“Where does this information come from that a Black man is a threat?” asked Lino Macamo, a freshman studying agronomy, crop and soil science. “What lead to this conclusion? Where on earth did you learn that a Black man or woman is a threat? Growing up I was never taught this.”
Born in Mozambique and raised in South Africa, Macamo began his early years during a new time in the country’s history.
As recorded in the history of South Africa, the 1990s brought the abolition of segregation laws when Nelson Mandela became president of the country. According to the South African History Online website, apartheid, a system that legalized institutionalized racism, was adopted in 1948 and lasted for 46 years until Mandela’s inauguration in 1994.
Macamo explained that with the history of segregation came racial tensions and feelings of superiority among whites that exist to this day, though they appear more subtly.
“People have looked down on me because I’m Black,” Macamo said. “Not just white people, but Indian people.”
In ninth grade, Macamo grew frustrated as he and other Black students were depicted as antagonists in the classroom on a daily basis, due to their darker skin color.
Macamo said his teacher never thought highly of her Black students and that they would “not achieve anything.”
“She thought that we were not as intelligent as Indians and white people, so she would treat us differently and call us names,” Macamo explained.
From being called a dog and labeled a useless human being, to noting the harsh grading that he fellow and Black classmates would receive as compared to white students, Macamo sensed a feeling of superiority coming from his instructors.
After that year in school, Macamo’s parents brought up the concerns of discrimination with administration, he never saw his ninth-grade teacher again.
The significance of the color of his skin had never come to Macamo’s mind growing up. He attributed this to the agreeable relationships and positive interactions he had with people of all races.
Headlines of Blacks being shot at the hands of police in the United States was something that Macamo and the rest of South Africa’s eyes and ears would in the news.
“I’ve never in my life,” he explained, “Seen a white cop in South Africa pull over someone, specifically a Black male, and (see that) the first thing a white cop does is pull out a gun. I have never seen it in my life.”
Comparing the 23 years South Africa claims equal rights between race and the U.S.’s beginning of equality — which is arguably over 50 years —Macamo shared how perplexed he was to learn how a first world country, would have such racism. Especially where it is expected that many are well-educated. He expects individuals to treat others with respect and dignity as human beings.
“I think that was so cruel and inhumane to see one human being kill another human being,” he said.
This past Christmas Macamo had the opportunity to celebrate the holiday with a family in Utah. He recalled how he was the first Black person to sleep in their home.
“They took the time to get to know more about me and where I came from,” he said. “To know more about my people in my country.”
This experience was a moment where Macamo said he felt as though they were able to see him as the ordinary human being he is and as a result, he was able to see that there are good people in the United States and how there needs to be more education on race.
Macamo also discussed the backward view many have of how Africa is and how Africans are. He stated that contrary to popular belief, Africans don’t live behind bushes and hunt wild animals; that many are educated and are tech-savvy. There are beautiful roads and infrastructure as well as “charming neighborhoods.”
“We somehow need to educate Americans about Africans,” Macamo said. “Africa is not what people think it is. We should not be afraid about how Black lives really do matter, we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about how the Black man is intelligent and we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about how many Africans have been exploited by the white man.”
Macamo pointed out that though varying degrees of inequality still exist in South Africa, internationally, we can all begin fixing it somewhere. To him, the starting place is obtained through education and educating others. According to Macamo, people can and should love one another.