The (Un)Intended Consequences of Socioeconomic Divides

Last night we were driving from Gayaza when I heard a sudden loud shrieking in the back of the car where my little brother and two of his friends were sitting. It had taken a split second so none of them could explain how, but a Kifeesi guy had grabbed a phone from the hands of one of them.

We were coming from a party so I can’t quite find the words to explain the sudden escalation from singing along “Girls Like You” to the trauma and wailing. They were talking and crying, and angry and scared, in spurts, all at the same time. It was like they’d just witnessed their souls and innocence get snatched away. When you’re older and have lived in the jungle that is Kampala, you can kind of deal. Not when you’re just a child, here for the Summer holiday. Amidst that psycho-emotional chaos, one of them asked, “Why would he do that?”

This got me thinking about how we see or think of ourselves and how we then project this on others and relate with them. But also, how others see us.

Let me ask: Do you have the ability to take part in an argument where your opinion will not prevail?

This year, something interesting happened with the composition of the Boundless Corp (S.6 Vacisits) class. Because of funding from our partners, we were able to take in mentees from Public/Community Schools, who would not have afforded the UGX 300K fees. This, therefore, meant that we had a cross-mix of students from top-class schools and others from B/C-tier schools. Interestingly, we also had a few others from South Africa and (what is now called) Eswatini. I was musing over the weekend that we might be the only “school” with this socioeconomic buffet. But more importantly, it showed me what can happen when you are not deliberate about listening to and understanding the other side in an argument.

Consider that you have people whose happiness is Keeping Up With Snapchat and the Gram doing group work with others who don’t even know about the existence of these platforms. How does someone who has never owned a SmartPhone fit in the same class with another who owns an iMac and can send their assignment off their home WiFi? How do you get someone who has never used a taxi or been downtown gets into a respectful discussion with another who doesn’t know where Acacia Mall is? Or someone that details racial and gender stereotyping sharing space with another who has internalized oppression.

These are legitimate questions because they are the same contradictions we see eventually manifesting into nasty online feuds over tribes and ethnicity, riots and street brawls and Kifeesi, or worse.

Explaining “how things work” to Carl and his friends, who kept saying “Let’s call the Police” was not going to make sense. So to answer their question, I said, “Because being a thief is the only way he has chosen to survive.” But that guy manifests in so many ways – some choices made by him, other choices made for him. We are the summation of our background and experiences.

In the future, when they are of age, I hope they understand and make the choice to do their bit in bridging the divides that lead to incidents like this. That way, the Kifeesi guy can get punished for choices that he has made on his own.

**If you are still here, do you know that the 40-40 Quiz Night and Karaoke is this Friday. You can come with friends or alone and have fun for a great cause. 7PM | The Square | 10K #4040Night #SeeYou

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Written by Benjamin Rukwengye (1)

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