Here in Kenya there is what people call “mzungu price”. It is the price which vendors ask for their goods, especially souvenirs, from white people. It is higher than the one they will ask from black people.
Being judged as wealthy feels unfair and it is tempting to describe it as discrimination.
However, we should not forget that people from the global North enjoy certain priviledges and profit from the global division of labour.
- We have maximum freedom of movement.
- We can interfere with politics, economy and culture of other countries.
- In fact, we profit from structural racism.
It is not our fault, but the result of historical and ideological processes.
However, we should not take these priviledges for granted and present ourselves as victims of discrimination. By that, we avoid to acknowledge power relations which we benefit from.
There is a difference between structural discrimination/ power and situational discrimination/ power.
Structural power includes the global division of labour which people from the global North profit from. (German banks, for example, speculate with the worldwide prices for food.)
Structural discrimination is suffered by people from the global South and often not visible for people from the global North. (In Namibia, for example, food prices rise, and land is divided in a colonial pattern.)
Situational power is what the vendors have when they ask higher prices, or the hawkers who assume that you have a lot of money and who use that power to get more money. (A taxi driver in Kenya, for example, might ask a white person for a higher rate than she would ask a black person or people of colour.)
Situational discrimination triggers negative emotions like sadness and anger and is often the only dimension which travellers from the global North focus on when they talk or write about their experiences. (While they don’t know the reason for rising food prices that put the people in the country of destination into trouble, they can directly compare what they had to pay for a souvenir, in comparison to a local person.)
White people can be discriminated situationally, but can never be victims of racism as in structural discrimination.
For a glimpse into the other side of view, listen to Antony talking about his experience with local and international volunteers in Kenya. Password: Discrimination