Sunday, July 19, 2009
On this day, I learned of a disheartening situation that I became embroiled in. My female friend Karpo informed me that her friend was beaten by her husband because he believed she was cheating on him with me.
Apparently, this situation had been developing since I initially met this woman upon my arrival in Liberia. My host brother Joscee is a close friend with Karpo. Karpo is friends with this Minister’s wife—the woman who was allegedly sleeping around.
My initial meeting with this minister’s wife was quite brief. I met Karpo, her sister in-law Cynthia and this woman within my first 48 hours of being in Monrovia. I do not specifically recall our interaction but I believe it was limited to exchanging a few pleasantries and discussing briefly my purpose for being in Liberia.
Subsequent interactions with this woman resumed only last week as I was invited to a graduation party that was hosted by Karpo’s brother and sister in-law. This party was held at the minister’s house since they rent from him and he has a larger yard with which to entertain. I spent my day with Karpo, Joscee and others.
Then, this weekend, I spent an hour or two with Karpo, Cynthia and the minister’s wife. This time we were sitting outside the house chatting. I do not recall having any conversation with the minister’s wife. Anyway, she and her husband were to leave for a party later in the evening. Apparently, after they left, he accused her of cheating with me.
What is strange is that the minister never introduced himself to me and I still do not yet know his name or his wife’s. So the whole situation was perpetuated on gossip and speculation. Apparently, this may have been the very thing that caused the man to believe his concocted version of events. Being that we were never introduced and yet I continued to visit the home, often drinking with his wife and her friends, he came to believe that I must have had ill intentions and was acting on them.
Since this time, I have come to learn that people in the neighborhood are skeptical of spending too much time around this man’s house for the fear of being seen as interested in his wife or being assumed of wanting to take advantage of him/his family. I can only conclude that there are existing problems within the marriage and a foreigner’s presence has provided an impetus for a conflict.
I think the most important lesson I have learned from this drama is that skin color is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to one’s benefit or demise, even without much force or intent. Here, white skin seems to immediately purport power, money and control. It has become clear that being white can be a security concern in and of itself.
It is disheartening that this jealousy has caused such disrespect. The benefits that we could achieve by working together and building a mutual understanding have been lost before they were ever built.
In addition to the personal discomfort and anger this has caused, it also exemplifies the challenge domestic rights still face in Liberia. When a minister’s wife is hit for allegedly cheating on her husband despite no real evidence to support the claim, and no one is concerned about him having hit her, it is clear that there are some cultural values that are astray. I can only hope that President Sirleaf’s attempts to address these issues are embraced.
And today, as I rode in a taxi to work, I saw a sticker that sums it all up: “Real Men Don’t Abuse Women.”