Wrestling With Ghosts of Colonialism in Africa

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When Thomas Cholmondeley — son of the fifth Baron Delamere, scion of Kenya’s residual white aristocracy — appeared in court in Nairobi charged with murdering a black poacher, it was inevitable that this juxtaposition of bloodshed and privilege across the racial divide would provoke comparison with other misbehavior by his forebears stretching back decades.

It was inevitable, too, that as his trial unfolded and he was sentenced earlier this month to eight months in prison on manslaughter charges — in addition to the three years he had already served awaiting trial — the contrast between the gravity of the crime and the seeming leniency of the punishment would ignite protests that white privilege had survived far beyond the moment in 1963 when Kenya first raised aloft its banner of independence.

And most of all, the outcome seemed to hold up to blacks and whites alike the fractured mirror through which each perceives the other — literally as “the other,” uneasy partners thrust together by history and still struggling to lay to rest the troubled ghosts of their uneven tryst.

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