I wished I was a racist…


On Saturday, I went to the Cape Coast Castle to tour the place where slaves had been kept before being shipped off to lands unknown during the slave trade. I recall being excited by the prospect of finally seeing the remnants of what was to me nothing more than a story. I had no idea that by the end of the day I would be churning with hatred and a whole cocktail of murderous feelings.

..a miniature model of the idyllic setting of slavery's horror

If the walls could talk, they would no doubt lament to this day the brutality and inhumane atrocities that were committed within that castle… and yet from a distance it looks so tranquil, so inviting and indeed so picturesque.

We toured the castle… visiting the dungeons that once held men captive. Big gaping holes dug into the earth where human beings were tossed in to wait for three months in order to voyage into lifelong servitude, suffering and indignity.

My skin crawled as I stood in that dark cave, stuffy and mouldy, listening to the endless drone of the tour guide who spoke as impassionately as one who had grown accustomed to telling a tale so tragic and horrific that he did not need any theatrics to make his audience understand the hell that our ancestors went through.

It was the size of a tiny room, this cave-like dungeon, built to accommodate 150 men but later accommodated as many as 300 men. Men who did not see the sunlight, the sky or feel the breeze on their skin for three months as they awaited ships. Men who slept together, urinated and defecated on one another, whose excrement piled and rose to mar the walls of their prison.

Men whose stench, sweat and fear fouled the air. Men who lost their dignity and freedom to the whims of a white man. And the high roofs of the dungeons captured their odours and bore mute testimony to their dehumanization. When it rained, the waters seeped in through and turned the excrement into a soggy mash of filth – men lay in it and some died in it.

Even now, I do not understand how a human being can treat another human being so callously. How? It does not make sense to me and it feels me with rage, with hatred and yes I admit, with the thought of vengeance.

But the tour continued, to the female dungeons… to where the women were kept also for three months in the most cramped little burrow in the earth. They too, like the men, had to pee where they stood, defecate where they slept and watch in humiliation as their menstrual blood flowed down their legs. And those who had children kept them in there… in that hell hole to share the nightmare of losing their freedom.

The women were bathed… only when they were picked out by the soldiers and the officials – picked out to be raped and have their bodies plundered ruthlessly. And those who refused, were placed in solitary confinement…in the tinniest shelf of a hole until they gave in; until they surrendered and until they quit fighting.

And above these dungeons, sat the irony of white hypocrisy – the missionaries’ chapel where they sought an audience with God while their hands dripped with blood and their crotches flaked with the blood of torn hymens.

I wished I was a racist – so I could HATE. Hate with abandon, allow the madness to consume me and embrace the poison of bitterness so I could just walk over to the nearest European tourist and mercilessly, unrepentantly stab them through the heart.

I wished I was a racist so that the powerlessness I felt could have been translated into some action, into some cruelty of unimaginable proportions – so that I could have the satisfaction of avenging those who had so needlessly died and so needlessly suffered.

But I am not a racist, I have been tutored in the Queen’s language to know that hate is barbaric and it’s bad enough that I have a black skin without allowing my soul to become as black as my posterior.

I felt it. This agonizing stab of pain, felt the tears well up in my eyes and heard the thudding of my breaking heart as I retraced the steps, taken centuries ago by my ancestors and I wished so very hard that I was a racist.

I wished it, I will not lie.

Wished to grab every white person in the vicinity and drive them out – and tell them they had no right to be there. To be desecrating the shrine of our forefathers’ gravesites. I wanted to ask them why, why they returned to the scene of their ancestors’ most heinous crimes. I wanted to scream at them, to rant and rave and tell them how dare they, how dare they soil this place with their presence – to look on with curious faces and inscrutable expressions at the hell holes that once held our kin captive.

...the door of no return

I will not lie. I wished I was a racist. Wished I had a gun and the mind of a lunatic to go on a rampage and not fear the reprisals. To gun down every person who was not of my skin colour, to bash their head in with the barrel, crack their ribs with a vicious kick and pummel them to death.

As we retraced the steps they took, past the door of no return – it hit me just how much those men and women had lost just by walking through a door. They lost their identity, they lost their freedom, they lost their dignity, they lost their language, they lost their roots, they lost their family, their homes, their friends and they lost every shred of who they were and of what they had once owned.

...a vow made... a vow that must be kept

I will visit the Cape Castle again. Because I owe it to them to remember and not forget. For even though the experience does nothing but grate at my innards – I have no business forgetting what it means to be a child of Africa, and the struggles of being a woman of color.

23 thoughts on “I wished I was a racist…

  1. praise says:

    That must have been terrible. Do we really need to keep such buildings. It doesnt help build but only serves to remind of the pain and horror we r trying so hard to run away from. I dont agree with you that we should remember, that we should never forget. I believe fo rus to move on as africans we need to forget, to destroy the castles and prisons wer our ancestors were bound. They only serve to fuel hate and bitterness. In turn this will keep black people sitting around their coffee tables discussing whatthe white man has done and how we have been so oppressed. I say lets throw all these relics of our past and discard them into the dustbin of history! Learn the devious tricks of the white menand apply them to empower the black person.

    • Mawuli says:

      Praise, I sympathize with your feelings about how these relics “remind (us) of the pain and horror” BUT I can’t disagree with you more on your suggestion that we forget and burn the castles. Forget? We absolutely MUST remember and understand what happened, why it happened and what it means for us today. And we need to feel the anger everyday about the unjust and barbaric pain, exploitation and destruction meted out to our people and our great continent. We MUST remember, but we must not get stuck with the past, but use the anger, the knowledge and the experiences of the past to guide us in resisting the many other disguised forms of modern exploitation we face. We must remember and as a people vow that NEVER AGAIN, will this happen on our soil to our people. But remember, we must.

  2. yemu says:

    that’s so heartbreaking, and unfortunately, for a moment i also wished i could revenge.And this is me, i just heard u describe what u saw and felt, I can only imagine what u went thru, you who smelt the foul air , saw the dungeons and all that.I cant imagine going to that place because what i felt now before i even go there is horrendous!

    The subject content is sad and heartbreaking but as always, its an excellent piece of work!!!Well done girl and keep on keeping on.

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  4. Owamie says:

    Excellent writting,people have done some things to people, that make one sick to the bone,even happening black on black ..we humans always let inhumanity last a little longer than it should..but..You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.(watch Sometimes in April)..

  5. mizraim says:

    that means Zimbabwean persident is needed all over the world . .where are the Politisians they need to eish ..

  6. Sharon Bwanya says:

    Hi Delta,

    I cannot imagine what you saw and really felt – but from your article, my feelings resonate with yours.

    @Praise, I disagree. We must not forget. I ditto you Delta, we OWE it to those slaves to remember, otherwise they suffered in vain. It is what we do with the memories that matters. I choose to learn from this past and this I have learnt:- never will I allow myself to perpetrate any form of injustice against another – black or white for I know the hurt and hate it breeds for many generations to come; and never will I allow myself to be abused, oppressed and have my spirit broken by the white man – my ancestors suffered enough injustice, I owe it to them to fight back should such injustice rear its ugly head again.

    And if I am very honest with you Delta, I have never trusted the white man for in my few years on this earth, I have seen him as nothing but self-serving, a wolf in sheep’s clothing always with a hidden agenda to take more than he gives. There – I said it. Maybe I am a racist after all!

  7. tsitsi makwande masuka says:

    i don’t think we will ever forget slavery and colonialism.The effects will forever be with us making it difficult to forget. We can only move on and try to make our lives and those of the future generation dignified. I am not a racist but to this day i know that the white man is capable of much evil.When i shake his hand,i do so with both eyes wide open! You never know what he is thinking in that mind of his.
    Glad to see you are going places Delta!

  8. Mawuli says:

    Delta, you absolutely speak for me in this piece.
    I share your pain, anger and tears- but I also know that our shared awareness and anger are weapons we can use in our struggle today for true independence and justice for our people and our great continent.
    Thank you Delta. Never again should they steal our lands in Zimbabwe. Never again should they exploit our natural resources. Never again should they overthrow and kill our greatest leaders. And never again must we allow them to get away with the most gracious crimes against humanity.

  9. itsdelta says:

    Wow..the pendulum of opinion swings from one extreme to the other. But thank you guys for dialoguing on this. I agree with most of you. The intention here was to give a ‘wake up’ call, to remind us that we have no business growing complacent or less vigilant wth the threat of neo-colonialism growing by the day on the African continent. But more tragic is the fact that our own brothers and sisters are in cohorts with those who seek to exploit our natural resources and strip our great continent of its riches.
    We must never forget lest we fall victim to those whose greed obscures their conscience.

  10. gugu says:

    I completely understand. There are so many times I’m filled with so much rage against the injustices done by the white people to us, especially since slavery etc still happens today, just in a different form. It’s hard to be objective and rise above it, it helps that my best friend is white and he understands but reminds me that it’s the past and in order to move forward we need to forgive and leave the past where it is and confront those that perpetrate the injustices of the past. So having a personal ‘therapist’ helps, although I feel sorry for him on the days that I get really agro about white people

  11. Vongai Chikwanda says:

    Delta, when I get stirred up, I write, what I feel and what I like .As I read through you passage, I felt I could not have done more justice. You described it so vividly, that even though I am not there, I felt a part of me walk through the Cape Coast Castle. With the pain, suffering and rejection we have had to endure as Africans, and into our context as Zimbabweans, I guess, if I stepped out that castle I would have been baptised racist. One person once said, “the worst thing that we can do, to those who have gone ahead of us, is to forget”, forget they existed, forget their pain, forget who they were, forget what they struggled for and against and forget their relevance in our lives. The every existence of these castles is for us to remember where we have come from as a people. As for me it just stirred up the Pan- Africanism in me with full knowledge of how the past can be a source of our strength. I might have been a slave yesterday, but today / this generation of Africans says no! I refuse to forget sons of Africa like Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba and what they fought for.

  12. praise says:

    To remember is the bigggest mistake ever!It keeps us in the mindframe of an oppressed people. constantly whining abt the injustices blah blah blah. Foe effect look at south africa the land of the biggest whiners!! They never forget even an… event when students went off marching against an oppressive system but they did it in a rather silly manner. Running in the face of bullets so you can be a struggle hero!! All this coz they didnt want to learn in afrikaans which is the number one language for bankers and finance professionals! I would rather forget both the shame and idiosyncrancies of the past and do my best to effect a change in the here and now

  13. bridget sukoluhle judah says:

    sometimes i wish i was a racist too. then i reflect on the futility of racism, and the sheer ignorance tht drives it and i refuse to submit to these hateful thoughts. racism is a mindset. i see black pple being caught up in being white man’s monkeys and whores- there purely for their master’s entertainmnt and i knw we as a pple still have a long way to go. we need to emancipate ourselves and shake off the tragedy of our forefather’s anguish. make somethng of ourselves so tht their sufferng at the hands of white men isnt a vicious cycle carried into many generations.

  14. mumuh says:

    One thing that we as Africans must learn is to look to the future. There is too much victim mentality, we feeel that we have been wronged. Lest we forget slavery was also a result of a black men who went out to capture other weaker brothers. One must not forget that there are states like the Dahomey which thrived on slave trade. If we are to punish the whites for the atrocities that were commited then quite a number of African tribes would have to be punioshed. Slavery bwas so common in Africa that a defeated state became slaves of the victors…talk about ama Hole in the Ndebele state who were regarded as dogs by other fellow African brothers.Do we think that those guys owe us an apology or what…and what if we get the apology,is it going to reverse the status quo? I bet those guys who are now refered to as African Americans are not as angry as we are. They surely do not want to come back and abywhere they now cobnsider themselves better tahn us…so why should we cry for them. The problem that we have is that we want to drive a car looking at the rear view mirror, thats why there is no progresss. There are people who feel that they should rule because they think that we owe it to them for our independence. Africa should get over it,take charge of its destiny and stop crying over spilt milk….the world does not owe us anything.

  15. Sijabule says:

    We must never forget. Even here today in South Africa, the Afrikaners think their race is superior. There has just been a change from the physical to mental harm. It is not until the white man changes his mind that we shall learn to live together. The war is not over yet !

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  17. yolanda says:

    I really feel the same way Dee cause you know now it is diifficult for us Africans to claim our benefits and rightful resources now that white pple exhausted most of those precious resources. im glad we all picking the pieces and catching up in the corporate world. Now Africans have access to education and can have a say in what happens in their lives. independence is good

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  19. Theresa Fonjia Morfaw says:

    My dear sis on that day,i felt so furious but i contained myself, i couldn’t imagine that Slaves could be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, demand wages. In some cases was legal for an owner to kill a slave. Considering a fellow brother as an object was rather to cruel and it really pains my heart to think that the slaves weren’t even given the privilege to take their baths especially the women; can you imagine what women could feel like, staying for months without a bath and those stupid slave owners would make them take a bath when they want to defile them.
    slaves were born to be slaves; that it is by the will and direction of God, they were held in captivity.The Bible approves of slavery, and requires you to submit to it. . . . Believe them not! says one guy whom i was narrating my experience at the slave dungeon in Ghana to,giving a fake reference to a bible quote.I almost slapped him i cant believe some people think slavery is right and designed by God.God loves freedom and hates slavery, and he loves to behold the most intense love of freedom in his creatures; and the most unmitigated hatred of slavery and oppression in all its forms.Slavery still hangs on till today in different forms.Please lets say no to human torture we were born free by nature and for no reason should we be denied freedom and in no case should we be inflicted with torture.I wont hesitate to take laws in to my hands if i see any one so tortured.Slavery is as bad as murder.Beware slave owners!!!If humans don’t see God is watching.

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