So, now both the British Prime Minister and Scottish First Minister are of Indian descent.
Yet, it happened.
In fact, politics is not the only arena where people of Indian descent are not only making major inroads but also dominating.
We are actually seeing them practically taking over the so-called ‘Silicon Valley’ in the US – where they head multi-billion dollar conglomerates such as Alphabet’s (Google) Sundar Pichai, IBM’s Arvind Krishna, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Adobe’s Shantanu Narayan, amongst many others.
Actually, before Elon Musk bought Twitter in 2022, its CEO was Parag Agrawal.
In this discourse, I will attempt to tackle a rather emotive and quite controversial topic – which, I am fully aware is highly complex, and not an easy one for a single person to unravel.
In so doing, from the onset, I do not claim to have all the answers – however, this is something I feel needs to be openly discussed.
Why are we, as Black people, not making such magnificent inroads into positions of power and influence around the world?
By power and influence, and mean exactly that!
This is not hogging social media limelight as supposed ‘influencers’, who are merely known for their partying, twerking, drunken escapades, and posting ridiculous comments!
Do we not share the same history as Indians – that of slavery, colonialism and racism?
In fact, was the city of Durban, and the greater Natal region of South Africa, not built on the backs of indentured labourers brought in from the Indian subcontinent by the British between 1860 and 1911?
Even during the dark heinous Apartheid era – was racial segregation against the Indian community in South Africa not the main reason a young lawyer by the name of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi finally decided to return home to fight for India’s independence from British colonial rule?
So, why does it appear as if these people not only successfully managed to free themselves of colonial bondage – but also, of the shackles of its legacy?
As I look admiringly at those of Indian descent, I see people who adamantly refuse to be held back by their history – but, have made a deliberate choice to move on with their lives.
This, tragically, is not what we see with us as Black people.
Let me hasten to make it clear that I am not painting all Black people with the same brush – as there have been those who have defeated the odds – but, the vast majority of us fit this narrative.
I am not in any way, encouraging us to forget our past – as that would be totally foolhardy, dangerous and unforgivable – for people who forget where they have come from are bound to get lost.
Nonetheless, what I find particularly disturbing and disconcerting is how we appear to have elected to hang on to, and virtually become slaves to our horrid historical experiences.
We do not seem to be moving on from how we were enslaved and colonized some centuries ago – and, how even today we are still suffering from racism.
I do not want to belittle all those currently enduring racism and even racist attacks – since this is a genuine and serious problem.
Nevertheless, when it appears as if we, as a people, are failing to move past that – then, that becomes worrying, since it holds us back.
Furthermore, I find it rather unsettling when we still find those amongst us whose main purpose in life appears solely to revive memories of slavery and colonialism, as well as how we are still treated today.
I always ask myself, “Whilst we are busy doing that, what would others – who suffered, and are still suffering, a similar fate as ours – doing?”
Are they not moving on with life, unperturbed, as they make themselves better people, and climb up the rungs of power and influence in the world?
That is why I found the recent utterances by, and subsequent suspension of, British Labour Party MP Diane Abbott, quite saddening and unfortunate.
The very fact that she could trivialize the racism faced by other ethnicities, such as Jews and the Irish – displays this obsession by us, as Blacks, in wanting to portray our own suffering as greater than anyone else’s.
That is how we then find ourselves trapped in this self-imposed dungeon – whereby, we allow our past, and even our present, dictate to us, and hold us back from moving ahead.
I have mentioned before how I also suffered at the hands of racists – when my family moved to a previously ‘White suburb’, and I enrolled in a ‘White school’ soon after our country, Zimbabwe, attained her independence in 1980.
It was definitely not pretty, and even quite traumatizing – especially at such a tender age of only nine years – to be called such names as ‘kaffir’ and ‘monkey’, or hearing my neighbour beating up his little children simply for playing with me.
At that young age, I could not help wondering whether there was something gravely flawed or wrong with me.
Similarly, having just moved from a ‘Black’ neighbourhood and school, my English was terrible, to say the least – which did not help matters at all.
In fact, my father – who was also a teacher, but at a different school – was called in by my ever-loving and gentle grade three teacher, Mrs. Joubert, in an effort to help me improve my English.
As a matter of fact, all my teachers, and most of my neighbours and schoolmates in the small town of Redcliff were awesome folk
One of the solutions was to encourage me to read and write a lot of English material – which, I am certain, is how the writer in me was eventually created or rather brought out.
Be that as it may, I never held on to the bitterness of the racial abuse I encountered – but, chose to move ahead with my life, with a positive spirit and attitude.
As the saying goes, ‘your attitude determines your altitude’.
In other words, I refused to go through life with a huge burdensome chip on my shoulder.
It is one thing appreciating one’s history – and, totally another being a sad, angry, vindictive soul.
This is one lesson I hope my fellow Black people would also embrace.
Quite frankly, as much as we share a similar history with those of Indian descent, never have I never heard them mopping over how they were colonized or exploited as indentured labourers.
In some of these Western countries they reside in, they also do still face tremendous racial abuse – especially so, when they are of the Muslim religion, who are then unfairly associated with terrorists and terrorism.
Yet, hardly do we come across them spending acres of space on social media moaning and moping over this!
Neither do they spend their time partying, twerking, and trying to become social media ‘influencers’.
In fact, that is the main reason I hardly watch such television channels a BET – which makes me question if this is who we really are as Black people…
Is it, then, surprising when we are nowhere to be seen on science, technology, or other channels featuring groundbreaking feats?
Those of Indian descent do not spend their time glorifying gangsterism, nor thinking it’s cool showing off with the little they manage to acquire in life.
They are busy focusing on bettering themselves and becoming world leaders in every aspect – with real power and influence.
No wonder they have taken over ‘Silicon Valley’ – occupying 58 top-notch global CEO posts and constituting up to 25 per cent of major start-up bosses.
That is why they are now even leading world powers as Britain and Scotland – more so, through political parties that no one would have ever considered.
Let us be very careful as Black people that we do not become victims and prisoners of our past and even present.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator.
..first published in Zimbabwe Independent