While yet in Kenya I reverted the “A Shifting Perspective” (originally posted as “Not all Peaches & Cream”) entry to Draft mode for further editing. Since then, I have worked on it daily (leaving the original post date in tact in order that the entries remain contiguous). Not because what I wrote was completely inaccurate nor offensive (at least I don’t believe it was), but because in prior posts I offered my experience of Kenya, Nakuru, and Pistis through stories of interaction with less of my own interpretation.
In Shifting Perspective, I try to understand what I have experienced through contrast and comparison to the norms of my own upbringing and culture within my country, asking hard questions as many were also asked of me.
“I have heard it is dangerous to be Black in the United States. Is this true?”
“Why is your government trying to define who can and who cannot be married? I thought the U.S. became independent from England to keep the church separate from the State.”
Perhaps the most challenging to answer, which I have been asked during other ventures overseas, “Is it true that your government kills people with electricity?”
I was asked several times, “Is it [cold/hot] in the United States?”
And my favorite, “Is there still manual labor in the United States? Or is everything done by machines?”
Some of these are funny, even fun to answer, but some are very challenging. While I can quote statistics or give my personal opinion, I cannot pretend to know the experience of African Americans nor fully explain the history of how the church and State do share government. Often I was asked questions that do not have a single answer, explaining that in many respects the U.S. feels like the union of small countries, each with their own weather, laws, culture, and languages. I always made clear that I am but one person with my own opinions and experience and that I represent only me and perhaps my family and a few friends, with any level of certainty.
In the same respect, I bombarded my Kenyan host family and new friends with my thirst for knowledge, seeking understanding of what I saw and experienced there. They were more than patient, answering what they can from their own points of view. In so doing, I realize too how much anyone takes for granted, how much we accept as the norm where we are born and raised.
So when someone asks, “How far behind is Kenya from the U.S.?” I laugh and say, “In some respects, you are far ahead. In others you are catching up.” The United States has a great deal to offer that is of benefit to others, but we have a great deal to learn as well. I ask that as we continue to mature as individuals, and as a country, that we stop pushing so hard for everyone to be like us; that we stop long enough to ask, What can we bring home from where we visit? What do we have to learn from the rest of the world?
This post is continued with A Shifting Perspective.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]