Megan, Harry's wife, says Britain is racked with racism. Racists are everywhere - 15% of people worldwide are extremists, be this in the USA, Kenya, India, Sweden, France… the list goes on.
Like all animals, humans instinctually protect their families, in common with most mammals, we cluster in clans, we group in tribes, we reside in regions abounding with our specific cultures, we inhabit nations with long histories. We assume our way and views are the best. Kenya’s history is the longest on the planet, for that is arguably where humanity evolved.
After independence from Britain, Kenyans were encouraged by their government to see themselves as Kenyans, not as the 42 tribes which had either rubbed alongside each other or had warred for centuries. ‘Harambee Kenya’ became the national expression, meaning, let’s all do this together. One day, sitting in a tea stall, I noticed my neighbour was a Maasai, that his was a Kikuyu and in Swahili, which I’ve spoken since uttering my first words, I said. “This is great! You Kikiuyu once stepped to the other side of the road in fear when a Maasai approached.”
They laughed and over-spoke each other: “This is our modern Kenya!”
But try as people did to integrate, the Kikuyu who are excellent business folk, encroached upon the territories of others and soon tension rose and the tribe I grew up with, the outstanding Nandi, fought off the Kikuyu who were starting to ‘invade’ their ancient land. The Kikuyu had been favoured by the government who since independence have been mostly made up of Kikuyu.
I once met a Kenyan studying in India who said he was treated as a ‘Black Devil.” An old friend who is married and has lived in India helping local communities for decades, had, until recently, to continually renew his visa. My wife and I weren’t allowed to get married in the country we were helping as Aid workers, unless we converted to Islam. In London white Cockneys mocked my accent, that’s bigotry. I adored working with inner-city communities, fascilitating understanding between them so they could work towards the common good. One weekend, black friends took me to a Caribbean party; within seconds I was surrounded by guys threatening to beat me up because I was a, ‘F***ing honky’. On the other hand, a white friend who is very PP (politically correct) once told me I was a colonialist when I’d explained that inside I am black because I grew up with the Nandi whose values I absorbed, whose culture I loved and who provided me with my strongest role models. These are all incidents of racism, even her PP jab. Megan must have come across racism in the USA; I certainly did.
We naturally compare ourselves with others and are wary of newcomers, our histories of protectionism continue, so we must be aware of our bias when we react to somebody’s accent, the colour of their eyes, hair, even their skin. To me, variety is the spice of life and my friends are from around the world, from a variety of life styles, they have contrasting political views; this enriches my existence. I relish the new, it is fresh, inspiring, invigorating. And don't forget that none of us is pure this or pure that, even my beloved Nandi intermarried over the centuries with the tribes they traditionally fought.
Megan, when she arrived here, was admired and accepted by the majority of Brits. It is simply that the internet gave that obnoxious 15% a voice louder than the reality and she noted their stupidity. Thank goodness over 70% of us Brits are generally unprejudiced. One of my old friend, an Arab, a professor at one of our world-class universities, a man whose outstanding intellect is wanted around the world, told me, “I chose to live in England because, unlike my homeland or other lands I could have settled in, it is arguably the most tolerant country.”
Having lived and worked in several countries, I agree. We chose to see what we want, so rather than perceive our differences as problematic, why not seek out what is common between us and grow together.