One of my biggest frustrations going about my daily life here, is constantly being referred to as a “toubab”. “Toubab” literally translates as “outsider”, “foreigner” or basically “white person”. And it is usually yelled by children along with requests for money or a gift. Being an Urban Ag volunteer means that I face a lot more “toubab” yelling kids than my fellow volunteers who are placed in small villages. Usually I just ignore the kids, sometimes I tell them in Pulaar to shut up and that my name isn’t “toubab”.
Last week though, I was walking back from my favorite bean sandwich stand, when a couple of kids were yelling “toubab” at me. I turned around, and told them that they were being rude and to stop. A man (and I assume parent) nearby told me that they were just being kids and that I was wasting my time. I explained to the man that if a white child was to yell “balayjo” at a black person they would be in trouble (My exact words might have been something like, “If white kid said black person. White kid’s parents beat the piss out of white kid because white kid bad.” Eloquent—I know.) I told him that “toubab” is a racist word and that the kids only shouted it because I was white. I said it was wrong, and they should be corrected. He thought for a minute, then told me I was right, it was rude and racist. We then finished greeting and parted ways.
Later that night, when I was riding past the same spot on my bike with a fellow volunteer, I overheard a kid yell to his friends “Hey, don’t call her toubab you hear!?”. My heart leapt. I realized that the man must have talked to the kids and told them not to call me “toubab”. Victory. Sure it is a small victory, but right now I will take anything I can get.
Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are mine alone and do not represent the positions or views of the U.S. Government or the U.S. Peace Corps.