What exactly "mzungu" means?

Mzungu: lit. "the one with the white skin". If you read me along these first months of blogging, you know I am using this term a lot. In fact, I am called "mzungu" at least 50 times a day, to the point that when I come back home from the outside world, I keep hearing it in my ears for hours - as if I went to the Roller coaster and I was still spinning around. Indeed, going outside and being possible one of the only mzungu in town is kind of a funfair activity. Everyone is pointing at me for the colour of my skin. First of all, kids, who either laugh out loud or run away scared by my paleness. Sometimes, I feel mocked by these small individuals, as they stare at me like if I was a creature from fairy tales or a product of sorcery.😄😄😄. But generally, everyone wants to attract my attention or to do business with me, as I said here - the basic assumption cannot be hide: everyone think we have money. Lots of money. Well, I suppose this stereotype is the price to pay for centuries of privileges and white suprematism....
When I go to the community where I am doing my research, things are a bit different. It's not only about economic transactions. We speak to so many people, and we introduce our research. We build up relations. We explain the real reason why we are here. And we are always very much "karibuni", welcomed. The assumption here is that mzungu are really "very much smart" and developed and that they will help them in progressing. This makes me a bit sad actually, first of all because I am not sure that our standards are the "gold standard": secondly, because it is not true that we always have the solution for other people problems - in fact, it is often the opposite, and history shown how many wrong things have been done in the name of progress! anyway....
The perception of mzungus is quite positive here. Why? Why there are no reminiscences of colonialism? why there is no resentment toward white people - who were not always angels for these lands? In Uasin Gishu County, which is the one where I am staying, mzungu are not really associated with structures of power, but rather with missionaries or doctors. Good people, basically, or at least well-intentioned. 
As so, "white skinned" is not meant in a negative way, but stands just as a normal description of peoples skin. It's much more a neutral word than the ones we use to refer to African people which, whichever sounds they assume (black people, people of colour, negroes) always held reminiscences of disapproval,  fears, domination, discrimination and stigma...
Last year, though, when Corona started, there were some episodes of stigmatization targeting mzungu as carriers of the virus. This led most of them to leave. 
When writing this post, I actually checked the etymology of the word "mzungu" and discovered that it comes from zungu or zunguka, an expression referring to spinning around on the same spot. Kizunguzungu is Kiswahili for dizziness. That made me laugh a bit: Firstly, for the comparison I initially made with the rollercoaster. Secondly, because it is exactly how I would describe myself. Always, proudly, spinning around!

I am happy to be a mzungu then! ;-)


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