Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Being the Minority in Zambia

In Lusaka, Zambia

Almost every Zambian I have spoken to during this trip has asked the question, “Is Africa what you expected?” My response is vague with a yes and no. My thoughts on Africa before the Zambia program were stereotypical and inaccurate. I assumed that life was unfortunate and unjust. Although some of my assumptions were seen here, I was wrong on many of my thoughts. People here are so friendly and can’t help but smile at you. Life is beautiful here and people’s situations don’t always affect their attitudes. I also was shocked to experience all the western influence here. On the radio and television is American style entertainment along with several local Zambian stations.

The Culture Shock
What shocked me the most about being here is that for the first time in my life I am the minority. In the United States being a white woman is nothing to look at in curiosity. In Zambia, everywhere I have been heads have turned in oddity. During my lunch break the other day I was sitting with two other white students and three Zambians came and slyly sat a close distance from us and had their picture taken with us in the background. Their giggles were more than enough to understand what they were doing and it was all in good measure. However within the first few days we have been here I have experienced more looks and shouts than I ever have in my life.

What The Majority Thinks
With Zambia’s population being almost 90% black it leaves around 10% for white, Chinese and Indian native minorities. When we toured The University of Zambia (UNZA) I did not see one white person. A lot of looks were shared because undoubtedly we look at black Zambians and take pictures of them just as much as they do to us. When I spoke to my internship coordinator at World Vision International-Zambia I asked him if black Zambians are prejudice of the minorities and he said no. He continued by saying that everyone is looked at equally in Zambia and although they see you white Americans and stare they see you as a sign of hope for them. They are grateful for you to travel such a long way just to help them and make their situation better.

Life Lessons
Being the minority for the first time in my life has really taught me a huge lesson. And that is to be understanding of what minorities are experiencing whether it’s racial, political, religious or any other categories. I have my own beliefs and morals but despite what I think about life it's important to be tolerant to what others think. The world is a unique place in that we are all different. Zambians get along so well I think because they enjoy themselves and make the most of life and each other’s differences. I think if a lot more people were to experience being part of a minority they would appreciate their own lives and also have empathy and understanding for others. So while I am here I want to learn as much as I can and hopefully will be transformed by the Zambian culture and its people that make this place so welcoming to others.

This is baby Ruth and her mom, she was curious to touch my skin.

Sara DuBois is one of 18 students from Ohio University, studying abroad in Zambia over winter intercession, about media, society, and governance, through the Institute for International Journalism.
She is a Senior, Communication Studies major
Related Area: Public Relations/Health

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