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Nelson Mandela was also discriminated by his professor when at the University studying law but that did not kill his dreams. [Courtesy]
The Internet is awash with stories, some of which may not be true. In one, the story is told of Nelson Mandela when he was a student of law at the university. Mr Peters, a white professor, had a strong dislike for him. While having lunch at the dining room one day, Mr Peters was alone at the table when Mandela came along with his tray and sat next to the professor.

Disgusted, the professor said, “Mr Mandela, you do not understand, a pig and a bird do not sit together to eat”. Unshaken, Mandela took a good look at the professor then calmly replied, “You do not worry professor. I’ll fly away,” at which he went and sat at another table. Mr Peters, now red with rage, decided he would revisit.

The next day in class he posed a question, “Mr Mandela, if you were walking down the street and found a package, and within was a bag of wisdom and another bag with money, which one would you take?” Without hesitating, Mandela responded, “The one with the money, of course.” Mr Peters, smiling sarcastically said, “Unlike you, I would take the wisdom bag.” Mandela shrugged and responded, “I guess, each one takes that which he doesn’t have.” Mr Peters, seething with fury, was by this time about to throw a fit.

So great was Mr Peters’ anger that one day after an exam, he wrote on Mandela’s paper the word “IDIOT” and gave it to the future freedom struggle icon.

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Mandela took the exam sheet and sat down at his desk trying very hard to remain calm while he contemplated his next move. A few minutes later, Mandela got up, walked up to the professor and told him in a dignified polite tone, “Mr Peters, you signed your name on the sheet, but forgot to give me my grade.”

Whether true or not, here is a perfect illustration of how best to deal with prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice is without doubt one of the ugliest traits of the human nature.

Sadly, it runs deep inside the veins of every one of us. If love and embrace are our heritage from the image of God bequeathed at creation, pride and jealousy are our portion bestowed by Lucifer at the Fall.

Previously a highly esteemed lead worshiper in the courts of heaven, Lucifer’s pride and jealousy led him into an attempted coup that resulted in his ouster from heaven. Defeated, the Devil brought his tricks to the Garden, easily transplanting his evil traits into Adam and Eve.

Soon their relationship moved from “bone of my bones” to “this woman”, as Adam distanced himself from his “idiot” wife. Their big son Cain likewise considered himself too important to play second fiddle at the altar of God. He arose and killed his “pig” brother Abel. Thus, the seed of jealous pride was sown.

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Three times I have enjoyed rides on the Madaraka Express. Observable have been subtle nuances of a racial divide between the Chinese and Kenyan staff. But then, such prejudices are so common in our land that these observations had not aroused my outrage – not until Sunday Standard lifted the lid on just how pervasive it apparently is.

We live in a nation where some Asian (Indian) employers treat their workers like slaves and yet nothing is done. Some do not even allow workers to go to the toilet, except at lunch breaks. If they must, then the time taken is deducted from their pay.

Likewise, there are individuals in this nation who do not believe that any tribe other their own can hold certain levels of public or private offices. Thus, they fill such positions with their own.

The sad reality is that the curse of prejudice has inadvertently divided the world into a caste system, with the blacks, and especially Africans presumed to be at the bottom of the tier. That is why black Africans are consistently mistreated in the international scene, irrespective of whether they are presidents at the UN or house servants in the Middle East.

This discriminative behaviour will not end unless and until the black African changes his or her own attitude towards self. Unless and until we stop behaving like pigs and idiots, we have no reason to expect others to treat us otherwise.

Over the years, men like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela have shown that anger and rebellion does not rid the racial or tribal bigots of their folly. Instead, it is a high sense of dignity, driven by a personal and at times collective grit that will keep these sons of Lucifer at bay.

- The writer is the Presiding Bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]

Nelson Mandela discrimination
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