They Are White Black Men!
I am a rough diamond gemologist. I work mostly on assignments for clients who want to buy rough diamonds in Africa, primarily Sierra Leone and Guinea. In the last several months I have had encounters with diamond sellers in Africa where I encountered racism. I know what you are thinking; a white man goes to Africa and finds Africans who do not like white people. Do you think that information would be worth writing an article? No? Neither do I. The racism I encountered was not directed at me. The diamond sellers had no problem with me. I am a white man and they expect me to think they are stupid and they expect me to understand that white men who come to Africa are viewed as naïve by black Africans.
Actually, I have never met a stupid diamond seller. You don’t grow in the rough diamond business unless you are extremely sharp; it is just that kind of business. However, I have worked for white buyers who have an outdated view of the world and especially of Africa. But once again, I am not talking about the evil white man going to Africa to exploit the natives. No, this article is about African Americans who have engaged my firm for gemological consulting. These are the new victims of racism.
Racism is often not viewed as racism by racists. Most racism is not directed out of hatred; rather most is just pure ignorance. My encounters may or may not be unique. Three times now I have worked with African Americans who are shrewd business men. When they buy, they use every negotiating skill they have learned in this tough old world. Each time I heard racist remarks from the Africans against the African Americans it was because the African diamond sellers believed the African American buyers were trying to cheat them, or in the least, take advantage of them. They told me that the white man has been screwing the black man in Africa for hundreds of years and they are not stupid. They know the value of the rough and will not sit back and be taken advantage of by the white man.
As I sat listening to their complaint, I thought how strange, why are they talking about white men when the customers are African Americans? Often, as a consultant, my job is to verify that the rough diamonds are real diamonds, sort, evaluate and make a diamond manifest. Most customers negotiate price based on the information I provide, but they will do their own bargaining. This means that the sellers will often speak freely in front of me hoping I will go back to my clients and advise them to pay more for the diamonds. As I said, the African diamond sellers are very smart and will attack the buyer every which way they can to get him to pay a higher price.
Most often I just keep my mouth shut and do my job. This time, my curiosity got the better of me. I asked; “Gentlemen, excuse me, I am very confused. My clients are African American, yet you talk about them as if they are white colonists out to cheat you with an unfair price. Why do you talk as if they are white?”
The three men I was sitting with, looked at me, and then at each other. The boss of the three spoke; “Your buyers are not black. They are white black men. They are not like us at all. They may be black on the outside, but they are actually white on the inside. We do not really consider them to be black men.” As I said,this situation has now happened to me three times in Africa. I have asked my African American clients about this phenomenon and they have confided that they too have experienced black on black racism in Africa. One of my customers, who is good natured, just laughed and said: “in America I am too dark, in African I am not black enough.”
The point of my story is that if you are an African American who is new to working in Africa; do not expect any favors from those who to your face will call you their brothers. You are no blacker than I am. As a matter of fact, because you are an African American, they will use your longing to be accepted as one of them as a weapon or tool to exploit you.
Greed, hatred and ignorance are the three poisons of the mind. Go to Africa without greed, free your mind of anger, hatred and preconceived notions about the African people. Overcome ignorance with wisdom. If you succeed in curing the three poisons of the mind, you will no longer see people as other than yourself. In order to do business in different countries and with people of different races, religions and cultures you must be like water. If you are not sure what I mean, then please read Lao Tzu.
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