Journal entry from September 12, 2016:
I collapsed in my bed mediating on Kendricks Lamar’s single “we gon be alright” to comfort me as I processed the days events.
Earlier today I ventured off into my shopping town to check out the local library. Maybe there I could find some decent wifi and upload new pictures on my blog.
After a hour of attempting to update my blog but having no luck, I decided it was time to leave.
I crossed towards the room and headed to the door with my backpack in hand, when one of the guys behind the counter muttered some words in sisswati I couldn’t quite make out.
A little apprehensive I told him to please repeat what he said in English.
With disdain in his voice he asked me are you too good for the local language? Do you want to be white?
Laughter erupted from the others behind the desk.
No not at all Babe I’m an American volunteer and I just moved–Interrupted, he said, please give me your bag umlungu (white person).
My heart beat increased. Pressure mounted as I handed him my bag.
There’s no way you’re an American. Next time speak sisswati this is Swaziland!
Cringing and fighting back tears I grabbed my backpack and left the building.
The damage was done.
I was rejected because I did not fit his image of an American. I was ridiculed because I was at a low level in my sisswati.
I left a teachable moment alone because I was too numb to speak.
There are times in Swaziland I’ve been treated as a second class citizen or felt “unqualified” because I’m not a White American. Some Swazi’s don’t understand the concept that Black people are in America. They associate wealth, foreign aid, and America to only “white.” To be honest it can be mentally draining to explain my blackness and what diversity looks like in America.
My community is hosting a volunteer for the first time. I’m grateful, from day one I was embraced. People vocalize their curiosity when they meet me for the first time, hear my accent, and wonder where I come from. The color of my skin allows me to blend in and I truly love it!
The sad truth is some people don’t get it and will continue with their microaggressions, subtle racism, and ignorance but I’ve come to realize some people’s perceptions/behaviors wont change. I can’t focus on the things I can’t control. I’ll continue to redirect my energy to things positive and build myself up.