ONE day when I was in a taxi I encountered a very disturbing experience. After calling for a taxi, the taxi driver came to pick me up and the journey that I might’ve thought started well ended up a bitter recollection.“You will pay the fare,” bitterly stated the taxi driver. I was perplexed and answered, “Of course, I will pay the fare.” He laughed mockingly as if I was joking, making me believe he doubted my loyalty to pay the fare upon reaching my destination.
Registering a very sour mood from the driver, I decided to pay him instantly even before reaching my destination. After what seemed like a minor modification of the mood, he went on to narrate stories of Africans who refused to pay the fare.
This experience reminded me of another situation that happened while I was in Kuala Lumpur. According to the practices, the taxi drivers do not ask the passengers to pay for the toll charge. They’ve to pay for it and charge you in the general fare.
Upon asking me to pay for the toll, I asked him how come other drivers don’t do the same. He lashed at me saying, “You Africans come to our country; you destroy our peace and wanting to dictate rules. This is not your country.” He went on roaring. I sat there quietly as I didn’t want him to shove me off in the middle of nowhere.
Psychologically he was embittered due to a previous bad experience and so he found a victim in me. We are all victims of pain and suffering of others in some ways. Though one might deem his action wrong, it was purely a manifestation of a previous bad experience.
Looking back now, though painfully as it may seem, these two drivers opened up my eyes to forms of cruelty and animalistic behaviour of certain humans who have neglected their onuses.
After this encounter I went on to investigate similar disheartening issues. I ended up opening doors, oozing traumatic experiences that local people have endured when dealing with ‘us’.
Cases of unpaid rentals, trashed houses, disturbances from loud music, and sometimes cases of rape as reported by newspapers filled my ears. Sad experiences that people have encountered might seem trivial to some but weighs heavily on the shoulders of the bearers.
I understand that sometimes we are judged based on what people of our kind have done in the past. I remember when I was looking for an apartment, and upon calling one landlady, she rejected me since she had problems with people of my kind.
She went on to tell me how her house was trashed and rentals went unpaid. I would honestly say I didn’t blame her as when I tried to put myself in her shoes I understood how she felt and why she didn’t want me in her house.
I remember someone telling me, “You have to earn it; from respect, honour, position and to many others things. You’ve to earn it.” His statement was very true especially in the age and place that the society is today.
Neglecting our onuses as the mirrors of others, not only destroys the image of the population in question but also endangers opportunities for others coming behind us, of enjoying the benefits of living as humans without discrimination and hatred.
Discovery Channel might be one of the ways of disseminating information about Africans but living with one in your society is the best way to learn about them. And the image you register after an encounter with one might be an everlasting irreversible perception.
The tragedy of this perception is that it overlooks the best in the bunch that have human behaviours, since it includes all of them in one category. They are many who deserve the respect but the perception has undergone a metamorphosis that’s strong to alienate good from evil in the eyes of local people.
I guess two things can be said. Behaviours need to be changed by both sides. The perpetrators should stop their inhumane behaviours by understanding what their actions do to the rest of their community.
There is no denying the responsibility that each one of us carries towards conveying the perception of our kind. Early destroyers impede their kind from integrating into the society due to negative mindset directed towards them.
Second, the victims need to learn to view everyone as a different entity worth of possessing behaviours different from the bunch. Michael Jackson was a white African, Oprah is not poor and Chris Tucker is Jackie Chan’s brother from another mother.
We are all different in our own ways and generalisations shouldn’t be made based on few people. For humanity to stand, everyone singularly needs to be given the opportunity to stand and be judged for his or her own deeds and not of others.
I know this might pose a challenge as the saying goes, once bitten twice shy, but we should learn to find it in ourselves the courage to forgive and let go of our perceptions. This might enrich our lives and create better relations with those around us.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])