Why whites transfer their shame to blacksBy WILLIAM OCHIENG | Tuesday, July 19 2011 at 10:50
It thoroughly embarrassed the French that their man at the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, had to relinquish his post after it was claimed he raped an African hotel attendant in New York on May 14.
To assuage their honour and guilt, the French campaigned night and day to have a compatriot to replace Strauss-Khan, just to convince the international community that the man’s scandalous behaviour was not typical of the French.
In this assuagement, the French were not alone. The white international class now want to persuade the world, particularly “the lesser races,” that the black maid from Guinea who accused the ex-IMF chief of sexual assault is in fact a prostitute, who trades sex for money and favours.
But the maid has correctly filed a libel lawsuit against the New York Post, which reported that she is a prostitute.
The woman’s lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, wants the paper to substantiate its claim. In fact, it is Strauss-Kahn who has cases filed by French women who claim he raped them.
The history of white leaders courting relationships with black women goes way back to ancient times, when Greek potentates sought relations with Egyptian women.
Indeed, America’s founding fathers, including George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, fathered children with black women.
But always the frailties of these liaisons were blamed on the women. My interest, as a historian, in this issue is what you would call “the black image in the white mind.”
Research on this idea has not been done in Kenya, but there are a few interesting studies on this topic in South Africa and in the United States.
Sometimes I ask myself: Why do the marriages of so many white tourists who come to the South Coast, or to Malindi, break up after brief interactions with black Kenyan males and females?
How do we handle, or explain, group prejudices and group attractions?
Recent scholarship suggests that the earliest phase of black-white relations, in Africa and overseas, was characterised by relative openness and stress on culture and class, rather than on race and colour.
But during the long period of capitalist growth, slave trade and colonialism, negative responses were built and advertised to give the whites an upper hand over blacks.
The motive was competition for resources and wealth. Over the years, the prejudice became endemic and racist.
The free rich blacks in the US often quarrelled with whites, sued them, and even fornicated with them, without arousing a perceptible white supremacist reaction.
But the whites needed wealth, and labour, and dependence on the blacks to provide plantation and other lowly services, estranged their relationship.
You simply cannot enslave or colonise people for centuries without internalising the idea that they are different and inferior.
The whites proceeded to build segregationist demarcations to keep them away from the blacks, but most white folk believe that whatever differences exist between them and the blacks, both of them have the same human and moral capacity.
Increasingly the whites and blacks are coming full circle, witnessed by increasing inter-marriage and the recent election of Barack Obama as the US president.
But often, it is infuriating to watch blatant racist perfidies as what happened between the black maid and Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
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