Mzungu! Mzungu! That word rained on us during our two week stay in Mozambique. The word means “White man” and little kids vocally affirmed our presence in their backyard using them. One evening we went to a show performed by the band practicing in Schalk’s garage. I stood there during the show’s rehearsal, fifty teenagers looking at me as if I’m the odd one out – I was! They shouted at me and laughed, making fun of me in their local language, Shauna. I felt isolated.
Mzungu is a local word which has its origin in a metaphor derived from the ocean. Some days the ocean is like a big bowl of soup being mixed in a mixer. During these days white foam appears on the water surface. That foam is Mzungu – white scum.
Colonialism gave us that name. The white man coming in and defiling everything with their scum.
In that moment of isolation I realized how my prejudice and fun at the expense of others shut people out. How I am part of a sad history of oppression and domination by the white scum in Africa. How desperately I needed God to help me see people through his eyes. How I have to break down my issues of supremacy.
In the next few days I will try to unpack what God did in my heart in Mozambique.