Friday, 10 January 2014

Who will save us from Negative Profiling?


I walked into the crowded flea market one  sunny afternoon. My business was simple, get a few curtains for my new house. 

I trudged around, stopping to admire and choose from selected stalls and open air exhibitions. Unimpressed, I moved further on until I finally came to a seller to whom I finally bought from.
As I continued choosing and putting back what I didn’t like, the seller stood by helping me on and getting me more of the types I wanted. 

I set some a side, checked them through again and started haggling for the prices. In a moment the seller was speaking to me in my mother tongue, though he wasn’t fluent and I knew he wasn’t from my ethnic community. 

Now, anybody who speaks to me in my first language instantly becomes my friend. We struck a rapport sooner and my curtains were safely packed at an even better discount compared to stalls I had earlier visited. 

A friend of mine recently lamented on social media that a taxi driver had continuously spoken to her in a language she couldn’t understand because of her looks. 

You see, my friend in question can pass for person from central Kenya even though she is from Western and the closest she has come to central province is Ruiru. 

Just after the Westgate attacks, members of the Kenyan community who wear buibuis were looked at with suspicious glances in public places. In fact it is alleged that fear gripped several passengers in a matatu in Nairobi when two passengers dressed in buibuis left a matatu just a few minutes before take off from a bus stop in Nairobi. 

Despite our collective zeal to be called Kenyans, a lot of profiling goes on everywhere you turn to in this country. For what benefit I am yet to fathom. When put to good use, profiling may not be bad at all but there is a lot of negative profiling that goes on in this country. 

It is not strange to hear people labeling young men in urbanite dressing spoilt brats. A person’s dressing cannot be the sole means of judging them. Perhaps it is just a way of their self expression and has nothing at all to reflect on their conduct. Until you interact with somebody you may never know who they truly are.
When somebody tells me Ujaluo utakua because I choose to be particular about what shirt goes with my trouser,  support Gor Mahia with all my means, and love all things beautiful in life, does he mean I should do otherwise?

I have Muslim and a few Kenyan Somali friends. They may be closely knit people but like all Kenyans, they want the best for this country. Why some profile and label them into potential terrorists because of isolated incidents which claim lives of even their own, I wonder what the Kenyan spirit is. 

Few people have fond memories of matatu touts; their lot has been disgraced beyond salvation. But few people acknowledge how helpful they can be especially when you don’t know where you are shuttling to especially in Nairobi. From Bulbul in Ngong to Number Ten in Mathare, it is the matatu tout who may help you get to your destination. So while they may be ‘bad guys’ there are a lot of good ones out there who will help you, willingly. 

We need each other in this country. After fifty years of living together as a nation, there is need for us to embrace one another. Our diversity need not be the spark that lights the fires of dissent but the light that guides us out of darkness into the bond of nationhood. 

Whenever I go back to the flea market, my first stop is with the friend who speaks my language. He always has something I need and refers me to stalls where I can get good deals for anything I want.

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