Monday, January 24, 2011

Class Identity vs Black Identity

My blog isn't designed to be academic, so I'm not going to be using technical jargon to talk about my observations here in Tanzania.  Terms like class, false or double consciousness are for the classroom and I'm not in school right now.

A bit about how I see my identity thus far:

The problem with Canada is that society (or White people) force Visible Minorities (in this case Black people) to see themselves by their colour first then socioeconomic class second.  The next big problem is that in society's eyes colour and class are one and the same.

And the biggest thing I've noticed so far is that this is no different in Tanzania.  Whites (Mzungus) and Indians are the dominant wealthy class and Black Tanzanians are the poor dominated class and the majority of the population. (Before someone jumps off a bridge and calls me a racist bigot, these are all generalizations after a week in Mwanza and I know there are many many exceptions to what I'm saying.)

So where does my identity fit in?

I'm Black here in Tanzania, but outside of my skin colour, I can't truly relate to the vast majority of native born Tanzanians I've met thus far.  In their eyes, and rightfully so, I have Mzungu wealth and way of life back in Canada (or even here in Tanzania for that matter).  But it is our skin colour and the fact that I can understand and empathize with racial, colonial, neo-colonial, and socioeconomic problems for Blacks worldwide that brings us together.

Do I relate more with higher class and wealthy Mzungus, Indians, and Black Tanzanians? Yes and no.  Does that make me better or feel ashamed of my Black brothers and sisters here in Tanzania? No.

Outside of the language barrier when I'm here in Tanzania, I feel very comfortable amongst Black people.  Being around people that look like you is something that Whites in Canada take for granted.  I know one of the big concerns for Mzungus is the stares and sometimes verbal harrassment they get every time they walk down the street.  While I can say that sucks, how is that any different than the stares or "the look" I get in stores, on buses, in my car, at school, pretty much anywhere Black people aren't "supposed to be" in Canada?  Drive anywhere outside of a major city (and even in those cities) in Canada, and I'm getting that same Mzungu "look".

We'll see how this changes over the next few months, but:

My class first and then my colour defines who I am and how I see myself, but only my colour defines how others see me.

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