By Lady Dorcas S
I saw an exchange on a wall between a man with a Luo-sounding name and a woman with a Kikuyu-sounding name that got me thinking.
Are Kenyans that divided or does the anonymity of the internet allow some of us to play out our innermost darkness and secrets; our hatred of those who are not like us and/or do not subscribe to different views than we do?
The thought then deigned into the even more terrifying visuals of what happens when the vitriol and hatred spewed on the internet come face-to-face – in person – because it does, inevitably.
In this exchange, a seemingly rational and well-presented woman went on a rant (“runt” in her parlance) that took, as bible, the worst stereotypes of Luo men and men from western Kenya in general.
The woman went on to rant about “O” folks as being “the most misogynistic and chauvinistic men in Kenya” claiming that “she had never been put down by other men “even when they deeply disagreed – the way she’d been put down by Luo men.” Obviously that is her world view that I’d have to respect but to use HER data point to define all one-million-plus Luo men – scattered all over the world – is the very definition of bigotry and stereotyping that Africans accuse Europeans of perpetrating; that African-Americans accuse white Americans of.
Anyway, the woman’s tirade went on over a 3-day period with the instigator, the man with a Luo-sounding name, egging on the woman with one or two liners, quips if you ask me, which she then responded to, promptly, with long-winded outbursts complete with tribal-laced invectives.
It was both an interesting and sad but riveting exchange that kept me hooked.
As someone loved, adored and respected by a full-fledged Luo man albeit one who has spent his entire adult life stateside, I followed the exchange out of (morbid?) curiosity but also true to a line in a favorite poem “Desiderata”. The line cautions one to “listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story…..”.
Between Max Erhmann’s poem and the lady’s tirade, I remembered a line in the book “WUODHA: My Journey from Kenya to these United States” where the writer asks some pointed if somewhat discomforting questions:
Did/do Luos cut their coat according to the size of their clothe i.e. live within their means and refuse to partake in the eating of Kenyatta Pere’s Kenya or were/are they like Obama Sr. imbued with “personal failings…..including polygamy that prevent/ed them from realizing the success of those close to Jomo…..?” (The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father – Sally Jacobs)
This last thought was prompted by a comment I have heard repeatedly made and repeated by the ranting woman:
That Luos tend to “highly educated and ‘degreed’ but live in rentals while driving fancy cars”.
The community of Jaramogi Odinga, Tom Mboya, Obama Sr. & Jr, Raila Odinga and Lupita Nyongo also bequeathed Kenya democratic space that resulted in promulgation of a Constitution; one that delineates the three branches of government – Executive, Legislature and Judiciary – all independent and co-equal in gravitas and heft.
Kenya’s Supreme Court in turn ruled that the country’s just-concluded presidential election was “null and void; full of irregularities and illegalities”. The ruling was heard around the world – literally and figuratively. It also put a positive spotlight on Kenya given its recent past of post-election violence and world-class official corruption.
Given the country’s current morass and the danger the morass portends, one wonders where Kenya would be had Jaramogi opted to lead Kenya, this instead of ceding the mantle to Kenyatta Pere – because in my opinion, tis at that very moment when the rain started “beating” the rest of the country.
All told, I could have injected myself into the exchange and countered the woman by defaulting to the Churchill Live banality of (like) ethnic typecasting (of her ethnicity) dressed up as “jokes” or “comedy” but that would have been too easy – kinda like the on-going pissing (bae calls it the Phallic Battle of the Year) contest between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
In keeping with Ramon Bautista’s encouragement that “the only stupid question is the one never asked”, I decided instead to open the topic up for discussion – because we all are, after all, children of the same universe and neither one of us is more or less than the other.
We also each have a right to be here – in God’s earth – be it Kenya or America.