I remember it so distinctly. I was in my mid-to-late teenage years, still buzzing with the naive energy and excitement that comes with youthful bliss. My mother had told me that prayer could cover anything; I could ask for anything at all in prayer and God would be faithful to make it happen. To my excitement, it was even okay to ask for specific things – the kind of car I dreamed of, the grades I wanted to achieve, even the caliber of man I wanted to marry.
She asked me one evening what type of man I would like to be married to someday when I was older, and I responded with my usual description of the caring, loving, man who would always put me first and never take me for granted. In addition to not being a heavy drinker or smoker, I said that I would prefer him to have blonde hair and blue eyes, and being tall was a must. And so these specific requests I repeated every night when we knelt down to pray in our living room, and the image of my future husband became clearer to me with each prayer.
There was, however, only one hurdle. My beloved husband was awaiting me in a land very far away from my own country. It is no secret that the white men in Zimbabwe only marry their own and very rarely even bat an eyelid at any woman with melanin in her skin. In fact, all of the three interracial relationships I had seen personally had been formed overseas! Therefore, it was set: I would definitively meet future Husbae when I left for university in Canada. It would be just like it was in the movies – we’d either meet at a social gathering and he’d ask me to dinner a few days later, or, we might meet at church and have long, in-depth conversations and interactions for months before finally falling in love with each other.
Fast-forward to 2018. I’m entering my final year of university and I still have not met or fallen for dreamy husband with the blue eyes and golden-blonde hair. Not because my campus wasn’t filled with them – every fifth male in my university town technically met that basic physical description tbh – but out of simple consequence of a great shift in my ideologies. See, a highly problematic trend exists in most parts of Africa; that is (to put it frankly) the inexplicable, infinite reverence for the white man in society.
White people have always been viewed back home as being born with “a silver spoon in their mouth” – an expression synonymous with having inherent wealth all of their lives. Because of this, they have always been deemed as a superior breed, as the standard to be aspired to. This is so much so that conversations surrounding the topic of Zimbabwe’s colonial past have frequently taken the perspective, not of distaste and anger at the colonial rulers for claiming the land and wiping the traditions that were rightfully our own, but of blame towards the native men who were “stupid enough” to be duped into signing our land and rights away for a low price to begin with. Granted, Lobengula and his counterparts did not make a smart or informed decision in their time, but this perspective chooses to ignore the immorality and profound malevolence of the manipulating colonialist, which in itself is a pressing issue.
This disregard for colonial rulers’ obvious faults has even further translated to praise for the colonizers, and I have often heard (too often if you ask me) elders speaking of the “good old times” when the white man ruled Zimbabwe, and you could have milk and bread delivered to your doorstep without the fear of it being stolen. It is not uncommon, moreover, for these elders and parents to express the sentiment that under Ian Smith’s rule, Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Africa, and what is necessary for it to succeed at this point therefore, is a white man to rule it once again – “At least our people were taken care of when he was Prime minister”.
What is interesting to me is that these ideals are somewhat reminiscent of the complaints expressed by the Israelites in the Bible when they traveled through the desert for 40 years. Having newly escaped enslavement by the Egyptians with the help of Moses and Aaron, and unable to bear the harsh conditions of the desert on their way to the Promised Land, the Israelites grumbled against Moses and said, “Would that we had died by the LORD’S hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Beloved. Were we so brainwashed and conditioned into accepting this complex of inferiority that perpetuates the belief that ‘White is Right’, to the extent of viewing slavery and the receipt of the sloppy seconds and leftovers of our own inherited riches, as a brighter path than our freedom, though it comes with an added cost of hardship? It is apparent then that the true magnitude of what it means to be free and no longer held captive by extractive colonialist legacies which selfishly served to expand Western economies at the expense of our own is taken for granted.
The economies which we all look up to so much were built out of the resources that came straight from our own lands. To say this is to understand the great potential that lies within the African borders today. I do not, however, disregard the fact that our African leaders have selfishly abused and misused their power to accumulate wealth for themselves, leaving many of their citizens impoverished. But I must state pragmatically that IT IS NOT WHITE RULERSHIP OR AID THAT WILL FIX THE STATE OF THE CONTINENT. The ability to ‘fix’ our economies lies within ourselves, and the booming economies of Botswana and Rwanda, which have not relied extensively upon donations and hand-me-downs from the West, are testament to this.
A phone conversation which took place a couple of months ago with a good friend of mine is what significantly shifted my mindset and made me question several things. This friend asked me, verbatim, “When you pray to God, what do you see?” and I went with the typical response that is, “I don’t see anything, because God is a spirit and not a human being”. But when he further prodded me to be completely honest with myself and think really deeply about the image that would appear behind my closed lids when I whispered the name Jesus – I saw a white man. A white man with long blonde hair, pleading blue eyes, right hand across his chest. Just like all the portraits you would commonly see in many Zimbabwean households and multiple churches within and outside of Zim, and just like all the images that pop up when you google the name “Jesus”.
Mental slavery runs deep. It’s something that has been so well constructed and indoctrinated within our minds that we do not even realize how huge a role it plays in our daily lives and in the subconscious prejudices which we exert onto ourselves. Indeed, our bodies have been running freely since slavery ended in the 1860’s, but our minds have remained monumentally captive for generations and generations.
We have essentially been conditioned into loving, trusting, and defending our oppressors, and shunning those who ask the vital questions about these undying beliefs which we were taught to hold. Bob Marley sang, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds“, and nothing rings truer to this present time. So while a few people might be disappointed that I will not be bringing home with me a Caucasian Canadian gentleman, for me, this is only a natural consequence of the growth which I am experiencing. This isn’t to say that there is anything flawed with those who choose to do so themselves, but it simply is not aligned with the path that I am on.
Everyday I am pushing my mind to think, to question, and to strive to educate myself particularly on African and Black issues. It is part of the necessary process of my redemption, and of the redemption of the generations that will follow me. It is part of my process of consciousness and refusing to kneel down to worship white figures any longer, because they are not the standard which I aspire to. It is part of my will to gain unabridged freedom.
“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if they knew they were slaves.” – Harriet Tubman