Africa: Sasa, Dereva? Black-on-black hate in, yes, the hospitality sector

Never, in my history of writing for The EastAfrican, has my inbox been as full as it is now with feedback to the articles, If you’re black, stand back – discrimination and hospitality and Hospitality industry – our society has stopped respecting elders. From the many, I requested the permission of Trevor Sawyer and Martin Baraza to share their feedback.

Trevor recalls arriving at a Mombasa beach hotel gate as a group of engineers, four white and one a black Kenyan. A friendly security guard enthusiastically greeted the Kenyan engineer, telling him, “Hello driver, I see you have brought my guests back safely.” The vehicle roared with laughter, and the engineers left the guard none the wiser. Till today, they fondly tease their “driver” colleague about the incident.

Martin, a dual citizenship Kenyan who previously worked in the hospitality industry in Kenya, said, “I understood what you meant in the articles. I felt so bad and worthless seeing colleagues, especially those serving at restaurants, bars and swimming pool areas, prioritise serving whites over fellow Africans, regardless of how much they spend. Black people were searched when they tried to access beach hotels and asked what business they had in the hotel.”

Martin had heated debates with colleagues, coming up against a wall of self-prejudice – his black colleagues defended their perceptions that white people were better than them. Martin explains how sad this made him feel, describing it as a sickening “slave mentality.”

In the West, Martin encountered and was shocked by acts of racism: Denial of entry to clubs, job discrimination and white people preferring to stand rather than sit next to him in trams and trains. Blacks dominate cleaning and warehousing jobs. While working in the hospitality industry in which he had a wealth of experience, he was often expected to counter the insinuation of not being smart enough. Martin, whose wife is white, has a five-year-old son who he hopes will live in a more equal world. His wife is his biggest support.

Martin often wishes his former black colleagues had his experience to understand favouring white people in Africa does not guarantee non-discrimination in the West. Martin has met many racists but quite a number who are not. He comes home to Kenya often, and hates seeing blacks discriminating against blacks.


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