So the lady who writes African Expat Wives club was fretting over negative comments left on her very insightful blog. I urge you to check out the story over there. One of the more telling posts includes the lines; “Living in East Africa today is not unlike a British 1950’s middle class existence for many expatriates”. and “Moving to Africa fast tracked my husband and I from renting a tiny flat in London to living comfortably in a three bedroom house with a four wheel drive, sizeable garden, a dog and reliable house help within one year” just to give you a taste.
Anyway, I posted a comment on her blog that I wanted to share. This is what I said:
The thing is, your blog reminds us Kenyans of how far we have to go before we eliminate the disparities in wealth and the racial segregation that those disparities manifest in Kenya.
Do I think you’re racist? No. But it shouldn’t matter. You should still keep blogging.
I do get put off by how unaware you seem of the ways that your lifestyle is a reflection of the problems that Kenyans have been trying to get over since the first White man landed on our soil (heck, we weren’t even Kenyan then, but how we all became Kenyans is a long story that I hope they taught in British schools).
I’m idealistic and I’d like to think that for all the lavish lifestyles that expats enjoy in Kenya they have a keen awareness of their privileged location in an exploitative international economic and political system. Your blog reminds us Kenyangs that you (expats) are all not driven by that awareness and few of you have a deep desire to subvert the system that has you at the top of the heap.
Question is; what should my reaction be? To post abusive comments on your blog? NO, thats just petty and mean.
My reaction needs to be to learn as much about, and understand your perspective so that when its time to turn the heap in favour of equitable distribution, I am able to treat you in a manner that respects your dignity.
Kenyans committed to change and social equity can either demonize expats for their lavishness, or be committed to every human being’s dignity; both the expat and her housegirl. That is a much more difficult and complicated task.
So blog on. No insults from me here. Dissapointment? Yes.
But if some day you decide to live for more than being at the top of the heap, meander on over to my blog or drop me an email and I can share some ideas for things you can do to help that will not overwhelm your delicate constitution. (this is in response to her understandable claim about down and dirty work in the slums that, “we are not all cut out for that kind of work”)
And I don’t say any of this meanly. Its just that I firmly believe that privilege brings with it responsibility to pay it forward and to undermine the very system that put you on top at the expense of others. I should know, I’m a Kenyan living most often in the U.S. but also in Kenya for parts of the year.
Be well and blog on!