Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rwanda and race relations....

I made mention of the Rwandan genocide during my last visit here and there has been a focus on healing and repairing relationships within this country over the past years. That was a horrid time in Rwanda's history and everyone has at least one member of his or her family that is maimed or who died at the hands of these butchers. The genocide was a black on black, ethnic cleansing and very unlike our own history of racial hatred. From my experiences here, the black on white relationships APPEAR to be amicable. But, I felt my whiteness and my culture this morning, deeply and quickly, when I saw, "NIGGA" across the top front of a mini-bus in letters about a foot high. My first thought was, "OMG does that mean what it sounds like?"

I thought about it for a moment, and asked two of the men I work with here what that word meant in Kinyarwanda, their local language, saying the word carefully. Both laughed and said, "niggah, like you use." We talked about it a bit and they indicated that they were offended by the word painted on the bus but said it is used widely here but only between good friends. Both said I could NOT say that. NO problem. I wouldn't!

Now, if it is that bad, and not publically used, how can one paint it in letters a foot high across the front of a vehicle? They thought that I would ask that rather funny. You see, Rwandans think we Americans have "freedom of speech." Consider what the impact of something like that written on a bus in a capitol city in the United States and the ramifications. Wouldn't that cause a riot? HMMMMM????

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