And since then, every country I’ve lived in. I have been a foreigner. I guess that means I’ve been a foreigner for as long as I can remember. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable, it doesn’t make me anything, and to be honest it has never really negatively affected me.
It is nothing short of an adventure for the most part, I love meeting new people, learning about new cultures and just experiencing Africa as whole.
And then today. Me, working on make up on a local movie shoot in the township (for those who don’t know what this is, Google is your friend) something happened.
There was a small boy (4years) who was quite naughty, running up and down etc and then he tried to climb into a broken cars window and naturally I stopped him because a) tetanus is a thing and b) he’s gonna get dirty and sweaty and cry if he gets hurt.
Anyway, point is I told him off (in English) and stopped him from getting into the car and he wasn’t very happy about it. He turns around and says in Xhosa, “shut up you foreigner ” … Which I only know because the Cast Coordinator next to me was shocked and finally told me what he said.
And in that moment I felt like I didn’t belong, that I was so different that even a 4 year old child could tell that I didn’t belong. I felt displaced, and just simply put hurt. I had to pull myself back from those feelings.
But this is not what I’m writing about. I’m writing about the hundreds of other people I have met who have made me feel at home. The men and women who have taught me parts of their language and culture and in return wanted to learn more about mine, the times someone wouldn’t speak to their friend in their mother tongue but rather in English because they knew I couldn’t understand. The general good feeling you get when you are around a diverse group of people who are learning and exchanging ideas about our continent , or even better a random story that makes us forget our differences all together.
Xenophobia, like racism is a result of ignorance, and irrational baseless hate. We were all placed on this world for a purpose, our forefathers fought together to achieve independence, the notion of Umoja spans from the shores of Dar es salaam to the shores of Cape Town and beyond.
It makes me extremely sad that a 4 year old has learned how to discriminate, but in the same breath it gives me hope to know that there are other people in his community (besides his parents -__-) who will teach him different and teach him the concept of togetherness. We need to spread this love and knowledge like wildfire because Africans shouldn’t kill Africans, the same way humans shouldn’t kill humans. Everyone’s life and story matters.
This is obviously my individual experience, there are many people who’s lives are threatened daily because they come from a different country. In an effort to not sugar coat the reality, I’m just reminding us the sometimes deadly result of such a wrong way of thinking.