I’m not racist but…

I used to think white people were cannibals and that they ate black people. This was my honest opinion when I was a child.

I don’t know where it came from. I have no idea of the origin of this idea as everyone told me I was wrong. I was 6 years old at the time. I’m not racist but…the statement is often said by people before they say something extremely offensive. Racism is such a ridiculous theory and as an adult I’ve been thinking about my own racist views.

I recall the first time I saw a white person. My cousin and I were on our way to collect wood, walking along the dusty red road that would take us to the forest. I spotted a car, and panicked, grabbing my cousins’ clothes as I stammered

            “…there’s a car”

She looked at me bored, annoyed that I was tugging at her, “well done…and the sky is blue” she said sarcastically.

            “But there’s a white person in that car… a white person is driving…” I cried with more urgency.

“you don’t have functioning senses…I knew there was something wrong with you. I now have proof!” she laughed at me jokingly.

The road we were on wrapped around a hill. I cried, fat tears of fear rolling down my cheeks as I tried to drag my older cousin up the hill so that the car wouldn’t be able to reach us. The forest we needed to collect the wood from was downhill, but I couldn’t risk them being able to reach us or having an advantage. Up the hill we could see where the car would go. ‘Had they spotted us, and thus would eat us?’ were my main concerns.

To ease a hysterical child, my cousin climbed the hill with me.

Beautiful Rwanda

I hadn’t at that point ever felt such fear. Fear of the white person. Fear that they would hunt us down for food. This is what foreigners do right? You can’t trust outsiders. They will poison the well if you let them, just because they can.

Bored, my cousin watched the car drive beyond view, sunbathing until I felt it was safe to go and collect the fire wood we were sent to get. My stupidity wasn’t ever lived down, but I knew I’d saved our lives in those quick-thinking moments of mine. She may not have fully understood the dangers of the white person!

You can’t imagine the fear that I therefore had when I arrived in the UK. I was suddenly surrounded by cannibals! I had danger all around me, and although my white family had gained my trust (I made sure there was always food around more enticing than me), I was now in a nation filled with those that, should they feel peckish, would see me as a snack. It took a while for me to understand that white people were normal people too.

These were the opinions of a 6 year old child. I can laugh now, but at the time I feared for my life. I want to highlight how these were the opinions of a child, a black child. Looking at the colonisation history, I can be forgiven for fearing the other. These fears would have been tactics used to ensure our survival (as a black person in Africa) and avoid becoming another lost soul to the slave trade.

I learnt as a child that white people are not cannibals (there are exceptions but it’s not a race thing) and so why is it so hard for adults to accept that all people are human. I understand ingrained prejudice, but how have we failed as a nation to eradicate it. That people would rather shoot themselves in the foot for fear of the other? 

What allowed me to overcome my racist, xenophobic or even general prejudices is by understanding that everyone is human. We are all equal and as such deserve respect. As individuals, people can be very annoying, and so there are enough reasons to dislike people, but race or other physical traits is just lazy and ridiculous. There needs to be more mixing of people, so that they too can see that their views of the other is based on an archaic and outdated mode of thought.

I’m not racist, there are no buts. I champion equality for all and a right to live in dignity.

I do however reserve the right to dislike someone based on their actions.

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