Racist Regrets

Racist Regrets

I hope that BLM is a manifestation of increasing liberties but the rage of Portland and Kenosha reminds me almost exactly of what I had to manage from my employees in East Africa.

Why do some think racism is diminishing in America?

For nearly a half century I worked with Kenyans and Tanzanians in all aspects of tourism, from the individuals working at all levels in a safari camp to those who marketed internationally at global trade fairs.

Managing tribalism was a paramount responsibility. It was necessary with my clerks, because our safaris traveled to greatly different parts of East Africa, staying at lodges located in a variety of tribal areas. I needed not only a good deal but a good room when my groups arrived.

But it was even more my responsibility with the guys who traveled with me as driver/guides or ran my camps.

Kikuyu was the preeminent tribe. Britain tried very hard at independence to mandate a non-tribal government, so at independence the president was Kikuyu, the vice-president was Luo and the Secretary of State was Luhya. Within one year the Secretary of State had been murdered and the vice-president was in jail.

(In order to appease Kenya’s patrons in the West, eventually a vice-president was appointed from a non-Kikuyu tribe, the very small and not politically important Tugen.)

My office manager was Kikuyu. My transport manager was Kikuyu. The four people working under the office manager were Kikuyu. When I first got business going well all the driver/guides working under the transport manager were Kikuyu. If we needed extra driver/guides and more vehicles for large groups, my transport manager always hired Kikuyu.

Because the Kikuyu president had become overtly dictatorial and ruthless with dissent an all-Kikuyu company was a pretty safe business bet. But that was a long way from being moral.

Just as my business was maturing, the Kenyan Kikuyu president, Jomo Kenyatta, died. Many people predicted rage would ravage the country on his death, venting the oppression that more than two-thirds of the country that wasn’t Kikuyu had endured since independence.

Rage didn’t occur. Among the important reasons was that Jimmy Carter was U.S. president and James Callaghan was prime minister of Britain. These two progressives let Kenya be known that if the constitution weren’t followed, mandating that the vice president become president if the president dies, that Kenya’s purse strings would be snipped off.

It took Daniel arap Moi nearly a decade to consolidate his own dictatorship, and on the way he became something of a surf to the Kikuyu.

And on the way I grew increasingly uncomfortable with an all-Kikuyu company. This came to a head when my transport manager’s son, a senior just graduating from university, told his father that he was marrying a non-Kikuyu. He was promptly exiled out of the country and told not to return until he changed his ways.

If something were good, it was because it was controlled by a Kikuyu. If something were bad, it was because a non-Kikuyu did it. My new second generationers would innocently stop at a gas station not owned by a Kikuyu to fill up, and the first generationers would scream at them.

Reasoning wasn’t possible. Tribalism – racism blocks thought. I couldn’t defend the poor kid by pointing out, “Look guys, it’s ten shillings less a liter!” Because the Kikuyus would retort: “They water down the gas. I can tell by the sputtering.” Or: “The sign is a lie. I’ve got receipts to prove it.”

So while there was constant argument, it never occurred in a single universe of shared reality.

Finally I mandated a non-Kikuyu driver/guide. Compromise was necessary, so he came from the same tribe as the unusually non-Kikuyu president. Clients loved him, just as they loved all the driver/guides. Everybody seemed to get along … in public.

But often that poor single non-Kikuyu guy was so discriminated against at every level: quality of room, food, perhaps even when dividing tips. Every once in a while he blew up uncontrollably. In fact, his rage was greater than I ever noticed from the Kikuyu. Makes sense, though. He was massively outnumbered.

Rage is the final level of a racist argument. The syllogistic infrastructure is itself logical, but evidence can be completely made up. So you get to a point where you either believe the evidence or denounce it as lies. At that point there’s no mediation. You choose to either believe or not. Liberty, free will, is conceived as the right to believe something no matter what, even if it’s false.

The 17-year old trusted what he read on Facebook. It was lies. BLM has never been armed. Doesn’t matter. No amount of evidence – of truth – would have changed the outcome. Iowa is a world hot spot for the virus. Iowans believed their governor: things were getting better. They weren’t. No amount of evidence – of truth – would have changed the outcome.

Focus on that 17-year old and Governor Reynolds the way I focused on my employees. I failed. What would you do?