fight for African identity, you must fight against capital as well. The foundation of Uthamakism and other so-called cultural pride movements driven by the rich is precisely the refusal to make the fight for culture also a fight against capitalism. That’s why our tribal warlords tell landless peasants to return to their roots, and then drive away in huge cars to stone castles in the middle of villages. And take their kids to schools run by the same wazungu whom they shout against at rallies.
This doesnt mean you dont complain against discrimination by a waiter. Do so, please. But also expand that criticism to politics and economics. The waiter is just a foot soldier.