America was in shock yet again last Tuesday as a white 18-year-old teenager went on a mass shooting spree in Buffalo, New York. Ten African Americans died in the shooting that clearly targeted blacks. To be honest, I wondered what levels of hatred must have been planted in the mind of this young man to drive him, at such a tender age, to raze down innocent human beings.
A visibly angry President Joe Biden identified it as white supremacy that had become “a poison running through our body politic, and it’s been allowed to fester right in front of our eyes.” Apparently, there is a replacement conspiracy theory that has been spreading from the fringes of American society into mainstream media. The bizarre theory apparently claims there is a plot to replace the white population with non-white immigrants – which unless checked could transform the face of America.
Interestingly, this is not a new phenomenon. Back in the 1980s, while a student in the USA, I recall reading a Time Magazine cover story headlined, “The Browning of America.” The story discussed how the demographics of the United States were changing, with the black and Latino populations on the increase, while the whites drifted towards a decline. Several implications were adduced.
In more recent times, the browning of America has taken a more political undertone. The Democrats are believed to be benefiting from this situation, while the Republicans have witnessed a shrinking share of the voting bloc – because of their reliance on primarily white voters. Indeed, it is estimated that in 1980, they were two-thirds of the electorate, but by 2012, they were just over a third. This means American politics has been shifting slowly towards ethnic considerations – a most dangerous path as demonstrated by the many shootings targeted at non-whites, and especially blacks. The sad reality is that this fear is founded on the lie that life can only be enjoyable when “Our People” or “My People” are in power. Thus, even in Kenya, the ‘My People’ ideology has formed the bedrock of our politics.
Back in the days, Langston Hughes, a black American poet, penned the short but powerful poem – My People.
In 1923 Hughes wrote: The night is beautiful. So the faces of my people. The stars are beautiful. So the eyes of my people. Beautiful, also, is the sun. Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.
In composing his poems, Hughes was concerned that his people do not give in to a diminished self-esteem. He exalted the theme of “black is beautiful” with a deep concern to uplift his people, whose strengths, resilience, courage, and humour are considered integral to the general American experience.
In Kenya, the My People theme was the force behind the struggle for independence – to free My People. Unfortunately, as time has gone by, the My People dogma has taken a different dimension. We have seen looters of State coffers run back to the village and mobilise My People to fight for them. My People have also been fed replacement theories to shore up emotions against non-locals. Thus, in times of elections, political zoning has been common. Accordingly, My People has become a tool for political mobilisation and a shield against the course of justice.
If we are serious about defending, standing with, or being proud of My People, then we must collectively accept that the corrupt, the thieves, robbers, terrorists, and all manner of criminals, are not and cannot be part of My People. Such men and women must be left to the consequences of their individual vices.
But more importantly, we must refuse to be brainwashed into believing in a replacement theory within our regions or counties, that would set us on a murderous mission to displace or kill innocent Kenyans due to ethnic bigotry. Likewise, our teens must be protected from nurturing such deep ethnic hatred. We must work hard to make Kenyans feel safe settling in any part of our country without the fear of being profiled. This means we must abandon the My People narrative and promote “Najivunia kuwa Mkenya”. Thus, take pride in being a Kenyan.