Sunday, July 16, 2006

My take on race

So, I am going to say something that may lose me some friends in my own black community: I do not hate White people. And black people around me - mostly African-American, but Africans too - cannot help themselves but to say and do everything to make me feel guilty about it.

Do not get me wrong, I am not one to let them get away with bigotry. I will be the first to tell them off, when they are acting in total contempt of me, or fellow black and brown people, because of some misguided sense of superiority that they feel on account of their race. But I do not systematically assume that every white person that I meet, is out to get me. I am not naive about it: There are quite a few that ARE out to get me/us. But the truth of the matter is - IMHO - that we simply cannot coexist on this planet, if we do not at some point take a few leaps of faith - on both sides.

If there is something I have had the sad privilege of learning, is that human beings, regardless of race, have the same potential for evil and mischief. I have been screwed over by White, Brown, and Black people, for different reasons. If it was not racism, it was tribe, or ethnic group, language spoken, weight, plain ol' greed, or all the above together. Now, racism is still very much a problem, and many White people are either in denial, and some even embrace and strive in their racism, and all the shame in the World is on them, IMHO. That said, I have also been treated very well by Black, Brown, and yes, White people. Am I expected to reject all the individuals that have afforded me and other people of my color/race/origin/continent every ounce of decency and respect, simply because they are White? How does that make me any better than them? And if I do get upset, and get testy with them, are they expected to rollover and play dead, because they have to feel guilty?

I mean seriously! I resent being made to feel guilty for embracing those White people that are not in denial, or are trying to get out of their denial. I am tired of having to defend some of my White friends, from a blanket rejection by my family members, and black friends, because of the color of their skin. There are enough bigoted and racist White people, governments, and institutions in this World, for us to oppose, and try to bring down. There are lots of pretty ignorant White people that need educating. There are lots of White people out there that deserve our resentment. But we do not live in a vacuum. We cannot take the attitude that EVERY SINGLE WHITE PERSON is out to get us. Not only is it untrue, but it is very counter-productive. It diverts our efforts and our focus, and simply leaves us weaker in our fight, IMHO.

From a comment in my previous post, I discovered two blogs, by two black sisters: Black Looks, and Diary of a Mad Kenyan Woman. These ladies deserve a lot respect, for taking the time to air their frustrations, opinions, analyses and solutions on matter regarding black people worldwide, and I have lots of praises for them. That said, I quite strongly differ from (my perception of) some of their premises. They seem pretty angry and - justifiably - angry at this world of ours. Who can blame them? Not me. But where I disagree, is that they seem - and I would welcome a correction of this - to have lost any hope in a World where at least the majority of people can live in relative harmony. And that brings out a belligerent state of alert, which is not conducive to any resolution. I say people will be people. People, white or otherwise, will always be greedy, and if they so wish, they will always find some reason to hate. I advocate the stance that has us Black people, recognize our common humanity with other races, branch out to them in dignity, and call out into shame and destitution those - and only those - that try to deny our equality.

What does this entail? It entails not systematically seeing racism everywhere, in order to be able to focus on its root causes. It entails being vigilant, and standing ready to denounce bigotry and exploitation wherever we find it, and have the necessary elements to prove our allegations. It entails calling out ignorance not only among White people, but also among our own people. It also entails recognizing ignorance for what it is: blatant lack of knowledge, no more, no less. It entails being willing to share of ourselves, with those that share themselves with us. It entails being open to people of other races, in as far as they are open to us. It entails recognizing the potential for good in our fellow (Black, Brown, White) man, before pondering their potential for evil. It entails recognizing injustice everywhere, as much as we recognize it when it affects us. It entails being proud of who we are, where we come from, and getting rid of some of the complexes that both colonialism and slavery have fostered in us. It entails fostering in our people, not only a greater knowledge of our own History, and our own cultures and languages, but also those of the people that live around us, and share this planet of ours. Finally, and this is the most difficult, it entails being able to - sometimes - recognize goodwill for what it is: genuine goodwill.

You know where I am going with this, right? We do not live in a vacuum, and we never will. Until we develop interstellar travel, we are stuck on this blue ball of ours. There are countless of White (and other) people that couldn't care less what happens to the poor and destitute on this planet of their own races, let alone those n other races. When someone - to atone their guilt, to feel better, or genuinely - decides to address those plights, I see that as a positive development.

The government of the nation of Namibia have clearly overdone it, when they seemed to have bowed down to the Brangelina couple. Clearly. But the claims that my fellow Africans have made that they "surrendered their foreign policy to Hollywood"... come on now! We know what world we live in. We can try to change the world, and I do my part, but until that changes, every country's leaders are often interested in one thing: the bottom line. Brangelina was a publicity opportunity for Namibia, and they took it. It has nothing to do with Namibia's lack of pride, IMHO, but more to do with the lack of interest in positive stories about Africa, in the rest of the World. Those of our governments that do not happen to have a war going on, try to find their place in the Global arena, and it is not easy. Do I condone the particular event, maybe not. But for a Hollywood star, Namibia could have done much worse. I may question her tendency to adopt-children-on-demand, but I cannot question Angelina's motives, because one of my family members, who happens to work in the UN, and who normally has nothing but contempt for the punctual do-gooders, says she is very different, because she is sincerely committed. Why should I then reject her contribution? Because she is Rich and White? Somebody please explain that to me.

I believe that we black people, need to find better targets for our anger and resentment. We need to hold the White/Western/Wealthy establishment fully accountable for their centuries' old oppression of us, but also give them the necessary room to redeem themselves. And for those of us that are Africans, we also need to start hold our own leadership accountable. We need to fight our own discriminating urges, and we need to regain our pride.

I am black because I am a human who happens to be from the motherland, and happens to have a certain level of melanin. I am Kongo and Lulua, two great nations of Central Africa, now included in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I am African, and I am human. I am not black because I am not White. I am not black in contrast to White people. I am not black as opposed to being White. My blackness is not defined by a contrast to their Whiteness. I am simply Black, JUST AS others are White, or Brown, or otherwise. I am proud to be from the Motherland, and my level of melanin changes NOTHING in the common humanity I share with other humans. I act, and bear myself like a human, equal to all others, that happens to have dark skin. We must internalize that sense of human dignity, and TAKE our rightful place as equal members of the human family.

It all starts with us.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What is black?

So, yesterday, I was talking with this African-American friend of mine, and I just had an epiphany: Apparently, I am not black! This came as quite a shock to me, as I have been looking at the mirror for 23 years, and I have always seen a black man looking back at me. But apparently I am not black, because I am not US-American. In other words, only US-Americans of African descent are black; the rest of us are just Africans, or West Indians, Carribeans, or Latin Americans, but we are not Black! Wow, man. I have been fooled for so long! But then how come I am darker than most of them? hum... interesting...

More seriously, the debate is a really stupid one, and quite senseless, when we know that we are all in fact different shades of brown. People of African descent here in the US need to recover their pride in their African heritage. And those of us that are Africans need to make an effort to understand and associate more... politely with our brethren on this side of the pond.

Then, we can work on duking it out with our pink... I meant white fellow humans :).