Saturday, March 14, 2009


In response to a thread on the subject line mentioned & a circulating email as posted to Wanazuoni:

As the wisdom goes, any generalization is a lie. However, for the purpose of provoking debates, generalization statements do work. There are certain issues from certain cultures that may encourage a particular way of life which is not to be encouraged, certainly. Those issues need to be addressed as they are, on a case by case basis. Once you politicize the subject incorrectly, once you create groups of us and them, then the real issues don't get addressed. This is the sad story of human history and development, politics of power and greed. Some fall prey into this trend unknowingly, like how the posted thread refers in general as "blacks".

My intent with this response, is not to address the core problems such as UDSM or grand corruption and selfish tendencies of "what is in for me" kind of attitude - which I am sure most will agree that all these issues as stated, needs to be addressed effectively without using labels. Certainly, the "me" "me" syndrome as availed by some contributors does indeed require society attention and redress. By the way, you get this in the West BIG time. There are other pressing societal anomalies such as corruption (which exists all over the world in different shapes and forms), laziness or not working to the full capacity, excuses for not delivering, etc - you name it, these are real problems and indeed need to to be addressed, and that is where the effort ought to be put in. Let us put that as a focus for another day's discussion.

Deliberately, my focus here today is on the labeling we so happily embrace consciously and unconsciously.

Straight to the point, I simply ask who are these so called "blacks" with a capital C or lower c? Think of it, why does it have to be an issue on what colour of pigmentation ones skin is? Don't just go on the bandwagon! The world has embraced these kinds of politics for centuries and centuries, in all sorts of cultures, and you know what? It works for mostly the establishments and the rulers. If the so called "blacks" today where the powerful across the globe, and influenced all the literatures and references such that the heaven where supposedly some will say the creator is, is "black" and anything "black" was supposedly so great, and at the same time anything "white" evolved in the historical context to refer as "white" as we today refer anything "black" today, the obligation to the people of the world would still have been the same, to ask the same questions such as what are these labels for? Aren't these labels promoting racism, the very notion we all so proudly say we are fighting against and keen to rid off?

We should refuse to be put into categories and labels. We should not refuse to listen to each other, work together, accept where problems are on issues, agree how to address and then act on agreements, while reviewing on an ongoing basis with view to see significant progress. That is what matters and what needs to be done, but not getting bogged down and subscribing into the old fashioned, silly trap of so called "blacks", "whites" or "yellows".

Unfortunately, most of the time than not, ordinary people like you and I, don't even reflect and ask why do these people want to call me a Black person or a White person? They even want to record it on paper somewhere! Am I really "white" or "black"? What is "black" description associated with? What is "white" description associated with? Oh, I know, it is a reference to the kind of skin colour, just as they would say someone is Short or Tall or has curly hair, but only that they have used "White" or "Black" for some description! But, what for? Ask yourself, why don't they and us discuss about and address those real human development matters without using these labels as "Blacks", what I have also referred to as "the politics of pigmentation"?

The sad truth and reality is, these anomalies are now taken in our normal legalized mainstream discussions, literature, reporting, including planning within public social services etc. In the western countries, allegedly in their efforts to fight injustices and prejudices, with policies such as equal opportunities and diversity, they monitor how many "Blacks" have been employed as an example. I clearly understand the positive intent here (as per what is written on paper) which is to keep tab that they know numbers are working as expected, say 3% of population is people from certain background or culture, perhaps here they refer as "Blacks" so perhaps a company will be well represented as a reflection of the area they are serving, so 3% of workforce can be our aim so they think, and to be seen to be doing just that, the Governments came up with all sorts of codes to make such representations. Ask yourself, is this helping? Are we addressing the real issues or looking for numbers that we can work with in our or their PowerPoint slides and at what cost to the labeled?? Just think about it!

In the 21st century, we need to reject those old and out of date labels, politics and practices that takes us back thousands of years, while paying some lip services of a just society. A just society will and should repel any form or shape of segregating people in a society. People should be encouraged to be valued based on their contribution to the humanity and development of society and not by what "label" they poses! If you listen to various speeches in America in the 60s, listen what word was pretty common in referring to African Americans or any people who have similar features and skin colour with African heritage. That word is now generally accepted as a derogatory word. The labeling of "blacks" belongs to the same place, confined to history.

Our efforts needs to be geared towards fighting against ignorance via education, diseases via health care and poverty via adequate and appropriate food production, combined with education, health care and self reliance, all tangled with taking full responsibilities for self and others. Indeed, as we take this fight, we have a solemnly duty to our internal self, and to others, to resist the easier temptation to jump into the bandwagon of those in the comfort, making you believe you are just another label. You have to remember that, if there were no labels, no oppressors will succeed, as common sense demands when addressing issues of common contentions, all to sit on the table and allow the strength of the argument of the subject matter to see the light of the day. Most than not, these strengths are what the potential oppressors with their agents can't take, can't tolerate, hence they will look for ways to avoid that real and serious discussion to redress the anomalies, the resultant outcome is the retaining of the status quo with labels, as this position in most cases than not, will always be defended by the few most powerful.

There shall come a time, just as we now see how awful and despicable it was: for the racism in America, in South Africa and the Slave Trade across the world, how awful and despicable as it was in those days! Remember, they all had forms of "legal" acceptance in the eyes of the oppressors as we do today with the label "blacks"! People in the mainstream fought back fiercely, and as always with human nature, it had to get to the boiling point, the system started to change, and is still changing. The remnants are very much still in place: the labeling with "blacks" or "whites", the ongoing grand corruption - which to me is neo-slavery, where fellow powerful country men with their agents, enslaves their own weaker majority people through somehow a sophisticated process, and as you can see a case of Tanzania, the people, the oppressed are and will continue fighting back.

Other remnants making a wall mark in Tanzania and perhaps across the majority of our African people are such notions that anything foreign or "white" person involved must be great, these are all sorts of twisted focus and where the informed have a duty to contribute in fighting this utter ignorance. The focus has to be genuine development against ignorance, diseases and poverty, with the "human", a person, right at the very heart of the efforts. A human being, whether they are Short, Tall, Caucasian, Asian, African - they are simply people, human beings, to borrow the famous phrase by the U.S. Declaration of Independence, "endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights" of which the intent is to express the concept that everyone has certain rights or given privileges, simply by virtue of being born into the world. Those inalienable rights or privileges from the creator, as conceived in the Declaration, are "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness! People have huge complexities and challenges with diversities in various cultures and we can navigate through all that without promoting and encouraging finger pointing culture. Most will say I am a dreamer! I agree. Perhaps I am one. We have seen many dreams come true. They started somewhere!

I have made a deliberate choice, not to accept any of the labels such as "black", using any language, including my own mother tongue, my own first language. As these labels is amongst what we have learned since we were born, we have to learn to re-educate ourselves and consciously right the wrongs. It is not easy, never will be. However, my conscious is very clearly decided, that I certainly must always refuse to tick to any of those boxes where they so wish to get numbers of "blacks" in any initiative I participate in. I believe we have a duty to personally reflect on this subject, and inform ourselves and our people, not to get into the labeling game. It doesn't help as a remedy to redress, it does not help the oppressed, it does not help constructively and in a positive way contributing to a greater purpose in humanity.

I am a Tanzanian, an African, and a citizen of the world. Isn't that "description" good enough?

© 2009 TEMU, A.B.S
* Photo on Soma Book Cafe courtesy of
Rehema Chachage


Panther March 16, 2009 at 11:32 AM  

Temu i like the way you articulate it. However, at the end of the day to race will not go away. People like African-American who suffered for years do to race problem,they have no chance lather than proud of their color.

I decided to teach my kid that she is Black, and she need to be proud. When you live in the society where color is the factor of direntiation then you don't have other choices.

Temu, A.B.S April 30, 2009 at 3:22 PM  


Thanks for your comment

I am not advocating for race to go away nor for people not to be proud of who they are or what their colour is. You are who you are, and people are born with their colour/complexion/pigmentation - period.

Of course one has to be very, I insist, very proud and confident of whatever colour they are. I go further, all have to be proud of what their almighty has endowed them with.

In fighting prejudices, we are embracing the very foundations of apartheid when we embrace colour coded politics. The foundations dictates there are "Black" people, there are "White" people. In the true sense of the words, none do exist. These words have been associated with superiority and undermining people of different skin colour from others. Worse enough, these are used in policy making and decision making by various institutions - who will whole heartedly (even perhaps genuinely) confirm they do not embrace or condone any form of prejudices or any form of racism, yet in various surveys they go by the system of colour coding and asking whether you are "black" or "white"!!

My daughter goes to school, and the system teaches her she is "Brown". She meets her Uncles and Aunties, and they refer to all of us as so called "Blacks" - during various conversations and she knows there are so called "White" people. You have to remember this is all done most of the time subconsciously without any intentions to show superiority or degrading or any form of prejudice. It is the system we all operate on, and with.

I teach her she is an African, a Tanzanian living in Scotland. If and when she gets interested in discussing about skin colors and complexion, I simply state as it is and more importantly I also explain it does not matter, and explain what matters. Of course I teach her to be proud of being who she is, as once one looses this aspect of who they are, irrespective of color, one looses ones dignity.

We cannot fight racism by embracing the foundations of racism. Even in the society such as what we have in the world today, where ones skin color factors out significantly, still, we have to take the torch of fighting this anomaly further to our future generation. No doubt people who lived in the 15 and 16 hundreds and in the 17 hundreds, they knew slavery was wrong and they knew that was the order of the day but they never gave up. They fought, and fought, and they fought and that is why most of us today can stand and speak. We stand on shoulders of such giants, and our generation needs to take this further by fighting the very foundations of the system, and color coding is indeed one of them.

This is a fight that must be fought by all human race, just as the other previous fights were done to ensure success. It is not just an African fight or the so referred "blacks" fight. People of all cultures and from all walks of life and from across the world, just as they fought for the apartheid South Africa, the same applies to the foundations of apartheid such as color coding people.

There are people in this world. Not so called "white" or "black" people.

As it was wrong (though then accepted) to refer to people as "negros", so it is today when referring to people as "blacks", no doubt the same should apply for any referred as "whites". These references needs to be confined to the historical past, and our generation has the duty and opportunity to ensure such references and context are confined to a place where our future generation will one day refer to the English dictionary or own language and discover something just as much as “ no longer in technical use”

I have an opportunity to present this item as a topic to a conference http://www.cas.ed.ac.uk/events/annual_conference/2009/annual_international_conference at Edinburgh University, tomorrow morning, May 1st 2009.

I believe this is a debate we need to take and engage further.

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Alex Manonga June 30, 2010 at 2:48 PM  

Thank you Temu!
There is no sin to be colored,the problem is when color is attached to something else.We have learnt from history that softminded human beings attached color to either superiority or inferiority,where white color was thought to be more superior than others,that is a disease that we should avoid handing down to next the generation.We should be proud of what we are,but lets not forget that color is just an acccidental property of a substance.In this case the substance is man devoid of color,metaphysically it might sound inconceivable to think of a man without color,but that is the problem of mind,our minds were made to belive in colors that we can not make distinction between a substance and its accidental properties.My advice is that so long as human beings differ from their finger prints to their personalites as Mwalimu Nyerere claims,let us learn to accept what we! and realize the position of others.

Alex Manonga.

Karibu kwenye ulingo wa kutafakari kuhusu tunapotoka,tulipo,tuendako na namna ambavyo tutafika huko tuendako/Welcome to a platform for reflecting on where we are coming from, where we are, where we are going and how we will get there

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