I live in a world where there is a rigid perception that the colour of one’s skin is synonymous to the colour of one’s horizon and the purity of one’s dignity. My experience of this world has been that words like ‘worthless, invaluable and undeserving’ effortlessly make it to the menu of a buffet that is served to some sections of society that have ‘that skin,’ ‘that gender,’ ‘that race,’ and belong to ‘that continent.’
This is a place whose toxic belief systems have manifested in a manner that is antithetical to the label ‘global community.’ What has been global about this world is the universal nature with which people have uniformly put on their lenses of privilege or deprivation to zoom in on how their reality can predictably merge with their prospective horizon. Concomitantly, the community aspect has assumed the form of identity politics where people subscribe either to the community of ‘exceptional humans’ or the community of the ‘other.’
In an attempt to change the canvas onto which this picture of the world has been delicately painted, governments have, through legislative processes, formulated justiciable policies that unequivocally assert that human dignity is an intrinsic human value that is inviolable. This legal dimension to human dignity has made substantive strides within the broader international sphere as it has translated to the narrative that all human rights should be pivoted from human dignity. The interaction between policy, legislation, human rights and human dignity at a governance level is highly commendable. However, I have a deep seated belief that this interaction between these fundamental aspects has mostly defined government to citizen relationship. It has overshadowed the reality of how you and I regard each other in a society that is pregnant with historical injustices that have systematically inculcated value systems that are more discriminatory than inclusive, more prejudicial than respectful and more stereotypical than they are appreciative of diversity.
I have often been conflicted by what my relationship to this phenomenon is, can be, should be and ought to be. With as much clarity as I can possibly acquire, I have concluded that the question of humanity and human dignity should be interrogated within the understanding of a specific culture and context. With that approach and frame of mind, there will be much greater appreciation of the fact that there are variances in the manner in which different communities understand their worth and value.
Societies like mine that have been crippled, suffocated and guillotined by colonialism, racial segregation and slavery understand their humanity and dignity to be a matter of justice, reconciliation, wealth redistribution and social cohesion. In this respect, justice must not just be done but seen to be done. This is the point at which some African thought leaders join the debate by introducing the importance of de-colonizing and re-humanizing that African who has suffered at the hands of colonialism and its legacy that is presently existential. This decolonization agenda, although a matter governance and policy at the implementation level, has a procedure that is dependent on changing societal attitudes, decolonizing the mind of victims, perpetrators and beneficiaries of injustice, confronting racial segregation, interrogating the symbols that seem to glorify coloniality and most fundamentally, challenging and reversing as far as possible the epistemic legacy of colonialism.
Understanding my self-worth in a world that still glorifies the legacy of the same institutions, symbols and value systems that dehumanized and continue to dehumanize my generation and those before us is a painful reality. I dream for the day when our awakened consciousness will make us all realize that our shared humanity is not an object to dehumanize but an intrinsic and inviolable value that should be celebrated. I yearn for that moment where we will join hands in solidarity and chant “We Are Uhuru!”
Written by Lisa Thelma Sidambe, a WYA Africa intern from Zimbabwe.