When I am bored, I occasionally let my brain drift away. I tend to think and often question some things that most people take for granted or are not even bothered with. It was during one of these drifting episodes that I decided to chew on the Zambian flag. I was wondering for something that brings so much pride and identity to a nation. Why isn’t the person or people who designed it ever mentioned. I definitely know that I did not read about them in school, and the person or people continue to remain anonymous. However, one aspect that has been picking at my brain is the black on the flag and what it symbolises.
One of the early lessons in Social Studies in primary school is to know what the elements of the flag mean. The green represents the vegetation, the eagle for freedom, red the blood that was shed during the struggle for independence, orange for copper. And the black for the people of Zambia, this is where I am beginning to wonder whether it is still appropriate to have the black on our flag. The black on the flag is supposed to represent the majority of the Zambians who in all honesty are black. However, I have deliberately used the word majority, this implies that there is a minority that is not black but is Zambian.
The blanket meaning of black on the flag is supposed to cover all people who call themselves Zambians. If we were to analyse this to some degree it could be considered racist. Before any reader goes off calling me unpatriotic let me get that out straight away, and state that I am one patriotic Zambian. I am only attempting to look at this issue from a different perspective and perhaps give the voice to what non-blacks are thinking but do not know how to say it out.
The other argument that I clearly know will come, is that the majority of the Zambians are black after all so why should we care about the rest. True but then again, just because we may be in the majority does it mean that we do not need to consider the minority. After all, the civil rights movement in the United States was based on the injustices towards the so-called Black Americans who were in the minority. The world over, minority groups have often been overlooked just because they do not have the strength in numbers. They probably have to fight a little harder just to be heard above the majority voices.
This country has a lot of non-blacks who consider themselves and we too have come to consider them as Zambians. One has to look no further than our very own vice-president Guy Scott, even though he may be Caucasian he is very much Zambian even fluent in Bemba. We also have sports personalities such as the Singh family and recently crowned African Rally champion, Mohammed Essa whose lineage can be traced to India. However, like some Indians in this country, they have come to call Zambia home and consider themselves Zambians. I have even met others at the border who have Zambian passports. In the event that these individuals I have mentioned who consider themselves Zambians are asked to explain the meaning of the black on the flag they might give the default answer it stands for the black Zambians. Therefore, where does that put them who have a different skin tone? Shouldn’t they feel represented too on the flag?
Let us face facts one does not necessarily have to be black to be called Zambian. We have people who were born here or who have stayed in Zambia for decades that they literally call it home. When fellow Zambians are suffering they feel the pain, when there is injustice they speak out and when the Chipolopolo was winning the Africa Cup of Nations, they were celebrating with us. To me, it does not matter whether we have only a thousand or a hundred non-black Zambians, they are Zambians and they should be considered at least.
This piece is by no means attempting to say that Zambians are racist. In fact, bias aside we are one of the friendliest people in the world. It is about the flag. I am well aware that changing the flag to include non-black Zambians is perhaps a farfetched campaign, though some countries have done it before DR Congo (even though for different reasons), it is not impossible. Alternatively, we could redefine the meaning of the black on the flag to elaborately cater for both the black and non-black Zambians. Perhaps it is only me who is nuts and I should not attempt to make an issue out of it or do you agree with me?