Wednesday, April 8, 2009


The easiest thing would probably be not to talk about this. But let me, for a little while, forget about political correctness and say out loud what has been bothering me ever since I came here. Well, I´m white. I´m the whitest shade of white. And I can´t believe I had never noticed it before.

Gabon is not a popular tourist destination and, even though there is a substantial white community, most people are black (that is what they are - just as I´m white - and if I´m not supposed to call them that, give me a better word). Their faces are different and so are their clothes and so is their language. And I feel a bit uncomfortable around them. I hadn´t expected this, I had always been positive I was as open as one can be and I´m mad at myself for those feelings. I must get used to these people, just as they must get used to me. And I think this getting used to bit might be a little difficult.

Being white in Africa classifies you as a rich person, who will always be charged more than the natives. Ok, but we do that in Poland too. Try taking a taxi from Dworzec Centralny if you´re a foreigner. Good, so that´s normal.

Being white in Africa makes you visible and self-consciouos. But that´s normal as well. Try getting on a bus in Warsaw if you´re black. People stare because they´re not used to you. Ok.

Being white in Africa provokes people. We cannot go to a place without being called out to ("Hello white people! How´s it going white people?" are the neutral nice ones) and if I go out alone it gets worse. Up till now I have gone on three walks on my own and every time a man would appear who would shout to me in French and follow me a little bit and enjoy my cluelessness (after all, I can only walk on). My not speaking French does not help.

This kind of behaviour is socially accepted here and that is the main difference between the European and the African attitudes to skin colour. The Western world condemns (at least officially) any verbal expression of racism (in fact, we are so careful that we have become ridiculous with our political correctness). Here these kinds of comments (racist or not but referring to your colour) are part of your reality and the only thing you can do is leave. It is not possible to become less white (and believe me, after only a week, I wish I could).

I think this experience might be the most important one as far as my stay here is concerned. I know already that I will never stare again. It´s too cruel.

PS: The picture is Jandro´s, taken from our terrace last Sunday.

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