My Twitter feed trends have been set on the United States' trend map lately because of the elections and because I love most things American, & my country doesn't have a Twitter trend location. But every now and then, I change my trends' map location to South Africa. Today was one of those days. Nadia Nakai, an up & coming Zimbabwean female rapper based in South Africa had just dropped an EP, Bragga; and me wanting to see what people's reactions were of it, I turned on the South African trends' map, to see what the closest fans to her geographically, had to say about it. PS: I think it's a great EP. I especially love the song "Don't Cut It". It's playing as I type.
When the trend feed popped up, the number one trending topic was #KenyaVsSouthAfrica. At first, I didn't really pay much attention to it. I looked down the other trending topics to see if Nadia was anywhere on there. She wasn't. There were, however, the usual South African trending topics; Radebe, Kaizer Chiefs, Isibaya etc.
But the #KenyavsSouthAfrica hashtag had intrigued me. I thought it was probably trending because there is a sporting event going on. But I was like, it cannot be soccer, because, well, international soccer is on a break at the moment. And then I thought it was probably rugby sevens since that's the only other sporting event South Africa and Kenya could possibly be playing against each other. But on a Thursday though? No, that cannot possibly be. Rugby sevens is almost always played on the weekends, as far I knew, I thought to myself.
Enough. I clicked on the trend, and what popped up was just distasteful. It wasn't soccer. It wasn't rugby sevens, either. It was a Twitter war between the two countries' twittersphere.
Below is the very first tweet I saw when I opened the trending topic:
This guy is bragging about Kenya having colonized Somalia like that is something to be bragging about. It's for laughs, but there's little tasteful about it. I could have posted more pictures, but Akoma wouldn't allow me. Could have embedded some of the tweets, but Akoma does not allow it, or just don't know how to.
But to break it down, the tweet grab I posted is probably less offensive compared to some of the other tweets I saw. The more offensive ones ranged from jokes along the lines of HIV prevalence rate in South Africa to the stereotypical hunger in Kenya. Some people spoke up against the conversation that was being had and the turn it took, but those are not people getting the most retweets or likes, no. They are not the South Africans, Kenyans or other African tweeps who are showing up on the topic's top tweets. Which just goes to show how many of us, Africans seem to embrace these ugly stereotypes we hold of each other.
I get it, Twitter is supposed to be fun and light. But the thing about Twitter is, people do take things said on there to heart. We have seen that with the rap beefs that materialized out of things said on Twitter. Meek Mill and Drake come to mind to those of you who are Hip Hop connoisseurs or just happen to be familiar with the two artists. With that said, it's really not nice to be mean towards each other, to put it plainly and mildly.
On a serious note, stereotypes are judgement tools hanging over our heads that are used by others to vilify us or justify how ugly they are treating us; and it's not how anyone or most people want to go about their everyday lives - being judged by their stereotypes. Africans, especially if you live in an African country that is diverse like Namibia or South Africa, stereotypes hang over one's head aplenty. Either you're black, and lazy. Or you're a boer and racist. Or just tribal stereotypes. I certainly don't want anyone judging me by stereotypes.
We, as Africans cannot have conversations among ourselves if we hold these stereotypes about each other. It creates distrust if for example you're stereotypical perceptions of South Africans is that they are thieves. We need a culture of tolerance on the continent to do away with these stereotypes, so we start seeing each other as fellow human beings, and Africans.
Edward-Mekondjo Nailenge is African by birth, but a citizen of the world by choice. He is an opinion writer at aKoma. He can be reached at email@example.com