Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Racism . . .

At the workshop that I blogged about in my last post, I had an interesting experience. But first, some background. I am the only non-Ugandan and only white person that works with this NGO (AFLI: African Leadership Institute) here on the ground. My role is technical support and data analysis, so it makes sense that at the workshops, I present the methodology behind the scores that are on the scorecard (I am however training two of my colleagues to do this presentation).

So, after giving said presentation, I sat in the back of the audience with my colleague to watch the remainder of the workshop. Then a young woman, probably early 20s, about my age, approached my colleague, Teo, and then Teo said this girl wanted to ask me something. I said that was fine. She then came over next to me and as she began to speak, I could tell she was very nervous: I could even see here lip quivering and she was kind of stumbling over here words.

She started asking if our analysis was really correct and really did reflect the performance of an MP. I explained how we get our data (that it all comes directly from Parliament). Then she started asking why I gave the presentation. I then explained my role in the organization. She then asked why a Ugandan did not give the presentation, and I explained that Gerald had given the “Roles of an MP” presentation, and that I was the only non-Ugandan in attendance. She then began asking why white people feel they need to get involved in all of Africa’s business, that there are Africans that can donate and support other Africans but they don’t because they know the white man will do it, and that because of all of this, whites have made Africans lame and dependent. Now, these are all good points, and I think she speaks some truth here. I believe that much aid is causing a culture of dependence and the way in which it is given, presented should be changed (but that is an issue for another time). I tried to explain to her that AFLI for example is both Ugandan-originated and Ugandan-run and that "we whites" try to give support to it rather than control it.

She didn’t seem to want to listen. She continued with her diatribe and began saying that whites upset her, etc, etc. Then she said “And me, I DETEST whites. I DETEST them.” I then looked at her and said “I don’t want to talk to you anymore,” and I turned away from her. She then left, and I did not see her the rest of the time. It was really the first time anyone has looked directly at me and said they hate me. I didn’t really know what to do, and I could feel that all to familiar heat-anger flowing through up into face (I blame that on the Harris in me), so I simply ended the conversation (which would be the Bybee in me).

I realized that she had planned to say that to me from the beginning which is probably why she was so nervous when she began talking to me. She must have had some really negative run-ins with white people in the past to make her want to say that to me (someone she did not even know). It just goes to show, hate spreads hate.


  1. Wow! You handled that well, Addo. Good job! I don't think she heard or would have heard anything else you had to say.

    P.S. Miss you tons! When do you get home?

  2. Hmm, interesting. A good wake-up call for me; thanks for posting. I agree with Lindsey? - good reaction.

  3. oh adam! that sounds like an awful experience. i don't know what i would have done. i think you handled the situation maturely. i can't wait to talk to you about it more when you get back! when do you get back anyway? love you!!!!