The other day we were at the mall doing a transaction, and Brittany decided to leave and go ahead with some shopping while I finished up. Right before she left, an Indian man walked into the room we were in. A couple of minutes later, I had just met an Indian man who is part of a black nationalist movement and hates white people.
Look, maybe I am being paranoid. But just the amount of hate, anger and disdain that is seen everywhere in the world right now is not only toxic, but it is dangerous. The past year on its own has been nothing but an emotional ride for many of us on the fringes of faith, politics and culture. A lot of people I see and talk to feel like this 2018 has been too long, and it really is more because of some of the things that people are going through on their various corners of the world.
This dude I met who is part of a black nationalist group and blatantly hates white people is a little drop in the ocean to the possibly billions of people who have all kinds of reasons to hate and loath certain peoples' groups. It is a reality that we continue to see as the world gets radicalised both on the left and on the right. His hate, he told me, stems from how some white people here in South Africa have treated him, and I kid you not, this stranger went on to tell me that if a war broke out (God forbid), I would see him on the frontlines killing as many of the people he hates as he possibly can. He was a little overwhelming and outright blunt to say the least.
After this whole crude conversation, he had seen that I was with Brittany and he asked, "Is that your girlfriend?" I said, "No, that's my wife, sir." And he said, "Well, that is great. I am glad. You see, I do not see colour. We are all human beings."
Wait, what? I was confused. And at that very moment I also had an epiphany of how no matter how much darkness there is, it can only be overcome by light. Darkness cannot stand light. And there is an apparent contradiction in many people's hearts, I would argue, that on one end they hate this group of people, but when faced with a truly human, beautiful and love-filled situation that involves those of the people group they hate, their hearts get tender for a moment and they slip out of their hate and enter another reality.
See, I understand where men like this dude are coming from. Hate is not always baseless. There are legitimate reasons why people find themselves like this, and especially groups that have been historically marginalised or oppressed in many ways. We have a saying in Zimbabwe which basically says that the axe forgets, but the tree doesn't. Its used mainly to highlight the reality that those who have been sinned against usually live with the scars they got while those who sin against others easily forget even after the apologies and after the fact. It is not possible, as some would suggest, for all people of colour who have grown up all their lives hearing stories of the dehumanisation of their forefathers to "just forget". And I would go on to suggest that it is entirely insensitive for anyone to even suggest that. Trauma of all kinds, I have learnt lately, can be actually passed down in so many ways if it has not been dealt with.
This man, being Indian, has some specific trauma which he has clearly not started dealing with. Note that I am using present continual tense because I think it's an ongoing wrestle and struggle for a lot of people wrestling with racial trauma. I cannot relate to his experience at all. All I really have is story after story after story after story of the liberation war shared by my parents and grand-parents. I remember vividly before he died, my grandfather (my mom's dad) sharing war stories with me as he worked on his wood. He never wanted to make me hate anyone but when he said "they attacked our village", "they" were white Rhodesians. "White people" quickly became a group that I didn't particularly understand, yet alone, like. I mean, I was not even exposed to any of them socially to actually even "like them".
My young mind filled with stories of how my mom's family had to be displaced and move to another village. Of bullets and bombs flying over them. Of my dad feeling scared as a young man in his own house because at anytime they could come "looking for the terrorist". No one told these stories so we would hate white British people - it is just a part of our story, and it breeds a resentment and bitterness that one can never fully explain. Add a lot of Chinx Chingaira music, the explicit anti-white sentiment that was on the air-waves in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, and you will have me there as a young dude filled with some rage and anger at a group of people.
My point is this: I can see where this dude's hate, and the hate of other people can come from. It can be genuine experiences. But the good news is we can process our anger and rage and channel it towards something really good and positive. When I grew older and saw how much divided my city was - white people stay on one side and never hang out with black people, and black people stay on one side and never hang out with white people, I pretty much thought we were helpless. There was no way this can be fixed. And maybe there is no way it can fully be fixed on this side of eternity, but there is work that can be done in our hearts that can make our livelihood meaningful.
It wasn't until 1998 that we had two young white women stay with us for a period of time. Their names were Sarah and Casey and they were from the USA. That was my first experience of "white people". They were really really really nice. They enjoyed eating what we ate and I didn't think of us "less" and I mentally ticked off my box of thinking white people were snobbish. They genuinely enjoyed my parents' (all the aunties and uncles) company and were a part of the family. That really helped me humanise these "others" that I did not particularly understand.
But the real heart change came years when my understanding of the gospel coincided with meaningful relationships built across the racial divide. I often wonder what my great-grandfather, the OG Chimani himself - who disappeared from his hospital bed and was never seen - would say today if he knew I was married to a white woman? I think he would be shocked, yet I think in his humanity he would celebrate the humanity and beauty of love. By God's grace I feel like I am still processing my own racial identity, and seeking to truly understand and love brothers and sisters who are not negroid by species. Its a process. And unless we process all our biases, anger and misgivings we will be like the angry stranger I met today who is filled with hate for others.
This is the reason why I totally love listening to, conversing and processing stuff with my Ndebele brothers who have their history marred with state sponsored violence that changed the trajectory of their lives forever. I do not know how it feels like to have 20 000 people of your own tribe just killed at the command of the state. Gosh, all I know it is traumatic and will cause long-term trauma for generations to come as it is all processed. I understand the anger, and even the hate some of them have towards Shona people who have been largely complicit in the face of their brutalisation. I understand. It is hard. But we can all step forward and talk, and process all the unsaid things and unprocessed anger.
Maybe our Facebook timelines would be filled with, yes, debates, but debates that are fuelled by love.
Maybe conversations on our dinner tables would not be about how "so-and-so" is such and such, and will be more filled with seeking, listening and processing things humbly.
We see true love demonstrated towards enemies by Jesus on the cross. Oh that we can see a love such as this in our day and age today.
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love