Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lesotho Arrival (on racism and being welcomed)

Malcolm X in his autobiography pointed out that on his trip to the Middle East he had been so overwhelmed in his experience having been with black, brown, red, yellow and white people. These were the white man, the Arab man, the Asian man, and the black man all praying together. Some were poor and some rich, some conservative and some extremists, but all were brothers. It was the same with me. Even though I obviously was not racist before I went to Africa, I had still yet to experience such a profound experience as Malcolm’s. After just my first week in Africa I had such a profound change in consciousness similar to Malcolm’s; I would be forever changed. The people had been so kind and beautiful to me that I had all issues cleared in my mind concerning racism, deciding for once and all, for sure, that it is an ignorant practice of those who fail to see the truth and potential of the world and the magnificent people in it. I had been eating with, talking with, and even living with people of a different color, different religion, and different first language than myself but my days were going good, even better than good, they were unforgettable. It felt strangely like entering a completely different world and in part I was. I was on the same planet Earth but I was half way around and on the other side of the equator but surely in my mind, I had entered into a different planet in a different time. Things were magical again and life had its awe as it once did when I was young. The personal interactions I had with my new found African friends were each one stimulating, special and deep felt in my heart. The Basotho made me feel so at home even though I had not even heard of a country called “Lesotho” only a few months before. A country so poor, so small, that it did not even register on my narrative of the world.

I felt so welcomed and in my place that it was actually startling. It was vaguely like being a traveler and having been on a long distant trip for so long that one feels like the trip will never end. Finally after weeks, months, or even years one returns home to feel safe and comfortable only to find they have been gone for so long they have partially forgotten what it felt like to be home. That is what if felt like for me “coming home” but this was my first time in Africa. It was like I was coming home and it was all familiar and comfortable to me in a way that made me feel like I belonged to the land and the land to me. But it was also somehow unfamiliar as these people were different than any I had seen before and there language even stranger. It is so amazing just how good I felt coming to Africa and having her spirit in me even though at the time I suspected the people there would have many reasons to not welcome me so warmly like they actually did.

I was born in a prosperous land; they were born in a poor one. I had gone to good schools, received a fine education from intelligent teachers and the majority of the Africans I saw could not even read a newspaper. When I had been sick I went to fancy hospitals with expensive test and got the new and latest medicines and when they got sick, they wasted away and died. Our worlds were opposite and tragically so. They had every reason to hate me, be jealous of me, and be racist towards me but they only showed me kindness and love. After only a week, I knew unquestionably and undisputedly that the color of a man’s skin determines little about who he is, what he is able to accomplish, and how he is going to treat another fellow human being. It is more the choices a person makes and the choices the people around a person make that ends up helping to determine who a person is in life, not the color of their skin. The African people of Lesotho were indeed some of the friendliest, calm, and most generously accommodating people I had ever met and I am sure I will always love them for it.

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