Privilege, Kenyans and “isms”

I am discussing Kenyans as a collective in this post. If you feel what I am talking about does not reflect your thoughts, opinions etc then it is what it is. Additionally, there is nothing new I am saying here – these are things that have been written about, pondered on, actioned and all that. But it bears repeating.

Kenyans as a lot have opinions on privilege that at times are questionable. We often reduce systemic issues to personal anecdotes. We reduce our opinions on things based on how they affect us personally. “I have never experienced racism so it must not exist,” “we don’t need feminism anymore (because I am a middle class lady with opportunities that this class affords me),” “poor people shouldn’t have children” etc.

As long as history is taught through the colonialist lens we will never be able to understand how the issues facing us, including the yoke of capitalism, are intertwined. As long as our education system does not challenge the status quo, we will continue to have substandard opinions on world matters. That is why some think reverse racism is a legitimate thing. That is why people don’t question missionary work. Or the existence of IMF/World Bank.

It is why we worship at the altar of rich people (especially men) without questioning how the money was acquired. It is why people don’t think colourism is an issue in Kenya, or think that skinny shaming is as bad as fat shaming. It is why upper and middle class kids don’t understand that it was the luck of the draw that they were born in the families they were. It is why, with gusto, people use the silencing tactics of “You are not the target audience”, “you cannot afford this so you shouldn’t call out racism” and other such statements. It is also why we never speak of the history of ethno-nationalism and how politicians use this to keep this country on it’s knees.

Pretty much, talking with some people, you can tell “I have thought this thing and therefore it must be true and no one will tell me otherwise and I will not seek for more information.”

How can we experience, drive for change without knowing what we are talking about?

To be real, I think we refuse to realise the interconnections of all these isms.

We have to imagine a Kenya beyond sexism, tribalism, classism, homophobia, transphobia etc. Do I have the answers? No. But I want to do what it must take to imagine a country, a world where EVERYONE is living well. And not only me. We have to, as Sister Mary Clarence said, Wake up and Pay Attention.

Someone who read this post before I posted it said: Liberalism, which is one of the things that is severely limiting imagination, has learned the language of acknowledging privilege but not really being willing to let go, to actually make concrete material and ideological changes that transform the present and the future material- I might even wager and add spiritual- conditions of people, especially the dispossessed, the outlaws and outcasts.

So yes, we know and we say. And then what? What tangible actions can we do beside learning the vocabulary and correcting people on social media? Because I can tell from how your kids are talking that you are passing bigoted ideas to them.

Most people really accept without very much question the assumptions they are given.

James Baldwin

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