Buy yourself a paper doll

IN the 20th century, one of the best-selling singing groups was the African-American quartet, The Mills Brothers. Paper Doll was one of their many hits.

“I’m gonna buy a paper doll That I can call my own

A doll that other fellows cannot steal

And when those flirty, flirty guys

With their flirty, flirty eyes

Will have to flirt with dollies that are real

When I come home at night, she will be waiting.

She’ll be the truest doll in all the world.I’d rather have a paper doll to call my own

Than have a fickle-minded real live doll.”

The Mills Brothers were once called “Four Boys with a kazoo”, before they hired a guitarist.

I was reminded of their hit by Dominic Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

He was charged in New York with sexually assaulting an African maid in a hotel.

He vehemently denied the charge: the Guinea-Conakry maid was a single mother with a not-so-squeaky clean record of probity.

As someone said of her,”she had it coming” — an African woman of dubious morality accusing this VIP of sexually assaulting her?

She didn’t stand a chance.

Strauss-Kahn got off scot-free.

But this man had a reputation as long as your arm of sexually molesting women, including French women.

Get a paper doll, Dominic, is my advice to him. For me, the incident reeked of racism.

Shortly afterwards, there was the racism storm which blew up in English football: what was going on here?

Was this somehow to be marked as the season during which Africans were to be pilloried — for no other reason than that they were Africans?

I was reminded of Sepp Blatter’s highly mischievous comment that most of the racist incidents in soccer could be solved with a handshake.

As a Zimbabwean, I am acutely aware of how racism can drive you to a sort of hatred that defies logic.

For me, the early experience of being backed by a white Rhodesian in a quarrel with another white Rhodesian sort of shifted my focus.

For people subjected to racism for ages, Africans have displayed a general level of tolerance of white people which really ought to be appreciated.

Yet there are occasions when I am intrigued by some of our attitudes towards the white people in our midst.

You get the impression, particularly among some African politicians, that they are itching “to get back” at the white people, to do to them what they did to us — even it is no longer of any consequence.

This reminds me of what was reported to have happened shortly after independence in Zimbabwe.

A planeload of the new leaders flew over the country, with someone guiding them to areas where the most fertile, successful farms were located.

“I think I’ll take that one, the big one on the right. That’s got everything!” one of them is said to have shouted.

It apparently went on like that for a while.

I suspect some of it was embroidered to make the politicians even more disreputable than they really were.

The record shows that, except for that terrible period when the war veterans invaded the farms, the land reform programme was almost orderly.

But there were occasions during that wild period that many of us thought such conduct was entirely unworthy of people who had achieved independence with a modicum of grace and dignity.

Once in a while, not only in Zimbabwe and South Africa, but elsewhere in Africa, there are examples of an uncouth attitude towards white people which makes you wonder if all of us have a proper appreciation of what it means to be masters of our own destiny.

We, not the white people, are now in charge — of the entire country.

We are the custodians.

Do we want our children and their grandchildren to emulate our example — if we decide we are entitled to wreak vengeance on all white people for the sins of their fathers?

The idea is to turn our country into something better than it was under the white people – not something worse.

Bill Saidi is a veteran writer based in Harare

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