The Underbelly of the Beast

Sometimes I feel like I am looking at the underbelly of humanity’s inner workings by living here in Mali. Everyday is filled with visceral experiences that leave me questioning the meaning of life, our relationship to one another, the future of humanity. Everyday it’s like I stare into the gears and wires of what makes up humanity and am left trying to figure out my role in the infinite inner workings.

At times this unique “insider” view fills me with wonder and a renewed rejuvenation for believing in the good of humanity. Other times it leaves me feeling like I am looking at the dark side of what makes us tick. I will admit that the birth lottery landed in my favour – I was born a Caucasian woman from Canada. I got a quality education, I had laws protecting me, and law enforcers who stood by me. I have been spoiled to experience this.

Now, I live in a world where my skin colour gives me an obvious position of power based on a history of colonization and international relations that had nothing to do with me personally. This unbalanced power relations often spurs reflections on power and privilege and how I can create a world where the people I interact with start on an equal playing field.

But sometimes I get a glimpse of inequalities from the point of a minority. I get starred at, laughed at, outwardly harassed and there are no law enforcers on my side. I can be seen as “other” and as such people forget my humanity. I got doored by a car while I was driving my bike and the driver’s reaction was to laugh at me. I had an unfortunate run in with a taxi driver who felt like he could yell and intimidate me because I was a woman. I’ve had police officers and people in authority obviously try to use their position of power to harass me and offer to marry me.

I know that I should be grateful that I have survived this far in my life and haven’t had to face these types of  injustices and inequalities to such a degree until now. But it is eye opening. It leaves me craving that we would just stop and see each other’s humanity. I have tasted the reality of not being seen for a real person and it is bitter and sour. It’s a taste that no one should have to indulge.

I don’t want to be part of a culture  that lets people feel like they are less than. I don’t want to be a cog in the system that allows others to ignore each other’s humanity. That’s my commitment to strive for better justice in whatever way I can.