Today I found myself reading this article about the first female Masai warrior. You will expect to see a strong Masai woman standing on the cover photo right? well sike!!! sorry. Just so happens to be Mindy Budgor, a white woman from suburban California. It was no surprise for me to find most African blogs blowing up with the news and crunching their teeth at yet another episode of (if you would permit me) ‘afroploitation’ .
If you haven’t heard the news yet, let me give you the scopes. Basically reads like a Hollywood script and I have to say I was laughing all the way through the article. Rich white girl, bored with her suburban life and looking for another challenge. Takes a trip to Kenya and meets a tribal chief while on Safari. Chief tells her about the ways of his people and their warriors. She ask chief if there is a female warrior in his tribe, chief says no and then!!! Eureka moment for her; I will be the first to do it, I will be the cool girl, post some photos up on my Facebook or better still get some media coverage, or best…. oh yeah, write a book… Yeah write a book, make some money. Then she thinks about it again, ‘how will I convince people that it is not about me?’. Simple, pull out the magic words, heavy artillery, that perfect punchline; ‘Women Emancipation’. After all Africans are savages, they don’t treat their women right.
The west has been pulling these stunts for ages, and somehow it always works and somehow we never learn. Reminds me of not so long ago when the whole social media was in a frenzy with ‘Kony 2012′ blast. My God!!! those guys were good, better than an evangelist trying to get your money on the offering tray. The question (s) I ask myself though in the hope of deconstructing this occurrence is, what if we flipped the script? What if that Californian woman was a Masai woman or lets broaden the scope, another African woman? Do you think the chief will say yes? I think not. Will the story have made all these media rounds? I also think not. Which leads me to my harsh conclusion, before we start firing shots and pointing fingers at the ‘white man’ or ‘white woman’, let us realize that 3 fingers are pointing back at us.
The one finger pointing at the west is of course legitimate. When will International Organizations start understanding that Africans need to be more involved in their own development? When will these bodies start putting a cap on the number of Western expatriates working in top and middle positions so that Africans can have a fair chance? When will we stop having projects and initiatives drawn from a room in some head quarters in New York or where ever and imposed on us then turn and wonder why the project becomes a complete failure? When will these organizations stop showing up in sheep wool with sweet talks like women emancipation, poverty elevation and all the changing tag lines we have heard all through the years since our presumed independence?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that some of these bodies don’t mean and actually try to make a change, they sure do, I have seen it with my own eyes but why does it have to be just a few? The issue here is far beyond the intention, it is really how to go about it. I would have tipped my hat off for Mandy if she had been blatantly honest and just state the obvious, that she was just trying to make some money and that it was all about her, matter of fact I still tip my hat off for her ability to see an opportunity and capitalize on it. Just don’t beat about the bush while doing it.
Then we have the other 3 fingers pointing back at us and rightly so and by us I mean Africans. Take a cliche example, a trailer trash volunteer white dude shows up at a village meeting in the heart of Africa. You know how our meetings are usually hectic and noisy, well wait until the white dude stands up to speak. The whole room freezes to listen and no matter what he says, chances are most people will agree with his opinion. Sad but true. Go back to my question, do you think the Masai chief will say yes if it was another African woman? What is it about the white man that breaks us down to the point of submission? Do we have to continue stooping so low by selling our heritage at so cheap a price? (I have no problem with someone trying to get his/her money right, but at what price?)
If this woman really wanted to become a true warrior, she did not even need to switch continents to achieve that. Why did she not make a short trip to a Native American reserve and try asking them if she could become an Apache warrior? I am sure she will be writing a book about the best ways to run from trouble. But when the white man shows up at our door steps (in Africa) we focus so much on pleasing him that we forget to see the big picture; that we have to step up our bargaining power find better ways to not only stay at the ‘giving’ end but also at the ‘receiving’ end. Well with all said, the proverbial line for your thoughts… ‘you can take the horse to the stream’…
Julius. N Timgum is the founder and editor of www.dikaloo.com, a blog that focuses on African social, political and economic issues. He holds a MBA in Management and consults for small start-ups in Africa. You can also contact him directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.