OPINION: “What a time to be black”?

Saturday October 19 2019


The month of October has been delightfully sensational so far. Eliud Kipchoge, the Kenyan long-distance runner, and our very own neighbor, reminded all of us that no human is limited, by becoming the first person to run a full marathon in less than two hours, giving the number 159 a whole new meaning.

Not so far from us also, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, while Tyler Perry, the American movie actor, sealed the deal by opening the largest movie studio in history.

These three men indeed steered a global buzz on social media and in personal conversations. What struck me was a photo I saw going around on social media, with a picture of the three gentlemen and a caption; “What a time to be black.” What a time to be black? Why?

Role of minorities

The truth is I didn’t understand why those three events were linked to race. The same way I wouldn’t have understood if it had said, “what a time to be a man”. However, I am quite convinced that if these successes involved women for instance, there would very likely be something in the lines of “what a time to be a woman.” I wonder, do minorities somehow inadvertently reinforce their own segregation?

I rather feel proud to be human, and to be alive, in a generation that witnesses the outstanding potential of human beings.


When I expressed my lack of understanding on the fact that race had been attached to these events, a comment said that it is because Africans suffer from low self-esteems caused by all the historical oppressions. Right.

Is that low self-esteem ever going to be overcame or is it going to be a life time of taking every success as a means to prove that black is also good enough, while in fact, black is great and capable?

The question

Fortunately, race is not an issue of concern in Tanzania as compared to some countries where racial classes may be more apparent.

The question that I find rather perplexing is, does celebrating success or excellence, with specific racial sensitivity, for example black excellence or black success, work against racism? Or does it actually reinforce racial silos?

An analogy of this would be a person who was told in their childhood that they were not good enough, but grow up to be very successful.

Are they going to spend all their lives trying to prove that they were actually good enough, or will they at some point overcome the inferiority complex? Is there a deadline to taking every success as a way to prove against previous oppression? To validate ourselves? To who? Or is it a lifetime endeavour?

Proving a point or not?

What if this person decides to live their life just like someone who was made to believe from early on that they were good enough and capable? What if he saw that there was no need to prove a point, and that just like anyone else, he was good enough? What if we chose to become oblivious to historical oppression and only respond to actual, current cases of oppression?

Anyone can become a victim, once or twice or many times. But acting victim, or succumbing to victimhood is a choice that most people have agency upon. No one should spend their lives proving their worth, rather, we must just show up to every day as equal and good enough people - one people.