I have had so many nights and days thinking about what it will be like to stare racism in the eye. many years ago, even before I thought I would ever travel to the United States of America, I wondered if I would have the stomach to live through it.
There are so many posts online about the horrors of being African in the West. There are so many angry Africans who will defiantly stare back at racism, raring to go if it comes to that, showing that the time of shrinking violets.
I am supposed to be in the belly of the beast now.
Now, what I fear most is what it will be like for my children to encounter racism; to understand its implications and to realize that they will have to live like this, probably for the rest of their lives.
Admittedly, it is a great deal comforting to know that they can always go back home or even just visit frequently to get the pressure off.
To know that no matter what their world throws at them, they have deep roots in the heart of Africa where community and family are still strong. That is definitely not the case here.
Today, my boss was telling me how suicide is a serious problem in the USA. Many times, when people should feel loved and happy and grateful for community, they instead feel like they are alone and unappreciated.
But I digress.
I live in southwest Kansas. A friend of mine told me laughingly once when I told him I was headed here, that I was going into skinhead territory. I was made to understand that since I was going into the village, the village was going to reveal itself to me full frontal.
In my my job, I get to meet new people everyday and I get to ask questions. Sometimes, the questions are not comfortable.
Maybe I am just an ostrich. Maybe I am not acknowledging the racism. I don’t know.
I have not encountered unfair treatment based on the color of my skin. Yet. Maybe I will come to the realization someday that what I thought of as good manners and kindness on the part of those I meet is racism.
This part of Kansas has been a subject of study for coexistence. There is a big number of Somalis here, brought by the government as refugees. I have been told by someone who works for Tyson Foods, where many of the Somalis work, that the company gets money for every Somali they employ.
The population here is made up of more than 50% non-Anglos. It is not exactly a melting pot of cultures as there are more Mexicans and other Latinos than there are other extractions. All the same, this place seems to have survived the tensions
But I wish I never have to throw back the kindness of strangers into their face. What I have discovered is that when the people around me have thought I needed help, they have been on hand to offer that help. And if that’s racism, I don’t know what to make of that.