I am not an ‘Englishman in New York’, but I am a white Dutch guy in Léo, Burkina Faso. I can remember my discussions with friends where I said that the colour of your skin doesn’t matter for me. Since my stay in Burkina some experiencing keep on popping up in my head that are somehow related to colour and the difference between black and white. A bit confusing in the beginning, because I was always the one saying that “colour doesn’t matter”. And the fact that I keep thinking about these experiences seems to prove the opposite. That for me colour does matter after all. The next challenge is to write something about it. I will try to let my experiences do the work. After all it’s already me that selected these experiences;).
With two friends I am watching a football match. AC Milan versus Barcelona. With a fluent combination Zlatan , Robinho and Boateng get through the Barcelona defence. It is Robinho who eventually pulls the trigger. Boateng directly runs towards Robinho to celebrate the goal together. At the same time Zlatan walks on his own tempo back to the centre of the pitch. One of my friends gets angry and calls Zlatan a racist. My other friend does totally agree with him. “He is a racist! Look! He doesn’t want to celebrate the goal with the black players!”. I was a bit perplexed and didn’t really know how to respond. But I was thinking: “come on guys, he is just doing his ‘there is only one Zlatan’ act. This has nothing to do with racism”. Although one thing became clear, and that is that my friends definitely interpreted this behavior as racist behavior.
A week ago I am picking up my mam at the airport. She is bringing me a little visit and she is arriving with Air Burkina. The flight went well and later that evening we go for a drink with some friends of mine. One of my (white) friends says that he is always checking if there is also a white pilot on board of the plane and he feels relieved when he finds out there is. He directly adds that he knows how horrible his words may sound. Maybe his words sound horrible, but I am sure that he is not the only one thinking this. So maybe my Burkinabe friends are right after all. We (whites), including Zlatan, feel superior, and the worst thing is that we don’t even consider ourselves as racists.
A few days later I arrive in Léo with my mam. We bring a visit to Alimata, my former nanny. I haven’t seen her for a while and she definitely became old. She has cataract and she has already been operated for it three times. The first time the operation has been done by a Dutch guy and the result was (of course :p) excellent. The second time a French guy did the job, and although he did well Alimata was not totally satisfied with the result. The third time a black Burkinabe guy came to do the job. And guess what, he totally fucked it up according to Alimata. “Black doctors just can’t do it, a white doctor should do the job”.
Without being able to make a logical conclusion of these experiences I can conclude for myself that colour does matter. Perhaps not on the surface, but definitely beneath it. And I think it’s a good first step to admit this. I have to call it a post now, because it’s going way too deep for me now;).