This post has nothing to do with sex but it gives me some new thoughts of thinking about being a lekgowa (a white person).
I wrote about it in the past.
I made different experiences of being seen as a white woman and as being seen as a white person in general. The former was very much related to questions of sex and gender, the latter one rather seems to be the question of some “post-colonial” influence. This refers also to the general issue of being black and being white. The post: “I don’t want to be a lekgowa, but damn I am” strechted this out quite well. Everywhere, I hear that everybody thinks white people are rich and superior. If I see some white people in Botswana I can understand this image of the makgowa. They drive big cars and stay in places like Phakalane. Additionally, media feeds this image as well. But the truth is always more complex.
Sure, I made it to travel all the way from Germany to Botswana, but who knows that I am funded by my university? Otherwise I would not be able to do my research. Beyond that, I have two side jobs to sustain for myself and my son. I wouldn’t call this rich at all. So, what I tried to practice the last six years since I travel to Botswana was to give another impression of a lekgowa. I feel bad about the fact that I obviously failed. I love this place, the culture and the people so much, but what happened to me within the last month challenges me.
I was robbed out twice!
The first time it happend in Gabs at a place where I shouldn’t have been but the second time it happend in my house, my home. When I discovered that I was like: What the hell is going on here? Why me, again?
Always, I felt like people knowing me gives me protection but obviously, it didn’t work out. At some point, I also got sarcastic and thought about if I should put a plate on my fence:
Lekgowa Tuck Shop
I am really upset about that! But besides this sarcasm there are other feelings who bothers me a lot and which I try to sort out:
I am scared.
I am angry.
I am pissed of.
I am shocked.
I am clueless.
Maybe I shouldn’t feel in any way like that because some people at the police station said about me being robbed out: “What is so special about this case?”.
Actually, this sentence gave me a lot to think. What is so special about this case? There is only one answer for me:
I am a white person.
And this thought brought me to another thought: the concept of botho.
Botho, is one of the cornerstones of Batswana culture and there is this saying:
Motho ke motho ka batho
Which means something like: I am because you are.
Botho is also included in the Vision 2016, an agenda build up by the government of Botswana to envision a bright socio-economical and political future for Botswana. There it is said:
“Botho defines a process for earning respect by first giving it, and to gain empowerment by empowering others. It encourages people to applaud rather than resent those who succeed. It disapproves of anti-social, disgraceful, inhuman and criminal behaviour, and encourages social justice for all. It means above all things to base your thoughts, actions and expectations for human interaction on the principles of love, respect and empathy”.
I perceive botho as a code of conduct.
Actually, it’s a wonderful principle. But how is it implemented in Batswana culture? Everywhere, there is the rumor of loss of culture. (See for example, the outcry of that Modipane sex tape).
Obviously, what happened to me is no botho at all. But, this is what happens all around the world: young people yearning for a better life. That doesn’t mean that I justify such violent acts but, to some extent, I think this is the wrong place to start the blame.
But, I also didn’t feel botho in how some of the police officer treated me and this case. This is shown by the above mentioned sentence: “What is so special about this case?” but went on, when I had to go to the house of a suspect to search for my missing items. They wanted me to search for it. As the items couldn’t be found at this place we went to the girlfriends place. This girl seemed like hit by surprise to find us at her place and the police men forced me to search for my things in her bedroom. I tried to speak to this police men and tell them that I think it isn’t right that I should do that. One of them said: “Since this is a lady’s bedroom and you are a lady, too, you should touch her things, not us.”
I felt really akward to sift through her clothes and belongings to hunt for my missing items.
Is this botho?
In the end I felt like this will strike back: perpetuating the picture of makgowa! It sketches out a picture of myself which I am not at all: Mourning about material things. Of course, it is painful to loose things who are my own. Things, I worked for to afford them. But this is not the point.
The point is how people treat people.
I don’t want to be treated in a different way. I only want to be treated with respect because that is how I interact with people I meet. And after all, I am just a human being as everybody else on this planet. Not worse. Not better.
I don’t want to be a lekgowa, but sadly: I am!