Tourism, White Privilege and Colonial Mentality in East Africa

Media Diversified

By Samira Sawlani

We walked into the police station in Uganda. My white British friend who wanted to file a complaint had asked me to accompany her. The three officers behind the desk stood up immediately, one giving her his chair, the other rushing to take notes and the third, with a great deal of concern on his face asked her what had happened.

Sat in the waiting area were a pregnant woman and an elderly gentleman, both were black Ugandans. The lady had been waiting over two hours for the police to attend to her while the gentleman had spoken to them regarding his issue and been told to wait. He’d been waiting for almost three hours. My friend on the other hand was dealt with immediately and within thirty minutes all procedures had been carried out and her complaint both logged and addressed.

Two years prior to this…

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Pride and Prejudice

I was seated in a café of an elegant shopping mall in Nairobi’s posh area. I was reading next to a couple sitting at the table next to me. The man was black and wore elegant yet casual clothes. The white woman wore clothes that would go unnoticed. They had ordered one drink which they shared with the help of a single straw, and, as they liked it, the man ordered a second one. They were happily recalling the safari they had just come back from, laughing and speaking of how lucky they were and how wonderful it had been. As it was getting dark and cold, the man then asked for the bill. It was brought to them.

Suddenly the woman started speaking in an angry tone and I was dragged out of my reading.

Every time it’s the same thing! When did it not happen these last days! I will tell the waitress! She has to know. I’m fed up with this!

Honey you can’t go on educating the whole world, said the man

I told you already that I have no ambitions as far as the world is concerned, but I don’t want to contribute to world’s racism. I understand that for you it is not insulting.

You are wrong it is as insulting for me! Do you think I was not annoyed by the warden at Amboseli when he asked if you were also paying for me? It seems like I am a kept man.

She calmed down. It was obvious that she was extremely angry but probably angrier at her partner not understanding, so she calmed down. From the conversation she had I understood that the couple were both UN workers but the man held a higher or more lucrative position.

Finally the waitress came back.

Excuse me do women in Kenya pay for men’s bills? Continue reading