CITY GIRL: What random check? This is white supremacy at play
A few weeks ago, some colleagues and I were travelling to Monaco via the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Netherlands). In between tired yawns after a long eight-hour flight from Nairobi and the rush to catch our connecting flight to Nice, France, we stopped by the passport control desk.
It was manned by a mean-looking, hefty man with rudimentary command of English and a poorly dyed beard. Our gracious host, also Kenyan, was ahead of us in the queue. My two colleagues and I were a couple of travellers behind. We could see the rotund Dutchman harassing her, asking her all manner of questions.
When our turn came, he asked for the usual requirements; passports, invitation letters and hotel bookings. Then the man, in his poor English, asked us to “step aside” and follow one of his colleagues to a room across the desk. Is there a problem? I inquired.
He assured me there was no problem. It was just a random check. You know, since this is your first time in Europe. Big lie. It was not the first time for any of us.
We followed his colleague, an emaciated young man who asked us to wait outside as he disappeared into an office. He took our passports. And kept us waiting. In the lobby was a family from the Middle East — a father, mother and pre-teen son and a Nigerian.
Random check indeed!
Through the open window, we could see our passports on the table as the officers ate their breakfast, laughing and catching up, ignoring the urgency of our short layover.
One of them saw us watching and pulled down the blinds. Yeah, because we have never seen wazungus eating hard bread and butter.
Finally, an hour later, one of them came and asked us questions. “So where are you going?”
We told him.
“Hmmm, and you say the lady who is hosting you, what’s her name?” We gave him her name and told him she had been cleared.
“You see, I just find it strange that your host would go ahead of you,” he said.
Look, kasee (young man) people travel together all the time and some get to the desk ahead of others, I thought to myself.
Reluctantly, he let us go.
This week, a white (Australian) pilot was captured on video assaulting a female police officer, even grabbing her cane and asking her to do “her (expletive word) job”.
I will call it for what it really is. White supremacy. Here goes my affidavit. That some white folk think they are better than the rest of us black people. That these white folk look at us and see poor, thick-skulled Africans who can’t get anything right.
That some of these white folk view us as beneath them and unworthy. That some of these white folk possess a perturbing level of narcissistic entitlement that makes them think that the world is their footstool and we are their servants.
I have never felt as humiliated as I was at Schiphol. I mean, it is not like I am a beggar back here in Kenya. I am not a jobless, nondescript woman without a career and money of her own. I am not looking for a mzungu man to marry and validate me with foreign citizenship.
In any case, I don’t fit the profile of a terrorist — my eyes are too soft — say my suitors and I am a horrible liar, according to my mother.
That my colleagues and I were stopped for “random” checks baffles me. Random my foot! That was racial profiling and it is a product of deep-seated self-importance that these white folk think they are doing us a favour by allowing us into their territory.
The young immigration officer who was asking stupid questions looked like he could do with a good meal, which I would have gladly offered to swipe my card and pay for. He probably earns half my salary and lives in a shack the size of my balcony. His life is probably as miserable as their weather and his heart colder than the 3 degrees we experienced there.
He perhaps saw our passports and how travelled we are, and could not believe how these poor black folk could afford all that. Chances are he may have to save for a decade to raise enough money for an economy return ticket and a budget holiday to Kenya. But he stands there, nibbling on a genetically modified apple, profiling innocent travellers.
This white supremacy, unfortunately, is fuelled by Kenyans locally. Today, there are restaurants I can walk into but there are seats I am not allowed to sit on because they are “reserved” for wazungu. Because even we black folk have come to believe the lies the wazungus tell us repeatedly. That we are below them, that we should be treated with suspicion and that they deserve better treatment than us.
How many random checks at JKIA single out random wazungus who have come to Kenya on holiday? Imagine the diplomatic nightmare if our immigration officers stopped a CNN crew for “random checks” at JKIA, made them wait an hour as the officers sipped uji and later asked them stupid questions? Can you imagine that headline?
In all this, I am not blind to one simple truth. That the day we learn to love ourselves as Kenyans — devoid of tribalism — is the day we will stand up to these white folk and their random checks and end this white supremacy once and for all.