Different Strokes

Kendi: Mama there are many white people here?

Me: Kendi surely, ang’o ma iwacho no? (what are you saying)

It is important at this point to remember, that Kendi is 4 (going on 15) and she doesn’t understand the subtleties of sarcasm. Sometimes I will say something like, ‘Kendi tim gi ma itimo no kendo mond i ne!’ as a sort of threat. Only to have her do the thing, again. Just as I said. Sigh!

Kendi: There are many white people here?

Me: Ssshhhh! Yes

Kendi: Why?

Me: Nikech nitie all kinds of people kae (there are all kinds of people here)

I am now trying to whisper so that she can follow my lead.

Kendi: Me, I don’t like white people

Me: Kendi, please kiki wach kamano (don’t say that)

We were in the Supermarket at ABC Place, and indeed there were many white, Indian, Asian and African people around. This was not anything new or special. I think maybe it was the first time Kendi had noticed, and also the first time she could come up with the words to describe her observation. After a short pause…

Kendi: OK mama, then I like white people

Anyone who has a toddler, knows a toddler, or has ever been a toddler, knows that they speak at the top of their lungs. All the time. Even in church. Even when telling a secret. Its outrageous. And inconvenient.

Me: Kendi! PLEASE, we wacho gi ma iwacho no! (Stop saying that thing you’re saying)

Kendi: I’m sorry mama

Me: You don’t have to be sorry. Wabiro wuoyo e mtoka (we’ll talk in the car)

We were in the middle of our shopping trip and this warranted a sit down conversation. I didn’t want to have it in the supermarket with the audience we were already attracting.

Kendi: But mama, I said I like white people

Me: Kendi, stop! Wabiro wuoyo e mtoka, we nuoyo gino, stop it (stop repeating)

Kendi: Ok (Cue epic sulk mode)

3 1/2 minutes later in the car…

Me: Kendi, ang’o ma omiyo ne iwacho ni ok ihero white people? (why did you say you don’t like white people)

I’m going to write the rest of the conversation in English, although it took place in both English and DhoLuo.

Kendi: Because I don’t like them

Me: Why?

Kendi: Because they don’t have any brown anywhere. They just have white faces, white hands, white legs, no brown like us.

Me: So they’re different?

Kendi: Yes

Me: And do you like Jessica?

Kendi: Yes

Jessica is her best friend in school.

Me: And do you like Jessica’s daddy?

Kendi: Yes

Me: Even though he’s white?


Me: Kendi? Do you like Jessica’s daddy?

Kendi: Yes, but he is different

Me: How?

I want to spare y’all the harrowing experience I went through- with Kendi trying to explain to me that, Jessica was brown like her, so her dad was cool, even though he was white. And Jessica is the exact same shade of brown as her (she’s not), she looks exactly like her (she doesn’t), same hair and everything (nope!) and that’s why she likes Jessica’s dad even though he’s white.

Me: Kendi, just because someone is different, doesn’t mean that they’re bad. You don’t have to not like them. And you also don’t have to like them. But they are not bad. Ok?

Kendi: Ok, then I like white people.

Somebody offer me a massage!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *