Growing up as white and privileged in Zimbabwe I have only ever known an easy and comfortable life. I’ve holidayed on every continent, attended the “finest” schools and have two loving, supportive parents. Yet I constantly feel uncertain and unhappy about the place I live in. I may sound like the typical spoilt, melodramatic teenager, but it goes deeper than that.
I’m one of the few white teenagers in this country who has been exposed to and who has taken notice of real pain, real injustice and real suffering. My parents, through their work and friends, have enabled me to go beneath the surface of the easy life. So, I have gone beyond the tiny bubble that most white teenagers exist in here in Zimbabwe.
I’ve witnessed the monstrosities that my government has committed. I see starving children begging for food on the street and know that they, like thousands of others, have lost everything to the tyrannical hatred of a power grabbing group of people, cheating their way through elections and burning down whatever stood in their way, including the homes and lives of children.
What I hate most about my home is the hatred and disunity between people, particularly the segregation between whites, blacks, coloureds, Indians and the rest. I find the fact that people hate one another just because of the colour of the other’s skin absolutely disgusting and incredibly tragic. When it comes down to it, we’ve all suffered in one way or another under Mugabe’s regime. Whether you’re a white farmer, an Indian company owner, a black shopkeeper or a coloured teacher, we’ve all been affected to a lesser or greater degree.
Zanu PF’s tactic to divide and conquer has succeeded. Racism is everywhere, it’s not just the older generation of black Zimbabweans who still feel bitter about British colonisation, nor is it just the white farmers who have lost their land and not only the company owners whose once thriving businesses are now collapsed, or have been taken over by the current “leaders”; racism resides in the youth too.
I attend a girls only school and if you were to come to my school at break time you wouldn’t see groups of every ethnicity enjoying the sunshine together. No, you’d see carefully crafted circles of white girls alone, black girls alone, coloured girls alone and Indian girls alone, colour coordinated with their friends perfectly.
When I got there I didn’t understand at all, my best friends in junior school were Indian, black, white, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, and the colour of their skin didn’t mean a thing to me. It didn’t occur to me that high school would be any different. But I soon learned it was. In my first year I asked a friend in Form 2 why Thembelihle couldn’t sit with us and she explained that white girls sit with white girls, and black girls sit with black girls, that’s just the way things are. And no matter how hard we tried to stay friends, we were forced into conforming. .
Even today, when I refuse to laugh at the racist “I’m just kidding” jokes I hear, and openly disapprove of them, I’m the one who’s labelled ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that they don’t really understand the evil they are spreading, they echo their parents’ hatred with no thought to the pain that comes from their words. They say the things they do because they hear it from others, true sheep following the crowd. The utter ignorance of people and the blind hatred they promote infuriates me more and more each day.
So, to everyone out there: before you judge a person because of the colour of their skin or what their ancestors did, think about the absurdity of these prejudices and realise how crazy it is to dislike someone due to their DNA. Rather get to know others first and educate yourself and the people around you on the need for unity in a nation, especially one like our own, which has continually struggled under a divisive dictatorship.
A Zimbabwean teenager who feels privileged to know the truth.