NO AFRICANS ALLOWED: Casual Racism at a Hindu Temple and the Complacency of Africans on Our Own Lands
About a week ago, on International Yoga Day and the day of the Summer/Winter Solstice, I was subjected to some almighty f*#kshit in these streets.
I went to a Hindu Temple I had been meaning to visit for a while to see their permanent cultural exhibit and bookstore (and see the fantastic architecture up close) and was swiftly informed by the guard at the gate that "they don't allow Africans inside". My favorite part of that exchange was when he added "unless perhaps you were accompanied by an Indian or a white person".
My second favorite part of this whole story is that it happened in Nairobi, Kenya (aka my home town and country) in this year of our lord 2018.
Real-time coverage on my instagram (@frameambition) and twitter (@julie_olum)
Shock, outrage, etc. etc. I went through all the emotions, left quietly and called the phone numbers available online for some answers but to no avail. Got home, did the social media thing and it reached friends of friends who are members of this community. A real one shoots a swift, disgusted e-mail telling the situation and we wait for a response.
The next day begins with a phone call from a committee member. He sounds shocked and it seems like this is being taken seriously, as all reports from insiders are that they never in their lives have heard of any such policy - and it of course goes against all teachings of the religion. I'm informed a meeting with the security company has been planned for that very day.
A call back a few hours later and the verdict is....
The guards were new on the job. They even stopped an Indian man who was a member of the community from trying to cross through using the two gates instead of going around on the public road. There was a loiterer recently. (None of which has anything to do with me and being told 'no blacks allowed' but I'll wait).
Oh, but you're more than welcome to come over for a guided tour and a meal, just call a couple of days before.
Yup, at this stage that's the explanation I've been given, which is not an explanation at all.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
I'm really glad it's happened though, and that it happened to me. As a friend commented when I shared the experience on Facebook - she could believe that it happened before even me because 'Kenyans don't know how to be angry'. There is such a deep culture here (and I'm sure in several other countries/communities) of letting things continue in a certain way, even when they're wrong and damaging. This 'it's just the way things are' attitude is so dangerous and holds an entire people back in so many ways.
There needs to be a balance between not going where you're not wanted and recognizing your freedom to do and go where you please, especially in your own home. And it really has been disheartening hearing from people (even a few South Asians themselves) that this really doesn't surprise them.
So at this time I'm very much in the mind that I have no intention of setting foot in this mandir (temple), invitation or not, until I have assurance that 2 months or 2 years from now another black person won't be subject to this backwards nonsense when they're trying to get their culture on.
So I will get in touch once again and see if someone somewhere is ready to give me the real answers I'm looking for (i.e. was this a real instruction given to the guard by his superiors or did he actually make it up because he, a black Kenyan himself, is a self-hating coon pandering to anyone of a lighter skin tone than his, even if it means belittling other black people. But the latter is a whole conversation for another day.)
It could honestly go either way. So we'll see.
Kenyans and other black people in/who have been to Kenya: has anything like this happened to you? Anything ring a bell?
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