Six months into our adventure in Uganda has been exhilarating and exhausting all rolled in to one. Having traveled here six times before our move, I thought I “knew” cultural things. Man, was I wrong. Every day the Lord opens my eyes to a new tidbit I didn’t know, good or bad (in our missonary training they told us to not use “good or bad” but to use different). Let’s just say, things are very, very different.
I’ve always struggled with people being judged by their skin color. I’ve never understood why it happens or why someone’s skin color has anything to do with the person they are. I’ve also been struggling to put into words what’s on my heart because it’s so politically incorrect by American standards but here it goes….white privilege! When people look at me here they see my skin. This has given me just a minuscule hint of what it must feel like to be judged by skin color in America but in a much different way. The difference, white skin equals privilege and an unspoken superiority that makes me extremely uncomfortable. White skin equals perceived unlimited money. White skin equals getting immediately put in the front of a line. White skin equals navigating our physical steps as not to become so routine someone could be watching or not to be oblivious to our surroundings because we are perceived to have money all of the time and could be robbed. White skin equals having razor wire around your compound and strong locks on the doors. White skin equals sitting at the front table of a wedding introduction or wedding. White skin equals sometimes being invited to said events because we have the again perceived unlimited money and may help fund the event. White skin equals we pay double, sometimes triple, what an item should cost because we don’t know what a local would pay. White skin equals being stared at often. White skin equals hearing the word Mzungu (which means white person) yelled by children as you ride by with excited waves (which I love). White skin equals little children wanting to touch your white skin because it’s fascinating to them (which I also love as they try to rub off my tattoos). White skin equals adults laughing at you when you are trying to speak their language, not because they’re being mean, but because they are delighted by the fact that you are trying and willing.
I’ve always been thankful for the gift of discernment. I can usually tell within a few minutes what someone is about and if they’re an honest person. While that still holds true here, I’ve used it a few times to warn Dan and Jensen, it definitely makes me question and second guess my gift sometimes. The playing field is different and the rules have changed. Ugandans we know and trust have also warned us about some of these perceptions. They’ve said for some nationals, if they have a Mzungu friend, they’ve “made it” and will keep deceptions going for years. Some days it’s a tough road to navigate. I want to be seen as a person, just like everyone else here. I want them to see someone that helps when needed, wants to serve the Lord with their whole heart, and loves unconditionally… not my skin color.
My prayer since I’ve been here has been for the Lord to open my eyes to the people. I’ve prayed for Him to let me see people as He does and not look at their circumstance. My prayer would also be for Him to allow people to see me, not my skin color; for people to see me as God sees me. As this in no way compares to what being judged by skin color means in America, it’s a glimpse of one of the cultural differences I’ve witnessed and experienced. I’m not complaining in any way, this journey is amazing and I’ve learned a lot about myself and God. I will continue to use the gift of discernment He gave me and trust that He will put even more amazing people in my life. Just when you think you have things figured out, like I did when we arrived, God shows up and has you navigate a whole new road.