I am in the midst of a longer post introducing and reflecting on the principles of ThinkImpact and the program structure that will come soon. In short, it is a program that seeks to expand what we as humans think is possible in terms of creation, using local partnership and design-thinking to introduce new ideas, products, and services to rural communities.
Today, I am not exploring this creation process, but rather destruction when yesterday we visited the genocide memorial in Kigali. I am struck by what we as humans are capable of when we let fear, hate, and division guide us. And, I am in awe of the Rwandan people for their capacity to forgive and live in community still today. It is illegal in Rwanda to ask someone what tribe they are (Tutsi or Hutu) with the idea that, in a few generations, people will literally not know the distinction.
As I arrived in our community, I realized that we will come to know many Hutu people (who were the genocidaires), and I know that we will grow to love these people. As I journaled, I was glad, for villainizing an entire people group- even with the history of Rwanda- would do no good. But when I first had the thought, I was terrified. Not because I think Hutus are inherently scary, or because I am literally afraid for my safety, but because I could picture a community member with machete in hand and maintain his humanity, even see myself in him.
And I remembered in the memorial, as we read about the strategy used to instill fear of a Tutsi revolution as propaganda for the Hutu Power to rise, my fellow advisor Kathryn said, “this is what Freire talks about.” She is right: the genocidaires, the Hutus, were also oppressed peoples. It is like a women in a video at the memorial said, “the government killed my family; it was the government’s genocide.” Many perpetuated the system, but they were bound by it, too.
And I wonder, can making it illegal to talk about your ethnic background develop a liberatory consciousness? Is it not the same as being colorblind?
Furthermore, is it even my place as a cultural outsider to ask these questions? And how do I ask a question that presupposes I can understand living through events that I was unaware of until twelve years after they occurred?
With this, I am inspired in awe and sometimes disbelief by the continued integration of Tutsi and Hutu in the village. And if not discussing tribal backgrounds (that were socially constructed by colonial powers, by the way) with a vision of their children and children’s children not seeing them helps facilitate this, then I will respectfully follow. And I will continue to reflect on what I learn about love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and social justice in doing so.