A young British man born to Jamaican parents moved from Watford Football Club to the famed Liverpool Team in 1986. His name was John Barnes. He was the first black player for Liverpool. As it turned out, Anfield did not give him the friendliest of welcomes. He was harassed at every opportunity because of the colour of his skin. It was not uncommon, for example, for banana peelings to be thrown at him.
The bad treatment notwithstanding, Barnes along with Ian Rush, Peter Bearsdley and John Aldridge proceeded to form one the most lethal striking forces that English football has known.
In 2007 the FourFour Magazine named him the best Liverpool player of all time. Barnes’ skin colour did not stand in his way to achieving great exploits.
Throughout history, there has been no shortage of light skinned people with the propensity to badly treat their darker brothers. On a number of occasions, blacks have been equated to animals by people with warped racist tendencies.
Belgium colonised Congo between 1908 and 1960. During that period, the relationship between the colonisers and the colonised was more sour than sweet. The Congolose were subjected to some of the most demeaning treatment human beings can mete out to one another.
In 1958, some Congolese men, women and children were ferried to Belgium ostensibly to man a fair but, as it turned out, they became the exhibit themselves. They were caged in a zoo created to resemble a Congolese village so that patrons to the fair would see these ‘uncivilised’ Africans in their traditional setting.
Reduced to the status of animals, these men, women and children were often ridiculed by the European spectators, who were quick to point out that they (Europeans) were way better than Africans and, therefore, there was need for the former to civilise the latter. Congo got its independence from Belgium in 1960 and was thus spared from further racially instigated humiliation.
Are race relations in the 21 Century any better than they were 60 years ago? My answer to this would be an emphatic no. We may have better legal instruments now to deal with ill treatment on the basis of colour but there are still some whites out there who, if they had their way, would bundle all Africans into a zoo. What a zoo that would be!
In an attempt to dispel the theory of evolution, somebody told me that if you put a monkey on a computer keyboard and let it pound the keys you would not come up with a script similar to Shakespeare’s plays. He was trying to point out that in order to come up with anything that looks orderly (which is what nature is) you need the intervention of an intelligent being. You would not expect the sophistication of literature to be the product of any zoo.
Yet from the zoo of Africans would emerge Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o and others with beautiful literature. Yes, from such a zoo would come out Shaka Zulu with sophisticated military strategies that the zoo keepers would want to study.
Dear reader, the human zoo enslaving Africans would produce Pele, John Barnes and others who have added considerably to the enjoyment of football. We would find, in the same zoo, Kwadwo Safo Kantanka of Ghana with his highly innovative inventions as we would Morris Mbetsa of Kenya who is currently in the process of introducing flying taxis in Nairobi.
The said zoo would have constituted the catchment area from which to source a royal bride. This, coupled with the examples given earlier, would make the human zoo in question a very fascinating place indeed.
Closer to home the human zoo would be home to one William Kamkwamba, the inventor of windmills produced from scrap materials, which were used to bring power into his parents’ compound and eventually to his entire village in Kasungu. Such a zoo, if it existed, would not be a zoo at all but a melting pot that would spawn innovations in all fields of human endeavour.
Let me, in conclusion, talk to the young, black innovators (actual or aspiring) who would be reading this article now. Do not let anybody look down upon you on account of your youth or race. If you have the desire and the determination to achieve great things, let no artificial obstacles impede you. Those who try to confine you to a zoo will not succeed. It is their minds, not you that are caged up because they cannot see the truth for what it is.