It is my first day of school. They ask me where I am from. “Africa.” I say.
“But you aren’t black.” They say.
“No.” I say, “But I’m from Africa.”
“But where are you from originally?”
“But where are your parents from?”
“But they are not black. What about your grandparents? Where are they from?”
“Oh,” They say, “so you are one of those people who keep slaves.”
“Yes. They all keep slaves.”
“No. My grandfather was a mechanic. My other grandfather was a musician.”
“Yes but they still kept slaves. They had slaves to clean their houses and slaves to do the gardening and slaves to man the petrol tanks.”
“No. My parents had a maid who was like a second mother to me. My parents would pay her as much money as they could afford and she would help with the dishes because we didn’t have a dishwasher and she would help with the laundry when our washing machine broke. My grandparents didn’t have money to hire people to help them, they barely had enough money to feed themselves.”
“Yes, but you are white. You had slaves.”
“Yes, I am white but they were not slaves. We paid them, when my parents could no longer afford to hire our maid we found wealthier friends to take hire her so that she would still have a job, just not with us. The attendants at the petrol station are provided with jobs in a country where unemployment is high. They wash the hot, red African dirt off the windscreen for tips and make sure no one leaves without paying or steals the tins of oil. They check the tires and tell the driver if they are getting flat and then re-pump them with air.”