Oh, the folly of prejudice!

by Wanjiku Wanderi - Jorgensen May 28, 2014 17 comments
 
I am out taking an evening stroll with my husband and our son. We pass by a group of preteen girls at the local playground. They suddenly start singing. I can tell from the tone of their voices that whatever they are chanting about is not pleasant. It sounds sarcastic and mocking. We keep walking. Their chants go a notch higher. My husband stops, turns back and shoots a question at them. I stand aside, lost in my thoughts. As we proceed with our walk, I ask.

“What were they singing about? It didn’t sound nice”.
“They were singing that ‘Somali and Danish do not belong together’…’Danish and African do not belong together….tralalalala!”
“So what did you ask them?”
“Who taught you that? Who says so? That’s not true. Of course, they do belong together,” he remarks.
“What did they say?”
“Nothing. They are still chanting, louder this time.”
 
I felt sorry for those girls. Someone is hammering those ideas into their juvenile minds. They are being taught prejudice (racism) instead of acceptance and tolerance. Human beings belong to whoever they choose to be (married or associated) with. It is sad to hear such young ones brazenly express their bias as if the world, run by adults, is not prejudiced enough.
 
This incident reminded me of a similar one that happened when my husband said hello to a neighbour. The adult responded to the greeting only for their child to ask out loud.
“Mum, but why did you say hello to that ‘white’ man?” An awkward silence fell between the two adults. 
As an immigrant, living in Denmark, married to a Danish man and raising a mixed child, it means that I will come across prejudice in many areas of my daily life. Some will be subtle, others will be obvious. I will meet people who shall be unhappy with our mixed family. Some, like a lady we once met at a bus stop, will spit on the ground at the sight of us holding hands. In my opinion, prejudiced people are devoid of common sense and courtesy. Dale Carnegie, in his book, How to win friends and influence people, notes that, “When dealing people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”
 
Someday my son will ask, “Mama why are you ‘black’ and Daddy is ‘white’?” Or he might wonder why his cousins are white while others are black. I’ve witty answers planned in my head. For instance, I might tell him, “Honey, mama is dark chocolate, your Daddy is white chocolate, and you are our little brown, perfect chocolate!”
 
That answer might work till he is 4 years old or younger, but nothing can neither prepare me for the future nor who he will associate with. I am sure he shall notice and be curious about his Danish and Kenyan roots. He will wonder which world he fits in most.
 

I know that prejudice is part nature and the other nurture. Bias is a normal part of human nature. However, those girl’s at the playground today have their prejudice thriving in a society that is clearly divided along ‘Us vs Them’. Their biases are being shaped by the messages they hear, intentionally or unintentionally.

 It is my duty, though, as a parent too see that my son learns and unlearns prejudice. I will teach him to be brave and celebrate who he is – a perfect blend of two cultures. None superior or inferior to the other. I will guide him into understanding and accepting the beauty of his African and Danish roots. My goal is to help him navigate prejudice and learn how to be tolerant. Maybe I am too idealistic, but I would rather be that than cynical. The world is already full of negative minded people. I chose to be different. To mentally condition my child differently.

 
Right now he is still crawling and just turned 1 year old, some day he shall walk, then run. But I hope he will grow into a human being who values his own multicultural background while learning to appreciate the culture of others.
 
In the end, we as his parents have to walk the talk. There is no way Fadhili shall learn tolerance if our lifestyle doesn’t match up with what we preach. Equality, empathy and inclusiveness are important virtues in our home, and we hope that his mind will grow picking and emulating them throughout his life. That is our grand plan for him!
 

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17 comments

Mummy Tales May 28, 2014 at 10:10 pm

I find it very unfortunate that in this day and age racism still abounds. Intolerance should be a thing of the past. But atleast you are doing something about it. Voicing the wrongs, and teaching your son the right way.

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Anonymous May 28, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Food for thought. Well written. We should be the change we want to see in the world. Shame about the girls. But i am glad your husband stood up to them. Praying that prejudice and racism dies wih those girl's generation so ur son's generation accepts all.

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Kathy May 29, 2014 at 6:15 am

Wao. Very well put. I wish you all the best in teaching Fadhili how to swim against the tide and embrace humanity as a whole. If every did the same, the world would be a much better place to live in.

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Nguyo Gitonga May 29, 2014 at 10:10 am

What is that proverb from the slopes? Utakanyuirire….. let them bask in their ignorance. They will never enjoy the beauty and joy of diversity. Thats their loss. Your gain.

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Anonymous May 29, 2014 at 10:29 am

wE ARE ALL THE SAME THE FEATURES AND THE EMOTIONS TELL IT ALL. I LOOK AT A WHITE AND BLACK WOMAN AND SEE EVERYTHING THAT DEFINE HER TO THE WORD WOMAN I LOOK AT A WHITE AND BLACK MAN AND SEE TOO ALL THE FEATURES THAT DEFINE A MAN…………….LEFT TO WONDER WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE………..WE ARE ALL EQUAL

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Dorcas Nderitu May 29, 2014 at 11:57 am

Well put.

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Wakonyu Njoka May 29, 2014 at 1:55 pm

OMG racism as it is is very loud where you are it seems. It's present everywhere though so kazi kwetu parents of kids who are of mixed race. Australia is a little advantaged by having such a strong presence of different cultures not forgetting this land belonged to the aboriginals and the rest of us are immigrants but never the less, being prepared for what's ahead is better than ignoring it all together. Your blog is a good read

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Suzi Wambugu May 29, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Good read. Keep walking the talk and be motivated by the fact that our shadows are all the same colour. The blood that runs through our vains is the same. Prejudice happens everywhere in this world. Here, we are divided along tribal lines.

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Royal Priesthood May 29, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Racism is evil..I know what you are talking about first hand..I could hack it when they do it to me or my husband but when they do it to our kids? young minds etc..it hurt really hurt. May the Lord have mercy.

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Susan Kiragu-Kanayo May 29, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Your words pulled me deep into your context, and I even 'heard' the chanting. It's such a deep tale full of complex issues. The world is prejudiced, but you and yours will be just fine. I love just LOVE your hubby!

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Maryanne Joseph May 29, 2014 at 1:57 pm

It is sad that we live in a world that looks at humans through to see white and black lenses; last time I checked papers are white and my skin is brown. If you ask people what makes them think people of color are inferior, they never have answers. I choose to believe that we only perceive people through what we feel of ourselves. when you have love and know how to give love, that is how you see others. People's insecurities try to bring others down and when you show them that you are confident in who God has created you to be they feel threatened. I am learning that I can hear crap, but I am only responsible for what my mouth says; so I chose love and acceptance even of the ignorant. I have a Mighty God to fight my battles – I do not want to waste the precious life I have been given to fight ignorance. As a mom I know I have a responsibility of teaching my kids not to be as ignorant as the teens you encountered today, and most important, that my kids are the most beautiful inside and out, humans that God ever created.

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Ronnie Buntu Kinyanjui May 29, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I like how you are dealing with racism! You are winning!

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Essie Qui May 29, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Nice piece…wow!

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Laurens Scholten May 29, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Every word is spot-on

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Unknown May 30, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Hi Wanjiku, am a great admirer of your blog, the one on the your experience on racism was right on point, something similar happened to me a few days ago, for the first time in my 6 years in DK, and was shaken not for my own sake but for my kids… coz i thought i lived in the safest village in Vest Sjælland (Sorø), Am sorry for your experience, and thank you for writing it down, I felt like you were almost describing my thoughts and wishes!! . Oh I have a question, Did this happen to you recently, coz after my experience, I thought there could be a coincidence with the landslide win of DF on the EU elections?? Good weekend. Hugs Caroline

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Unknown May 30, 2014 at 5:54 pm

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julian macheru June 1, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Well written.the ugly face of racism.Let it never bother you.All of us have one thing in common -we did not choose to be born where we were born.we were born period.Be proud you are an African.Walk with your head held high and majestically.Make the difference.
Be kind to them.

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