Friday, July 24, 2009

Being a Minority

This probably wont be a news flash for any of you, but having whiteskin in Africa makes me a minority here.

So what? Well, first of all, its not something I am used to. BeforeI go deeper into this subject, I want to say that there are many waysto be a minority, and race is only one of them. But, based on my experiences here, this post will be about being a racial minority.

It isn't always easy or comfortable being a minorty. Let me tell you about some of our experiences here.

Being white, people call you Yovo, or blanche, both of which mean 'white person'. These are not necessarily meant to be deroggatory names, but consistently being called 'white person', instead of Ray, isn't very fun. I feel that it takes away a part of who I am and lumps me together with all the other white people in this world. For better or worse, I cannot exist separatly from my race.

Kids in the streets consistently sing a song about Yovo's every time they see us. Our friends know of our arrival several minutes before we get to their door because they hear the children singing the yovo song. Walking in the city, we are constantly asked to buy something or to give someone money.

Let me be clear- I am not trying to get any sympathy here. In fact, every conversation we have had with regular Africans is a pleasant andenjoyable experience. But, when it comes to anyone involved in the tourism industry or in commerce, we always have to be on guard.

When we do come to a store, we are often given a ridiculously high price, because we are white, or a foreigner, or both. People assume that because we are white we dont know the real price or we are willing to spend the larger amount. Any taxi or bus ride also inevitably ends up in a fight, because we are charged more than the other passengers. How can someone, with a straight face, tell us that the ride cost 1000 CFA when we know the price is only 500, and ourAfrican friend paid the lower prices?

In addition, people come and greet you in a friendly manner. Many times, this nice conversation quickly turns into a sales pitch or someone who insists on being our 'guide', only to ask for a tip later. Or, the conversation moves to someone asking us to help get them to the States.

Here I have the priveledge that I can easily leave Africa and return to Maryland. If I am a racial minority back home, in my church or in my city in the States for example, I can easily go somewhere else where Whites make up a majority of the population.

Soon I will be back home and will once again get into a routine whereI rarely, if ever, experience racism or being a racial minority. But what about all those other Americans who experience racism or some of the other difficulties of being a racial minority in their own home, which they cannot escape?


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