A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hierarchy and Its Look for Me During the Riots

I recently wrote an e-mail to a friend trying to convey my sense of guilt and frustration in relation to the recent riots in Kampala. I decided to post it also as a blog:

I had never been in such a volatile place much less alone as I was during the riots in Kampala. I had it easy and had Peace Corps behind me helping me get out immediately. Even in the midst of it I kept thinking about all those who must face these instances alone because they either don’t have an organization behind them, their government/police don’t really care about protecting innocent people, or this is a daily reality. After the whole adrenaline rush of emergency and once I have calmed down a little I thought about it more and it really bothered me. You see, I came into Kampala with Sister Carol. We attended a meeting together and then she needed to visit someone and I needed to go home. So, we split ways just before the park. We were both there for the riots but not together at that point. I called her immediately to warn her but of course she was also in the midst of it. She told me to get out and we would see each other later. Once I was safely out of it I called her again and she was hiding at a priest’s house she knew in the city. We were both safe and unharmed. But I felt awful. If we had been together PC couldn’t have picked her up and gotten her out of there. Only me. This is even true if there ever needs to be an evacuation – all Americans are assisted out of country by national staff and then if there is time and availability Ugandan staff will be helped out. What makes being an American so special? How are we of more worth than everyone else? This is not just isolated to these issues of safety and security but also to everyday life here in Uganda. I am given preferential treatment to most everything. And during these riots, Sister Carol was so relieved that PC had picked me up and was keeping me safe in an undisclosed location to her. I know that she cares about me as a person and so is glad that I was safe but it goes deeper than that at times. She thought it was right that I was taken care of by PC. On one hand Ugandan’s seem like such a humble people, putting others (whites) above themselves. But at the same time, this is extremely unhealthy and unrealistic. They are stuck in these hierarchical mentalities that keep them trapped in falsehoods and unable to develop and progress in the ways they are capable of. The honestly believe others are of better than them. Even within their own peoples.

Do you ever grapple with these big life issues? How do we reconcile being white and living in this unfair world? This is an issue I always come back to. In college I went through the hating being white phase and I think I am a little bit back there. I’m not sure how to appreciate the extremely easy life being white affords me.

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