It started just like any other ordinary day. Waking up late, lazing around, and taking a trip down the flight of stairs to locate a food court that I usually patronise during days like this.
After ordering what might seem like an odd combination of fresh soya bean and roti kahwin, I started perusing through that day’s newspaper.
Long after I started reading the paper from back to front, my eyes landed on an article so disturbing and infuriating, it rendered my brunch tasteless within seconds.
Two international students had allegedly raped a girl in Kuching. Immediately I thought, ‘Great, just great!’ The piece that occupied pretty much half the page of the newspaper saw me deserting my brunch to concentrate on its contents, like a smoker taking a puff.
It was a sad and shocking tale.
A group that mostly considers itself ostracised abroad, would I have thought refrained from atrocious acts of human unkindness and torture, but then again I guess I was wrong, wasn’t I? In one of my earlier columns, I touched on the onus that everyone has, especially when we are far away from our homes. There’s a huge responsibility on our shoulders whether we like it or not.
As an African in Kuching, my actions are not just constricted within me, but reflected upon the larger African population in Kuching, Africa and to the rest of the Africans in the world. Whether I like it or not, whether I am aware of it or not, the fact remains constant.
This simply stands because of the fact that the process of making judgement about a group of people is most often done by analysing a sample within the reach of the analyser. One mightn’t know the rest of the Africans in Africa but through me, one feels to have known them.
To illustrate this, after I finished reading the paper and passed it to the next group, a comment was made.
Though I was not eavesdropping, I was forced to overhear the comments made by this group after they had read the piece, thanks to friend sitting next to me.
A member of the group uttered disappointment at what the foreign students had allegedly done in this country.
Another added, “But this is the same thing that happens in their countries.”
The full realisation of their words after the translation by my friend left me speechless.
However, I understand the meaning behind those harsh words. I would not blame them for such an analysis since the onus in the first place is broken.
However, what scares me the most is the fact that such damage is almost irreparable; once bitten, twice shy. For the perception to change, it would require an action that my mind fails to imagine or a reality that I fail to grasp.
It would be my greatest wish that negative things do not happen for the sake of harmony between my people and Kuching folk.
Recently I realised how grave the situation is. I was talking to a stranger who told me he doesn’t feel safe inviting Africans from his church to his Christmas open house due to the fear of what they might do either to his house or family.
During the Asia-Africa Youth Forum in August, there were chants of further collaborative efforts between Asian and African countries in the technical area, medical field, international trade, education and also in cultural integration.
Sitting in that forum, I was lost in a train of thought, for a minute, on cultural integration in Kuching. But then how do you create such a space while there’s a state of disharmony?
For me I see cultural integration as important and can only happen when I invite you to my abode for a Tanzanian dinner and me to yours for a local cultural showcase. It is when you feel safe around me, ready to learn and teach.
But then again, how do we even get here when there is a fear that when I get to your house I might commit a crime?
How can integration happen if you are afraid of what I will do to you when you are in the confines of my walls?
These are challenges for someone like me who wants to see races working together regardless of their differences.
It is my wish that Kuching folk will not judge so harshly the rest of the good bunch just because of some rotten eggs!
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