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RACISM

We can change for the better if faced with danger for survival

In moments of crisis, leaders emerge, while in time of elections and political contestations, tricksters, fraudsters and conmen thrive

In Summary

• Racial tension in America is a historical emotive issue and the Obama presidency never led to a post-racial society.

• However, such discrimination is not limited to America. We saw similar incidents in the world’s second biggest economy, China.

People wearing face masks hold banners in Hyde Park during a "Black Lives Matter" protest following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, London, Britain, June 3, 2020
People wearing face masks hold banners in Hyde Park during a "Black Lives Matter" protest following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, London, Britain, June 3, 2020
Image: REUTERS

My most heartfelt condolences goes out to George Floyd for having had to die on account of being black, and in the hands of police brutality.

We have also learnt that in Kenya, 19 persons have also been killed as well in the hands of police, plus the most bizarre case of Embu DCIO Jervasio Njeru allegedly raping a suspect in his office. These and many other incidents serve to demonstrate how callous the human society can be and the wanton abuse of  power.

On the other hand, a lot is being witnessed in the change of human behaviour. We are self-critical when it comes to law and order in Kenya, compared to other jurisdictions considered more ‘developed’ than ours. This is largely as a result of international media amplifying our situation as worse off than the West. However, we now have witnessed huge demonstrations, looting and confrontations between civilians and the police in the US, following the murder of Floyd. If this had happened in an African country, the demonstrations would have been depicted in the worst of lights as if to bring down a whole government.

Worse still, with a president calling upon his countrymen and women to drink disinfectant (read jik), and getting hospitalised for it, such a pronouncement would have been beamed far and wide, to depict such a leader as a descendant of some zinjanthropus Call it double standards

Racial tension in America is a historical emotive issue and the Obama presidency never led to a post-racial society. In fact, it led to the reversal of such gains through the election of one Donald Trump, the most racist American president in recent history.

His rhetoric has not only stoked more fire, but such discrimination has now become an almost official demeanour within the psyche of his administration. I remember how at a shop in downtown New York, some African-American woman and a Hispanic man warned that if Trump was elected; people like me would find it hard in the US due to open discrimination. True to it, many can remember my ordeal, last year in the hands of Trump’s Secret Service, when I attended the United Nations General Assembly.

However, such discrimination is not limited to America. We saw similar incidents in the world’s second biggest economy, China. Black people were thrown out in the streets on account of spreading coronavirus, yet the disease originated from Wuhan in Hubei province of China. What an irony!! In France, a scientist confidently declared how a Covid-19 vaccine would be tested on Africans.

Interestingly, persons with albinism and many people with lighter skin have been called corona, some have been spit on, abused publicly or ejected from public transport on account of spreading the disease. A woman of Asian origin in Thika was on the verge of committing suicide, and had to be counselled, due to discrimination on the same. That mental health has become a key concern during this pandemic, and is something that we need also to give more focus on.

One thing is for sure. Human beings react the same way no matter the race, social status or pedigree, when exposed to the same stimuli. When Covid-19 started to spread in Kenya, we all retreated to our homes and the message was that we ‘stay at home’. There we realised that we actually didn’t know our families that well.

Grown up men could now play games with their kids as ‘fathers in quarantine challenge’ was all over. Creativity was on the rise and we witnessed newly composed poetry, songs and other ‘challenges’. You remember the Okonkwo Utawezana song that made 19-year-old Azziad Nasenya an internet sensation? More people have been spending lots of time online due to limited economic activity.

Domestic violence has been on the rise, as reported by the Chief Justice David Maraga. At some point, we became more religious, despite the fact that churches and mosques are now closed.

In the same vein, we have also witnessed great acts of selflessness and leadership, away from the day to day senseless politicking that we are used to. In fact, I have observed that ‘in moments of crisis, leaders emerge, while in time of elections and political contestations, tricksters, fraudsters and conmen thrive’.

The lessons that we draw in all these is that our society can change for the better, if we have the right stimuli. Who would have thought that the streets of Nairobi would be empty by 7pm and still people would manage to be at home before then, yet we have the same government and citizenry?

It means that the rule of law can also be used to fight vices such as corruption and wanton theft of public property. Remember all the new innovations done by Kenyans, including the KU ventilators by our very engineering students?

We can do so much more when faced with danger, and when we take a little step of faith to believe in ourselves. We are all human after all!