Racism isn’t always bad

[This entry should really be read after reading the entry for 9 October Morning Jog. It’s a follow-up to that.]

A week after our first morning Jog, again early on a Wednesday, Sue and I set out again. It felt a bit different and a bit boring this time because it was a school holiday, so there were fewer kids about. We trundled along uneventfully, past the deserted school playground, past the airbase with a wave to the sentries, and up the gentle slope to the circle and the Muli kuti? Bar at the end of the road. As we rounded the circle, excited young shouts were heard in the distance.

“Azungu!” (White people!) A lookout had spotted us! “Azungu! Azungu!” the shouts echoed and rang out between the kids far beyond the pub. We carried on jogging round the circle, and the shouting became more urgent – we were getting away! We heard squeals of excitement and the sound of many tiny feet sprinting across gravel. And then, from behind the pub wall, they burst forth – about seven young kids, excited out of their minds. Not only was school cancelled, but here were two ridiculous whiteys! It just didn’t get any better than this!

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And then spontaneously, the chanting and dancing started.

“Ah-zung-gu! Ah-zung-gu!” They synchronised immediately, shouting as one in delight. The rhythm was simple, thumping but very effective. There was jumping, twisting, gyrating. With each beat they danced more, working themselves into a frenzy of ecstasy. “Ah-zung-gu! Ah-zung-gu!” The energy erupted from nowhere, for no reason, and we had to join in. Sue and I lost ourselves briefly in crazy, unselfconscious, utterly ridiculous dancing on the street. “Ah-zung-gu! Ah-zung-gu!” We were supposed to be jogging!

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Let’s get a close-up of these guys, so you can see what I mean.

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This is now the sort of reaction and excitement I’ve come to expect when I walk into a room or arrive somewhere. Check out those grins! Anything less would be a bit of a let-down, wouldn’t it?

Can you imagine the equivalent situation in Edinburgh, for example? A group of school kids are hanging around on the street and two black people come by. Instantly the kids are energised and chant “Black per-son! Black per-son!” while they break into ecstatic dance…

We finished the jog effortlessly, and the rest of the day was easy.

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5 Comments »

  1. […] [For the follow up, a really crazy jogging incident in the same place with more kids and photos, see October 15 Racism isn’t always bad.] […]

  2. Dad said

    I think the kids are great. Just one hell of a pity that these bright and happy kids grow up to find out that they are severley (?) disadvantaged when they begin to compare themselves with white kids in a developed society. It does not seem fair. However they do appear to be happier than some spoilt brats in our society – many requiring psycological counciling in their teens.

  3. I don’t think that falls under racism. It’s simply the maze with which one reacts to something new, or something the society has constructively made its new members believe it’s a phenomenon they can’t understand, a positive one precisely. Racism? To me, an example is that of former president Dr Bakili Muluzi when he said at a rally ‘A Sonke muli psyuu ngati tomato wapachulu, mubisala pati’ (Sonke, pulpy like some tomato, where the hell will hide?). Racism connotes negativity. Therefore, to me, calling you black, pinky, yellow etc isn’t wrong depending on the context, like the background to the conversation.

    • Gareth said

      Thanks Beaton for your reply! Yes, I was really calling it “racism” as a bit of a joke. Technically, it is racism because they were reacting to us largely on the basis of our skin colour, but it isn’t really “racism” as we understand it because there were no negative connotations attached to it. It was just a bit of fun.

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