In a typical day of a white person in Uganda, you will hear someone yell “Mzungu”, which literally means “white person”, at you at least once. This is totally normal. However, I’ve found that if you wear certain articles of clothing you could have other things yelled at you instead. These comments still annoy me, but I do prefer them over being called mzungu. Some of these other comments include but are not limited to:
1.) If I’m wearing a football jersey of any kind, I will get comments based on which jersey it is. For example, if I wear my Chelsea jersey I get “CHELSEA” yelled at me (if only my name was Chelsea). Wearing my Zanzibar jersey I get “ZANZIBAR” (or for the less literate “ZAMBIA”). Even when I wear my Uganda jersey I get “UGANDA”.
This kind of attention I don’t usually enjoy. It is better than being called Mzungu, but it is still not wanted. If I was a Ugandan wearing the same thing, nothing would be said. And it is very common to see Ugandans wearing Chelsea and Uganda jersey.
2.) If I’m wearing a Peace Corps shirt of any kind, people may walk past me and say “Peace” or “Peace CorPS” (pronouncing every letter).
3.) I have a hat with the number “1” on it (yes, there is a story behind the hat) and when I wear this sometimes people will even say “One” as I walk past.
These last two instances are less annoying because it is basically Ugandans just reading out loud what they should really just be reading internally. They aren’t really yelling it at you. It’s more something that maybe you’re not even meant to hear.
If you couldn’t tell, discrimination is rampant here in Uganda. It’s not always malicious or even understood, for that matter. It is simply a learned behavior that is totally acceptable to most Ugandans. It’s only when you are called “Mzungu” by someone who knows your name that it is really understood to be rude.