When I added my Read Around the World books to Goodreads, of course I started at the top and worked my way down. So, naturally, when I went to request the first from the library…number one showing was Zimbabwe. Clearly I didn’t think that through, but I never said I had to go in any certain order. After all, I technically started in the middle with Norway!
I knew absolutely zero about Zimbabwe when I started When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, except that it is a country in Africa. I knew vaguely the area it was in, but can’t really point to it on the map. That’s the whole point of this RATW journey though, to learn what I did not know.
Sometimes education can be very uncomfortable, and such was Peter Godwin’s narrative. In the US, white over black racism is a HUGE issue (really white over any other race, but specifically the persecution of blacks). As a white person in this country, I have had to work really hard, am still working very hard every day to suppress the racism that society has ingrained in me. I hate it, it’s awful, but I know it’s there and so I just have to keep trying to be better.
Because of that, I wanted to call bullshit on the first half of Godwin’s book. He started talking about the war and politics in Zimbabwe, then completely cut away to talk about his dad’s history in WWII and the Holocaust. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that he was drawing parallels to his father’s Polish heritage to the Zimbabwean persecution of whites and…wait…what? It screamed reverse racism. But that’s not real? Right?
But in the second half of the narrative, he really focused on how the government was tearing down the economy for everyone–forcing former black workers to take advantage of their white employers, shutting down farms so no one can work, whites or blacks, even confiscating animals for “Animal Cruelty,” just based on who owns them. Food and gas were forced into a black market system, and the corrupt government ran on bribes. Still though, the focus seemed to be that whites were being persecuted harder as the government tried to take Africa back from those who had colonized them.
There’s a moment when Godwin tries to buy groceries for his mother and is unable to, but a well-dressed black woman takes the bill. His mother responds with, “Many a time we have done that for a black person struggling to pay.” Everything is turned upside down.
This left me with a lot of complicated emotions–which really, is a good thing. On an issue such as racism, you SHOULD feel a lot of complicated emotions. It should tear you up, and this did. It’s a strong book for someone of my background to read, because it only further educates me on how it feels to be on the other side of the coin.
I do want to explore more about Zimbabwe, and maybe read something from someone else’s point of view. I need to know if this is jaded from a white man’s perspective. I’d like to think it’s not, but…well.
If you have any recommendations for me, I’d love to hear them.
Fulfills Read Around the World Zimbabwe