10 Kenyan shillings. 10 bob in shang, Nairobi’s slang. It’s enough to make me angry.

Two days ago I was riding in a matatu with a friend. He argued the price down from 80 bob to 70. When we paid, the conductor withheld our 10 bob change, claiming that the price only applied to one of us even though we were clearly traveling together. I had to pay 10 bob more.

That 10 bob angered me. Not because of the amount I was ripped off (it’s about 13 US cents) but because my Kenyan friend was charged the agreed upon price while the white girl had to pay more.

But my friend wasn’t bothered. He said that some battles are worth fighting, and this wasn’t one of them. I questioned him, because I often choose that battle to fight. I choose all battles where I’m clearly ripped off based on skin color, even if it’s only for a few cents.

To my friend, there is a cultural difference between asked for 1000 bob or 10. If someone wants 1000 bob, they probably need it. If someone takes 10, they’re doing it because they’re stuck in Soweto, as my friend calls it.

Soweto is the belief that the rich must give to the poor simple because they’re rich. My friend also calls it the poverty mentality, or the Robin Hood culture. People ask me for money because being white means I’m rich even if I’m not. But they also ask my Kenyan friend, who is not rich but who at least has a good paying job. The people who are asking don’t necessarily need money, either. They ask because they believe it’s their right to be given money, and your obligation to give. They don’t care how much, 10 bob will do it.

My friend didn’t fight the 10 bob in the matatu because that acknowledges Soweto. He’s been dealing with this all his life. He can’t be bothered by it.

I still get angry.

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