Kenyan whiteness is righteous rightness. Hyper-corrective toward non-whites, hyper-aware of its privileged status, hyper-willing to exercise its privilege and whip the natives into place.
A blustering white man yelled obscenities at my cab guy. When I subsequently confronted the blusterer—it’s that kind of day—he insisted: “he broke the law,” and repeated several times, “I’m not listening.” This in the banking hall of the Barclays Premier at Westgate—I don’t bank there, but I followed him inside to stage this confrontation.
“I’m not listening.”
It’s a curiously infantile statement coming from a middle-aged man—I place him in his mid-to-late 50s. Given this morning’s post on listening, I was struck by the phrase.
I try not to write when I am upset—irritation is a different thing. And, certainly, I try not to write when I am shaking with rage—at a whiteness that non-white Kenyans have allowed, even encouraged, to flourish; at a whiteness that need never question its rightness; at a whiteness that believes it is appropriate to belittle and demean non-white Kenyans, acting as though it need not take responsibility for its actions.
“I am not listening.”
What is it to insist on not listening as a foundation for Kenyan whiteness? How does Kenyan whiteness become a practice of not listening to non-whites? How might it be understood as an insistence on not listening?
Foundation. Practice. Insistence.
It is, perhaps, too simple to say that Kenya remains deeply segregated—class provides some opportunities for interaction, but not enough to matter. An inherited colonial whiteness has been buttressed by a multi-national and NGO whiteness. I use the singular, perhaps wrongly, to suggest that whiteness has clustered or, to use a metaphor I adore, agglutinated into a one-ness anchored by its relationship to non-whiteness.
Colonial Kenyan descendants, Europeans, North Americans, and Southern Africans clump together into something insular that can be incredibly ugly.
I am angry. Consequently, I am overstating my case. I know this. Yet, the case I am making about contemporary Kenyan whiteness is rarely made in public because money is at stake; rarely made consistently, allowing Kenyan newspapers to continue publishing racist screeds about “African inferiority”; rarely made into a cause for action because, again, money is at stake.
The too-swift overlapping transitions from majority white colonial governance to majority white tourism to majority white multi-national and NGO administrators have consolidated into something that cannot be critiqued. Something that simply does not listen.
Words may have replaced whips and, with the exception of Delamere’s descendants, whites in Kenya no longer shoot non-white Kenyans for sport. But it feels as though a whole bunch of white folk are running around, pointing guns at non-whites, and screaming, “BANG, BANG! You’re DEAD!”