Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Things that black people don't do

Things that black people don't do is not a subject that I write with the intention of perpetuating a racial stereotype. It is a subject that arises out of some observations I have made over time.

It is prompted by a remark I heard from my friend and Idi Amin's son, Jaffar Amin.

When I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with him for the second time in 2011, he told me that while leaving Uganda to join me for the climb in Moshi, his relatives wondered why he liked so much to take part in activities that white people like to do.

To me that was a telling categorisation of one activity that black people don't expect other black people to be seen doing. Black people don't torture themselves by trudging up a mountain for seven days, spending uncomfortable nights in a tent, battling sub-freezing temperatures, mountain sickness, and surviving the entire trek without taking a shower. And these are just a few of the unpleasant aspects of climbing a mountain. And paying handsomely for the entire experience!

I have direct experience of not being expected to be on Mount Kilimanjaro. I have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro many times since 2008, but before I became a familiar face to the guides and porters on the mountain's routes, I was invariably mistaken to be a porter, or a guide. Others recognized me as a hiker, but assumed I was a foreigner, not a Tanzanian.

Black people normally don't jump off cliffs, or airplanes and then parachute down to earth just for the fun of it. In Africa those jumping off aircraft would certainly be military personnel, but not your average individual seeking the thrill and danger of skydiving.
Skydivers seeking the thrill of jumping off a plane.
Black people don't willingly decide to ride a bicycle across the African continent. So, when Ross Methven passed through Butiama and I decided to ride along with him for several days to Dodoma on his bicycle ride from Edinburgh to Cape Town, less than an hour after we set off and stopped to buy bottled water at a shop people assumed we were both foreigners.

As I approached the shop to pay for the water one onlooker said to another in Swahili: "this must be the bodyguard." When I surprised them by speaking in the local dialect they still would not believe I was Tanzanian and told me I had learnt to speak the language.

I was the foreign bodyguard; that was the only explanation that made sense to what they observed. Further along our trip to Dodoma those who accepted that I was a Tanzanian asked: "Why don't you take the bus?" Why would a black man ride a bicycle for 877 kilometres instead of traveling on a bus?

No comments: