November 18, 2010

Exploiting Homophobia To Exploit Africa

Homosexuals can really come in handy and not for the reasons you think.

You see, when a politician in a third world, post colonial country, finds himself in a bind, “Blame The Gays” is always a reliable tactic. Those who are frustrated by the spread of HIV among their young women and children but do not want to address root issues like ignorance, gender inequality, female economic disempowerment and irresponsible, overly entitled heterosexual male behavior, they can too can blame the gays. If a political opponent is gaining more popularity and their intellectual clout and integrity is you showing up, insinuate that they are gay/or that they support gays. Need a quick, easy diversion as you allow foreign NGOs to come into your country and set up shop with no paperwork or records that will enable you and your cronies to skim off the top while your people suffer? Get your citizens distracted and fired up on Christian homophobia. While they are busy hunting down, outing, exorcising, punishing, killing gays and lesbians in the name of Jesus and African Pride, have your round table meetings and broker multimillion dollar deals. Need to whip up some nationalism against the first world countries that have exposed your regime as despotic? Then claim the European gays are attempting to come again into your country with neo-colonialist plots to recruit your children into homosexuality.

Think this is far-fetched?

It is not. The reality is that homophobia is regularly employed as a political tool in Africa, even right here in the Caribbean, most recently in Jamaica, the PM was accused of being a “battyman” and has to make regular comments supporting the homophobia of his constituents or risk their wrath. When gays get lynched, politicians get popular, elected, rich and powerful.

However what is even more distressing is the use of Christianity to whip up the hatred. The situation became so dire in Uganda that Nobel Peace Prize Winner Desmond Tutu had to respond publically on Friday March 12, 2010 thusly:

“Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God's family. And of course they are part of the African family. But a wave of hate is spreading across my beloved continent. People are again being denied their fundamental rights and freedoms. Men have been falsely charged and imprisoned in Senegal, and health services for these men and their community have suffered. In Malawi, men have been jailed and humiliated for expressing their partnerships with other men. Just this month, mobs in Mtwapa Township, Kenya, attacked men they suspected of being gay. Kenyan religious leaders, I am ashamed to say, threatened an HIV clinic there for providing counseling services to all members of that community, because the clerics wanted gay men excluded.

Uganda's parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi.

These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.

The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.”

Bishop Desmond Tutu and Coretta Scott King represent one kind of Christianity.

Pat Robertson and the representatives of the Christian Right represent another.

Bishop Tutu of course represents a kind of Christianity that is mainly concerned with Liberation Theology which is extremely sensitive to issues regarding human rights, poverty, inequality and social justice. It is the kind of Christianity that is also personified in the likes of people like Martin Luther King Jr., whose widow, Coretta Scott King, speaking at a 25th anniversary celebration for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund four days before the 30th anniversary of her husband's assassination, said:
"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'"

On the opposite, dimmer, far right end of the Christian spectrum are those who throughout history have been ambivalent or supportive of injustice. They happily attended segregated churches in South Africa and Southern USA. They protested against Brown vs. The Board of Education that would desegregate schools. America’s Religious Right comprised of several Protestant faiths particularly the Southern Baptists, Pentecostals and Evangelicals, has a history of supporting racism, segregation and apartheid.

They also support America’s conservative foreign policies on the basis that it is America’s divine right to engage in capitalist exploitation of third world countries with the cooperation of their despotic leaders, as long as there is just enough foreign aid and missionary work to make the population Christian.

Pat Robertson's television show, The 700 Club and TBN and CBN networks are broadcast all over Africa. Would it surprise African people to know that Robertson is part of an American neo-Conservative group called The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), formed in 1981 with the aim of blocking the spread of every single self-sustained, progressive social and economic movement by intellectual Africans seeking self governance and freedom from oppression by racist, minority rule? The man preaching Christ’s love supported apartheid and the white minority rule in Rhodesia (now South Africa and Zimbabwe).

Today, Africa is still bursting with untapped wealth in gold, diamonds, oil, minerals and fertile land ripe for American corporations to pick. However outright colonial oppression is frowned upon by the international community and the UN keeps making their foreign aid require greater transparency so that despotic leaders do not get to siphon everything. So how do American corporations get their way into the African continent without scrutiny for transparency, environmental, industrial safety standards and human rights? Get charity organizations by the Religious Right to front for them.

Ever wondered why lately so many white American conservatives who never really cared about black people on their U.S of A, suddenly seem extremely driven to be the sole supplier of social services, education, and financial assistance all the way across the Atlantic in Africa? Today their Evangelical charities like World Vision, Solar Light for Africa, and the IRD-founded Five Talents are everywhere on the Mother Continent.

They intercept African religious leaders and eventually get them to reject funding from mainline Christian charities and secular sources of aid which require extensive documentation and extensive accounting of how the money is spent. All the African religious and political leaders have to do is sign on to a Conservative platform which includes vehemently abstinence only, anti-pagan, anti-Muslim and anti-gay policies that would never fly in any first world, developed country and the money starts flowing in! Local religious leaders and politicians line their pockets. Most people in Africa are unaware and unable to distinguish between a mainstream Christian charity and a far Right Christian charity whose true allegiance is to American expansionist beliefs and multi-national corporations, not Christ. They never give without wanting something in return.

Just in case anyone begins to suspect when people start lining their pockets and no-bid contracts begin happening, the American Religious Right have one more weapon in their arsenal to divert people’s attention to the truth- homophobia.

American Evangelicals Rick Warren, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, Don Schmierer, Richard Cohen and others are now on the defensive after being confronted about their visit to Uganda to spread their anti-gay sermons and offer up their quack conversion therapies (rejected by every respected medical and psychological authority in North America and Europe) to the unsuspecting African people.

In the New York Times, they claim they had no idea their anti-gay crusade was the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire.

Rick Warren and the evangelical mission that went to Uganda to spread anti-gay messages now claim innocence in any possible link between their campaign and the firestorm of homophobia that came afterwards.

But how could they not know? Any missionary doing the most basic homework before their visit would know that the poor, vulnerable and uneducated tend to be the most meek, pious and pliable by those standards, African people are wide open to unquestioningly accepting a "Man of God"s words at face value. Did these savvy American preachers not know that African people have seen their families decimated by disease and are desperate to re-build strong families. So anything labeled anti-family or a threat to children would inspire violent reaction. Did these American preachers not know that in post-colonial African countries there is a strong cultural drive to recapture pride and power after being emasculated for so long by colonialists, resulting in a hyper-masculine society that sees feminine traits as weakness, especially in men. Are we to believe that they were innocent of fanning these flames into full fledge homophobia when they told Ugandans lies that they would never dare mention in the USA, Canada or Europe; that their gay and lesbian neighbours, friends, children, siblings, are anti-Christian, anti-family and anti-African.

Afrocentrists have become so far removed their own true shamanic, authentic African heritage, they actually believe “the white man” brought homosexuality to what was a 100% heterosexual Africa. Ironically they play right into the hands of racists who assert that Africans are “primitive children of nature” who only know how to mate like animals and cannot have such a thing as indigenous homosexuality because it only exists in advanced cultures among advanced races who have the intellectual complexity to appreciate such variances in romantic love and sex.

The fact is, African spirituality and culture like those of most indigenous peoples, recognized masculine and feminine as equally Divine! This translated into a cultural ease with all aspects of sexuality including natural anomalies like homosexuals and hermaphrodites. There was and still is nothing homophobic about the Orisha or Vodun tradition. In West African/Yoruba tradition, the celestial creator deity Mawu-Lisa is presented as intersex or trangendered. Other androgynous gods include Nana Buluku, the "Great Mother" that gave birth to Lisa and Mawa and created the universe, and contains both male and female essences. Africans were far more sexually sophisticated than the prudish, repressed, hypocritical Christian Europeans who brought their homophobia with them and there is actual historical, anthropological and ethnological evidence that shows that homosexual practices existed in abundance in pre-colonial Africa.

Gay witchhunting, persecution and arrests are on the rise.

The San people native to the area of Zimbabwe (ironically now a very hostile place towards gays) left cave drawings showing portrayals of man on man sex. There are accounts among the Pangwe of Camaroon of men within their tribe who even when offered a large bride price, still prefer to court other men. The indigenous Igbo people of Nigeria allowed “female husbands” women who displayed more masculine tendencies were treated as men and allowed to hunt and to marry other women. Among the Azande in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it was perfectly acceptable for royalty to take young male lovers. Tribes in pre-colonial Burkina Faso and South Africa regarded lesbians as astrologers and traditional healers. In the region known as Angola, for generations before Europe arrived, homosexual men called jimbandaa known by their special attire and had a place within their culture but under the new brutal Portuguese regime, it was criminalized and even today their penal records show the harsh punishments meted out.

The authentic spirituality of most African cultures is not homophobic.

Ironic isn’t it that thousands of years ago it was the “white man” who was the prude and we were the free, scantily clad, sexually liberated children of Mother Africa. Can you imagine the Europeans standing there, gouty, pink, overdressed, repressed, sweating in the tropical sun while in utter shock and envy at our ancestors’ near naked nubile women, fit, glistening warrior bodied men and our ability to rotate our hips in dance, hinting at our sexual prowess which the European had long lost when the Church made their spines rigid with shame.

The colonialists were terribly successful at making Africans and their descendents terribly mortified of ourselves and every aspect of our spirituality and sexuality. Now in the 21st Century, it seems the new Neo-Conservative plan is to implement Plan B- exploit that shame. Look, here they come again! Gouty, pink, overdressed, repressed American Evangelicals sweating in the tropical heat. Missionaries paved the road for colonialists the first time around. Have the African people forgotten who in the end got the bible and piety and who got the land and wealth?

August 05, 2010

Emancipating The White Man Part 2- Where Do We Go From Here?

How Whites Were Harmed By Slavery And Racism

Yes, you are reading the headline correctly.

I have already gone into much detail about how slavery and racism has impacted black people. However, if we are to be fair and demonstrate true spiritual enlightenment then we cannot claim that slavery and racism is so poisonous to the human spirit its ill effects can manifest through generations, then not also admit that it has negatively impacted white people as well. Of course it has

A poem about a white supremicist. It takes a strong, forgiving and empathetic soul to delve into the mind of a racist and see the real human insecurity and suffering inside the harsh exterior as this brave female poet did here.

This essay is especially for the poor white man . You see, the Rich White Man has a lot invested in securing the poor white man's undivided support of the systems that keep the Rich White Man on top. The poor white man has been convinced that he will somehow get a preferred seat at America’s table ahead of anyone else just because his is Christian and white. The poor black and brown man is being used by politicians as well with the same "We'll take care of you," speil because you are separate and a “special case” from the poor whites. The truth is, both poor, working and middle class blacks and whites are in the same basket. They all need help affording education and health services. They all need to have gainful employment and despite not being wealthy are no less deserving of clean air, water, healthy food and a life affirming existence.

Preventing the lower classes of various cultures from uniting and stirring up revolution has been fundamental aspect of Western civilization after several “ruling classes” fell to revolution and communism. One of the easiest ways to “manage the poor” is divide and conquer. In Trindiad and Tobago it is Poor Rural Indian against Poor Urban/Housing Development Black. In the USA there is also one political party for the poor white man and one for the poor black man to prevent them from coming together and comparing notes. It worked for a while too but finally, the poor white man and the poor black man are comparing notes. They are realizing they have been merely voting for politicians who feign similar values just to keep those mercenary bottom lines healthy for a hierarchy that has no intention of ever letting the table get too crowded, even by those they claim are ‘their people’.

So which do you prefer? The vampire who makes an effort to seduce and lull with pleasure before sucking or one who just brutally and boldly sinks his teeth in? Or do you prefer to be free and independent of vampires altogether?

The meaning of the words of the late Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” cannot be lost on anyone. Any system that seeks to deny anybody social justice, equal rights and equal opportunity cannot be trusted with your rights, even if it seems to favor “your kind of people” today, the fact remains, the system itself is innately corrupt. The time will come when you too will become “those people” on the outside. For many Americans, that time is now. They have suddenly found themselves outside the “Keeping up with the Jonses, upper middle class-happily heterosexually married, Christian” circle and they do not know what to do!

Some of course, have reverted to the same old blame game and are falling right into the hands of politicians. Don't people realize by now that the only difference between the Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives is in their preferred methods of pacification while they engage in vampirism and faithful service to the same boss for the same bottom line?. The Democrats play on the “underdog” mentality and actually try to make its victims feel tangibly “taken care of,” and able to get a sense of self-validation while being sucked dry by the same expansionist hierarchy. The Republicans play into the Way of The Bully, a more upfront approach. We’ll destroy all too weak to fight us off, join us and maybe we won’t pick on you right now.

The Effects Of Walking The Way Of The Bully For Centuries

The Way Of The Bully The ability to feel self-esteem only by robbing a weaker person of theirs has become a deeply ingrained trait in American culture. There is very little “honour” in the approach of many to American Dream, just personal profit and self preservation by whatever means.

Can we agree that it is unhealthy to be raised with even the slightest inkling that you can more or less expect to be treated as superior and have any injustice you commit excused either by blaming a weaker person unable to defend themselves or taking advantage of someone powerless to fight back? Not all people are honorable enough to resist that tempting and comfortable stance. Can we agree that over time, it can become a powerful source of false entitlement? Can we agree that once generationally ingrained it can be just as difficult to root out as the feelings of disempowerment and despondency that plagues many poor black communities who continue to be bullied?

In the days of Jim Crow, many whites who had nothing else going for them could always fall back on merely being white as their only source of self-esteem. A fat, harangued white woman who lost all her good looks and was stuck in a bad marriage could still get a little boost when more attractive beautiful Nubian princess was walking down the street. The unattractive, doughy white woman could still take pleasure in forcing the black beauty to humbly get out of her way and walk in the drain…or else. The poor white man who was too unattractive to get a lovely, white woman and saw a strapping, good looking black man being admired by scores of black women could call him "Boy" and put him in his place.

No matter what ailed the fragile ego; jealousy, family strife, economic hardship, sickness or gross misdeeds it could be alleviated by infringing on someone else instead of learning more enlightened coping skills through intellectual, emotional and spiritual development. This is what many Americas learned from infancy- your well-being hinges on another’s deprivation. You cannot truly enjoy “having” unless you know someone else is being excluded and is a “have-not” and you can laud over them. Only then “having” becomes extra special. This is not a phenomenon only among white Americans, the post-colonial African Diaspora have also learned this as well and it results in the “crab in barrel” counter-productive attitudes we display to one another. It makes black communities implode with sabotage, it's not like they can take it out on anyone else. However for many centuries we have proven that white people can take it out on whomever they want. They just have to be rich or connected enough and have enough self-serving sycophants to justify and perpetuate the bullying whether against Native Americans, third world countries or the working class American auto-maker.

Imagine the shock to the system when this bullying source of self-esteem was first challenged. Imagine how racists feel when it continues to be challenged and suddenly they are being demonized (rightfully so) by what appears to be the entire nation, even Conservatives are denying any association to them. To make matters worse, they have never learned how to sustain their ego by any other means and nobody is interested in rehabilitating or showing them how. They cannot even turn to their religion for guidance.

The neglected message of love, forgiveness, compassion and the Golden Rule is one of the ways politics stemmed from racist objectives has hurt many white Christians in America who have so much anger and discontentment rotting their insides, it seems not even Jesus can heal it.

Remember, true Christianity- the rejection of hatred, materialism, status , judgment and grasping for political power in favor of love, non-vengeance, forgiveness, heavenly reward, brotherhood and charity taught by Jesus has never been something embraced by the Rich White Man’s circle ever! Greed is and always has been their main motivating factor. They were instrumental in getting white Christian people to harden their hearts and agree to slave labor, exploitative labor, Jim Crow and racial discrimination while hypocritically trying to represent Christian values. So it should come as no surprise when today many white people and some self-hating or stupid black and brown people too, do not even know the difference between the teachings of Christ and the highly politicized Capitalist Dominionism that passes for Christianity in America today.

The Conservative Rich White Man needs the Poor White Man to engage in a paradoxical spiritual self-delusion and willingly accept that Government support of unbridled capitalism is more Christian than any form of social caring, inner contentment and environmental conservation..

America is now full of people who are still unable to cope with the reality that their life is not supposed to be better simply because they are white and “Christian”. No time does this hurt them more than during an economic crisis when competition is fierce for even the most menial jobs. Klan and anti-immigrant activity spiked during the Great Depression and we should not be surprised by the increase in racial hostilities at this time, especially the irrational distrust expressed by certain fractions of white America towards the bi-racial President to fix the economic mess he inherited from a President who they more or less allowed to run amok. Their racism does not manifest as lynching and burning crosses.

Those who have always felt, they were losing their rightful place in America since Harry Belafonte’s televised duet with Petula Clarke and Brown vs. The Board of Education have long changed stratagem. They replaced “white” with “Christian” and “patriot” and now hide behind the cloak of “Religious Right” and Conservative.

Apathy, Numbness, Blindness To Injustice

Still think slavery and racism has not adversely affected white people? There is a deeply ingrained legacy of avoidance of anything potentially unpleasant known as WASPish behaviour and it is extremely unhealthy. Indeed many White Anglo Saxon Protestant people descended from the more affluent colonials were raised to turn a blind eye; don’t get involved even when they have the opportunity to do the right thing. This coping mechanism and fear of being bullied by ones’ own became necessary in order to ignore the tug of their conscience while people are being enslaved, sold, lynched, raped and sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. I call it the “monkey see no evil, Marie Antoinette ” phenomenon.

For years whites who grew up with Jim Crow or Apartheid cultivated and passed down to their children, a filter of fear; fear to speak up or cause a confrontational row, most of all, fear of being cast out of the privileged circle. They developed and passed along the ability to not only ignore atrocities and injustice but excuse them, often in ridiculous ways as Barbara Bush demonstrated when she said that Katrina (predominantly poor, black) victims should be happy to be in a football stadium rather than their slums.
This fearful paralysis often leads to total apathetic blindness which is exposed in social experiments like ABC’s What Would You Do. One episode revealed how long it took people to notice and confront racism happening right before their eyes. A scenario was set up where a “nice” white, female, mature, real estate agent was denying non-whites access at an open house in a predominantly white suburb. The most immediate and most vocal confrontations of the racist came from you guessed it, another minority as well as women. In the end, the report revealed that only a paltry one third who saw the incident actually spoke up. Most were too afraid to do anything or were perhaps complicit with the racist sentiments being expressed. Many are content to say,” I know I am not be racist but that does not mean I am going to get personally involved in those people’s problems!”

Bill O’Reilly said on an internationally available network in prime time that he was shocked black people actually used knives and forks when he visited a black-owned restaurant in Harlem. He is representative of many who continue to assert they not personally stained by racism while saying things that are blatantly racist all the time.

The ingrained after-effects of “monkey see no evil Marie Antoinette” method often gets warped into a form of angry defensiveness, like Saint Peter angrily denying Christ out of fear of being associated with him and victimized as well. This is combined with a desperation to belong to the privileged club often makes many seem soulless, callous and lacking any kind of moral fortitude. Some white people, especially from the younger generations, become so embrarrassed and disgusted by their own people, they reject their European heritage completely and adopt the culture of those they consider the noble victims. It is similar to how some black people become racist against other blacks because of disenchantment and embarrassment with the behavioural ills rampant in their communities.

You Cannot Forget What Is Yet To Be Forgiven And Fixed

Since the 1950s, it has become necessary for the Rich White Man not to totally alienate minority voters. In this aspect the Democrats who represent their set of Rich White Men, have been first out the gate in winning minority hearts and minds. Now the Conservatives are realizing they cannot protect their Rich White Men without also reaching out to minorities. There is just one problem, their bullying legacy, Jim Crow, the Sothern Baptists enforcing segregation.

Their solution?

Use scary homosexual nupitals to get homophobic minorities to find common ground with them. Trot out the few minority spokespeople they have who found more personal validation in The Way of The Bully than the lonlier and less financially viable Way of the Warrior. Most of all, remove all potential unpleasant historical reminders of the inhumanity and injustice their Right Wing fractions supported back in the day and way before that.

Texas Board of Education have revised their school curriculum and text books to change the name of the Slave Trade to the Atlantic Triangular Trade and emphasize the positive side of expansionism over the negative. FOX News had the gumption to call it a more "patriotic" syllabus.

Economic-driven politics and religion are interfering with America’s healing process from slavery and racism. We see the result in black Americans who cannot speak frankly about of racism without the FOX News and radio bigots feeling overly affronted. They wish to erase all memory of slavery and any mention of current racism faster than an unfaithful spouse afraid of alimony wants his reconciled wife to forget his indiscretions. They just want the betrayed black and brown American wife to unconditionally trust them and willingly reopen her legs without requiring them to undergo any counseling, STD tests or even use a condom. However the effects of hundred years of violent, systematic disempowerment followed by another hundred plus years of terrorism, segregation, injustice and discrimination, some of which still continues even now cannot be so easily forgotten and those who wish to trivialize it end up coming across as even more racist as a result.

It is almost hilarious when whites representing Conservative issues suddenly choose to become forgetfully noble, incredibly naïve and irrelevantly idealistic about race just when it suits their objectives. Case in point is Affirmative Action.

Conservatives love to go:
“Why do we need Affirmative Action? If you are truly exceptional at what you do of course you will succeed black, white, red or green! By giving minorities an extra consideration aren't we now discriminating against white people? Two wrongs do not a right make!”

At first this sounds so noble!

On deeper examination, you realize it is bullshit.

The fact is that America is a nation of C-Average students. In fact, in any country, the truly exceptional- the geniuses and super athletes usually comprise a small top percentile and require a fair amount of privilege or luck to be identified early and subsequently nurtured and rightfully rewarded for their genius.

The vast majority of us however are B & C-Averages. Now, here is the catch! No black person with a C average from an inner-city school could EVER dare dream of being the CEO of a blue chip company.

How underperformance of poor inner city schools has been handled in America before standardiztion, reflects the "monkey see no evil" on both political fronts. The Liberals lowered the standards so black children could get an A when they should really be getting a C. The Conservatives kept the standards the same and cut back spending on social programmes in inner city neighbourhoods. They then use the resulting underperformance of the predominantly black students as a way to tout how inferior black student is, completely free from any context. Both methods are inherently racist and insulting. Neither approach addresses the systematic racist approaches by the establishment to black neighbourhoods resulting in disenfranchised, dysfunctional, dangerous, disempowering households and communities that produce students who are unable to learn at school.

As a black female friend of mine, working for a media company in New York put it,
“Unlike my white work colleagues, I cannot get away with being AVERAGE. I have to be exceptional. It's called the "black tax" or "black insurance". When they take sick days, I am at work. I cannot relax for a second. I know I am fighting an uphill battle doubled for being a woman and re-doubled for being black. I need that little extra MBA or CEO recommendation. I need to constantly put my white boss at ease that I am not going to use his million-dollar company budget to buy Kentucky Fried Chicken and crack!”.

Now I do not believe that an unqualified or even under-qualified person, black or white, male or female should be given a “pass” simply because of a quota and take the place of a more qualified candidate. I also totally disagree with solving the underperformance of schools in poor districts by lowering standards instead of improving the level of teaching and innovative solutions to the unique social challenges that stem from growing up in poverty. However, it is highly “monkey see no evil" behavior to think that without being mandated, the educational, private and public institutions will allow C-Average minorities an equal chance to even get their foot in the door and prove their ability as university students and employees.

We continue to reward “what name and money can buy” instead of what true character can accomplish. Anyone with average intelligence and minimum self-discipline who is coddled the right way by the best learning tools, best supervision and best extracurricular activities money can buy can get an A Grade. But not everyone can turn out a C-Average while dealing with community and domestic issues stemmed from poverty that would even make most people resort to violence, drugs or suicide. So until the same, exceptional opportunities are afforded to all, then “exceptional” in the mouth of a Conservative against Affirmative Action is just a code-word for “exceptionally privileged” which in most cases in America, still means white.

It is "Marie Antoinette, let them eat cake” mentality to somehow not see that a C-Average by anybody (Black, white, Asian, Mexican) who obtained it under exceptional circumstances like poverty, warding off gangs, working to help the family, dodging stray bullets in shootouts, living on a malnourishing inner city diet, with a single parent, few role models and constant reminders of failure and hopelessness all around is a far more exceptional measure of brilliance compared to an A-Average coaxed out of a privileged student (black, white, Asian or Mexican) through private tutoring, supportive home environment, safe neighborhood, world travel, personal computers and home libraries and a choice of self-esteem, brain power boosting extracurricular activities at a pristine, well-funded school with teachers who can afford to pay individual attention to students.

I would erase ethnicity ENTIRELY from Affirmative Action and make it about favoring those of the lower economic class only. A poor person, black or white who has clearly demonstrated a willingness and effort to succeed despite amazing odds should be encouraged through preferred rewards. Now that is the real fulfillment of the “American Dream”.

Anyone with average intelligence who is coddled the right way by the best learning tools and supervision money can buy can get an A. But not everyone can turn out a C-Average while dealing with issues that would even make the adults in this forum resort to suicide. So until the same opportunities are afforded to all to be exceptional, then “exceptional” in the mouth of a Conservative against Affirmative Action is just a code-word for “exceptionally privileged” which in most cases, still means white. So who are we kidding by trying to pretend the playing field has somehow become miraculously leveled? When did that happen? Who or what made this historic event in America happen? As far as I know, money (and all it can buy), legacy and family name still hold the most sway.

The only change I would make to Affirmative Action is include poor whites as well. If you got your C-Average living in a trailer park with an alcoholic father, meth addiction and violence all around you and you had to work a night job just to feed yourself while doing it, well you DESERVE a chance to show me what you can do with a full scholarship and a healthy, nurturing environment full of mentors and opportunities. If I was poor, white and American that is what I would be protesting about. I would take affront to the fact that a person who grew up with every privilege and opportunity to succeed but still turned in a lackluster C-Average and sucked as the CEO of a company could still dream of being the Leader of the Free World and actually become it.

America does not reward "character" enough and then wonders why it has increasing numbers of spoiled brats in power and too many university graduates who are actually dumb once they hit the real workplace and spoiled slackers who cannot decide what they want to do with their life because for the first time they have to motivate themselves without the coddling of mom, dad and a roster of well paid for educational and extracirricular activities. Many privileged students cannot prove themselves efficient at real-life decisions, they just know the most effective cramming methods for tests. Meanwhile truly talented diamonds in the rough with street smarts, creativity, moral fortitude to endure hardship and the ability to self-motivate and dream from ghettos and trailer parks are becoming too despondent to even try anymore.

Seeing what has happened to Shirley Sherrod this July, we have a long way to go yet. There is far too much milking and applause when a white man coddled by the system, admits his racism and repents. He gets standing ovations and Oscar worthy story-lines. When a black woman who was the victim of racism does the same, she gets raked over the coals by the media. This is just too reminiscent of that scene from the movie A Color Purple set in the 1920s. Sophie (played by Oprah Winfrey) makes the mistake of rebuffing a “nice” white woman who wants to take her kids home as if they were puppies or something. The white woman expects Sophie to be humbly grateful like a good little negro “girl” and be instantly amenable to her request. Sophie isn’t and rudely refuses. A passing white man slaps her for her impertinence. Sophie does the unthinkable and she slaps the white man right back and is promptly surrounded by an entire group of white men, beaten up and sent to prison. In 1920, incidents like these were probably commonplace though unlike Rodney King, there were no video cameras to record the misplaced outrage, defensiveness and overreaction that continues to plague many white people up till now.

How Do We Move On Together?

Freedom from the legacy of slavery and racism for both black and white is within reach. It lies in forgiveness which starts with acknowledging what happened, what is still happening and perhaps most of all, who was truly responsible and its traumatic effects on everyone and what must be done to make it an even playing field again, without infringing on anyone's human rights.

There is no need for white people to overburden themselves with unnecessary guilt and do-goodness or walk around with fearful paranoia of doing or saying the wrong thing around minorities, which often results in a kind of disingenuous political correctness that is actually worse. Honesty is always much better and leads to more meaningful, solid relationships. Trust me, as someone with many productive interracial, cross cultural, cross religious, cross-economic class relationships. You have to have the “unpleasant conversations” in order for your interracial relationships to be valid. Most black people appreciate honesty over the sugar-coated bullshit. Come out and say what you are really feeling. It is a vital part of the healing process.

So get your black friend, colleague, family member and say:

“I was raised to be afraid of black people and I admit it still affects me even though I know better.”

“It is hard to both love and respect my parents and family members and yet acknowledge they were and sometimes still are in many ways, shamefully racist.”

“It is hard being excluded or whispered about by all the people I was raised to think are my friends, fellow Christians, community members and it makes me second-guess standing up for what is right when it comes to race relations. Sometimes I just want to fit in and be accepted.”

“When I watch or listen to historical accounts of slavery or read or see examples of racism today it makes me feel ashamed and guilty even though I did not enslave anyone and I know I am not racist. It makes me feel helpless that I cannot do anything about it and scared minorities might still be angry and take it out on me.”

“Sometimes it makes me angry that certain black people might look at me and just assume I am part of the problem not part of the solution and make judgements about me just because I am white but I feel powerless and frustrated to express how I feel because they always have the biggest victim card to play instead of really listening to my side of the story.”

Hopefully that black friend, colleague, family member close to you has moved beyond anger and is more interested in resolution than playing, “Let me count all the ways I suffer should wallow in my mistrust more than you!” Hopefully the two of you can hash out these things together.

Southern Heritage- A brave and poignant poem about confronting both the beauty and ugliness of one’s heritage.

For me and my partner and white friends it was a fundamental part of us bonding. It is a great release for them to be able to speak frankly about their experiences without judgement. It is a great gift to be able to openly acknowledge racism we experience today, call it what it is and then move past it together hand in hand. For my partner and I it was discussing how even in 2010, when we go out to dinner in our touristy island home and the bill comes, the local, black waiter or waitress almost always assumes that the white person will be paying and does not even look in my direction. We take great pleasure in shocking when I whip out the VISA card. We can laugh, pity the fool and most of all live free from personal hurt, guilt, embarrassment and anger.

My partner of 13 years, a Trini of Portugese/Spanish/Irish/Scottish descent once admitted to me how insidiously racism was practiced in the family in the form of the unspoken understanding that the black, Indian, mixed children in Trinidad were okay to play and go to school with but not to date or marry. Over the years, many replaced outright racism (actually calling people “Nigger” or “Coolie” and engaging in discrimination or violence) in favor of subtler forms of social ostracism with euphemistic justifications. They would even vehemently deny being racist and point to all their charity work and casual acquaintances. Fortunately, many in my partner’s generation and younger have been challenging this hypocrisy more directly.

The thorny racial relations that currently plague the United States is evidence that the nation has tried to forget before it truly goes through the real forgiveness process thoroughly and genuinely by an overwhelming majority.

Thank you Teabaggers for bringing the pimple of racism closer to the surface of the skin where it can be squeezed and medicated properly through brutally honest discourse and exposure.

This is why I am strangely thankful to the Teabaggers. The blatant racism of many of their members is showing the Conservative Movement’s true underbelly. They are making the harmful after-effects of hundreds of years of slavery and racism on white people, harder to ignore. Not even the talking heads on FOX News and politicians can hide behind the “monkey see no evil Marie Antoinette” smiles. The puss filled pimple of racism is ripening and moving closer to the surface of the American skin and there exists, perhaps for the first time, a prime opportunity to squeeze it and apply medication instead of just applying concealer.

August 01, 2010

Emancipating The White Man Part 1- How We Got To This Point

First of all, Happy Emancipation Day!

Now on to business…

Why do blacks need special help? How come they are allowed to speak of Black Pride without being labeled racist? How come they are allowed to have college funds to help their young people exclusively? Sure, racism was bad but wasn’t that like hundreds of years ago? Aren’t they supposed to be over it by now? Horrible things happened to other ethnic groups who came to the Americas and Caribbean and they are not as badly off! Why should anyone in 2010 feel responsible for slavery? I did not enslave anyone! Even my great grandfather did not enslave anyone! Why are the black people so angry still?

An example of trivialization of the effects of slavery and continued racism can be found when O'Reilly equated the Black Panthers with David Duke (1/11/99): "You were promoting your people, black people, and he's promoting white people. So what's the difference?"

It is difficult to communicate the complex web of dysfunction that four hundred plus years of slavery followed by another hundred plus years of terrorism, injustice and segregation up to today’s ongoing racism and discrimination has done to descendents of African people.

In a simplified representation, I will attempt this impossible task to help those who still have trouble wrapping their minds around its effects. I call this story:

The Ladders That Built America

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a Rich White Man kidnapped a Black Man from a foreign land and using unthinkable means the Rich White Man forced his captive on his knees and used him as a human ladder to climb a tall wall. You see, on the other side of that tall, thick wall was abundance beyond compare. Back in Europe and in the early stages of arriving in the New World, The Rich White Man had used his own brothers and sisters to access wealth, but his fellow whites had grown increasingly empowered, ambitious and individualistic. They had also splintered away from the great religious empire that once kept them in-check and were challenging the class system. So, it had become much easier to use people who came from lands already weakened and ravaged by tribal wars, enslavement and exploitation. The African territories were such a place.

Suppressing all compassion and teaching his children to do the same, the Rich White Man somehow convinced himself and his children that it was the Black Man’s lot in life. The Rich White Man justified his actions by saying,
“Well, at least he we’ll make him a Christian convert, although not as equal a Christian in the eyes of God as we are.”

They set about turning The Black Man into the perfect human ladder. First, they robbed him of his name, honor, culture and family-ties. They programmed him to be ashamed and afraid of his African roots and be desperate for survival rather than fraternity so he would easily betray his own people. They trained him to be motivated only by fear of punishment and not his by pride and ambitious dreams. They whipped and terrorized all desire to climb the wall and feel deserving of the spoils on the other side. They slaughtered all Black Men who were smart and cunning enough to learn how to read and plot escape and engaged in twisted breeding experiments to build bigger, stronger human ladders.

The Black Man learned that being dumb and submissive meant survival and so he taught his children how to be dumb and submissive too.

Once over the wall, The Rich White Man made himself very comfortable. He also aided his family and friends over the wall using his black human ladder. Eventually they too benefitted from the fertile land, riches and abundance. They in turn helped their families and friends, who helped their families and friends and so on. They taught their children it was their birthright to experience this entitement. For over four hundred years they used the Black Man as their human ladder, they learned how to ignore his cries as his back broke and bones fractured under their weight.

The White Man taught their children how to ignore and suppress their conscience and justify the injustice using religion, economics and theories of racial superiority based on what they had caused the Black Man to become.

Indebted Labour Force Replaces Slave Labour

Then one day, the Rich White Man decided he did not need his black human ladder anymore. He and the privileged few he allowed over the wall discovered how to build wooden ladders. Not only that, they discovered that if they made these wooden ladders available to others who could afford it, they would make an even bigger profit than if they used human ladders.

A new labour force was now available.

You see, many people now wanted to climb over the wall and would do anything for a ladder- work long hours, vote a certain way, fight in wars for the Rich White Man’s causes, just for the chance. Immigrants began to come from all over the world just to get the opportunity. Besides, the Black Man’s complaining and suffering was tiresome and it did not help that the whole “human ladder” thing was falling out of favor among the growing humanist, intellectual elite who were currently the most innovative and promising group poised to usher in the rapidly approaching 20th Century. The Rich White Man wanted to gain access to their brilliance and most of all, to be accepted and perceived as one of them.

So one day, The Rich White Man told his black human ladder,
“Hey Black Man, I’m setting you free. Maybe what I did to you over the last four hundred years was kinda unfair to you, but hey, at least now you have your freedom, not as much freedom as I do of course, but sufficient enough for your kind. Hey, at least you are a Christian now. Just stay on that barren side of the wall with the poor whites and recent arrivals to America! This side with all the abundance is for people like me who arrived on the first set of ships and our descendents!”

You see deep down, the Rich White Man was and still is fearful of retribution. He feared what would happen when the Black Man had children and grandchildren. So he spends a great deal of time trying to “manage” this threat.

“Now don’t let this little bit of freedom go to your head. Remember your place Black Man and be submissive and obedient or else we can lock you up and force you back into slave labor in chain gangs for the slightest hint of disrespect.” Slavery may have been over but for generations more, the oppression continued.

His fears however are proven unnecessary for the crippled Black Man was grateful just to be free for he was broken and worn down from being stepped on. For a while, freedom alone was truly enough and he and his children stayed on the barren, stagnant side of the wall without much complaint. After all, the Black Man was never paid a cent for being a human ladder far less dreamed of climbing a wooden one. All initiative, ambition and individualism was bred and beaten out of him and he in turn had beaten it out of his children and they beat it out of their children, “Know your place! Be grateful you are at least free!” they chastised their sons and daughters who asked why they are not allowed to approach the wall let alone climb one of the new wooden ladders.

Meanwhile the Rich White Man decided that he will open up the accessibility of ladders just a smidge. This coincided with his discovery of profitable ways to mass produce and sell ladders in an efficient way. He opens up ladder opportunities to Merchant Class White Men, Poor White Men and eventually even Immigrants. He provides them with Ladder Loans that offer one rung at a time and many took advantage of it. They work hard for the Rich White Man and the conditions under which they suffer are almost as horrible as those suffered by the human ladders who paved the way for all of this…with one big exception.

Unlike the Black Man’s Children, the Children of the Poor White Man and Immigrants actually saw examples of their people actually making it over the other side of the wall and helping their family and friends over. In fact, this is what inspired many of them to come to America. Their parents were laborers, farmers, tradesmen and were also excluded and exploited by the privileged Rich White Man’s circle in their European countries for years. They too had their share of hardship, potato famines, religious persecution, class entrapment and clan feuds in the Old World which were notable. However, in this New World they found not only a sliver of opportunity but a new hierarchy.

No matter how badly the Immigrants and Poor White Man’s Children had it, they were bolstered by the knowledge that unlike their European countries, they were not dead last in line for a ladder. In this new land of opportuntiy, The Black Man’s Children replaced them at the bottom, along with the Native American Indians and Mexicans. For while the Rich White Man’s system discriminated on social class, national heritage and religion, those on the privileged side of the wall actually felt more comfortable and less fearful of vengeance around someone who shared the same complexion rather than the same Christ.

Even though the Poor White Man and Immigrant had suffered, they never lost their family ties, cultural and racial pride, sense of ambition and individuality. All of these things had been systematically stamped out in the Black Man’s Children in addition to something far more important…real hope of actually making it or at least their Children making it within a generation. They took out Ladder Loans, worked hard and repaid the Rich White Man in exchange for one ladder rung at a time. Some even managed to pay off the loan in their lifetime and truly enjoy the riches on the other side of the wall. Some used military service, intelligence, innovation and their talent to find their American dream.

Water fountains in an American Court of Law back in the day. Imagine the effects on the very psyche of a people raised generation after generation to know they are lower than second class citizens.

While watching all of this, the Black Man’s Children realized that it was their parents’ sore muscles, broken family and broken bones that in fact helped the first Rich White Man climb over the wall and made all of this opportunity for his Children and others possible in the first place.

“Certainly, if these people can do it, we’ve earned a chance to go after at least one rung of the ladder,” they reasoned.
So the Black Man’s Children who were raised to never dare ask for anything, timidly approached the Rich White Man for a Ladder Loan
“Sorry Black Man’s Children,” said the Rich White Man’s Children who had already developed a cold-hearted immunity to noticing injustice, “but you are not a desirable Ladder Loan candidate. You lack steady employment,”
So the Black Man’s Children asked for a job to obtain a ladder, one rung at a time.
“Sorry Black Man Children,but you do not have sufficient education to get a job,”
So the Black Man’s Children asked for special consideration to be educated given his unfortunate set-backs.
“That would be unfair,” said the Rich White Man’s Children “If I give that to you, why not give it to everyone?”
“But you did unmentionable things to our parents’ and are still treating us unfairly!”
“Yes, unmentionable is the operative word here. C’mon, get over it already! Okay, you are good at being a human ladder, so I will give you as close to a human ladder job as I can find for you, how’s that?”

So it was, the Black Man’s Children accepted the most menial tasks, just for a distant hope of affording a ladder one day. It is not long however, before more of them realize that even after fifty years of working they would never save enough to buy a single rung on a ladder. Many of dropped out of the race. Many fell to desperation and despair. However a few toiled on and placed hopes on their children seeing the other side of that wall. They called it, “The Promise Land”.

The Effect On The Children

Unfortunately, The Black Man's Children were unwittingly affected by human ladder indoctrination. They may have never felt the lash but they were born with the welts and were uninspired by the hopelessness in menial toil. In them, the seeds of despondency bore bitter fruit. Yet despite this, there were glimmers of hope. They had slowly coalesced as a community around an almost forgotten African spirituality mixed with the New World Christianity and the musical rhythm buried deep in their heart. The native spirits and native wisdom had not been entirely destroyed and gradually the crippled Black Man’s Children began to break out of their human ladder paralysis.

Somewhere between inventing gospel, the blues, jazz and calypso, they began to dream of doing more than just surviving and raising children to subsist their way through life while working in dead-end menial jobs. They decided in earnest that the strongest among them will try to be a human ladder for their brothers and sisters until they could obtain wooden ladders for everyone. On their impoverished side of the wall, they formed their own community, hoping one day, they too could climb over the wall and help their brothers and sisters over as the Rich White Man did and the others were currently doing.

It would not be easy. There was now stiff competition not just for the ladders but a spot on the wall to place them and climb up. The Children of the Poor White Man and Poor White Immigrants were now scrambling in vast numbers to get over the wall. Some did not even bother to use a ladder but drilled holes into the wall and made their way using bootleg booze, gambling, vice, extortion and various scams. They would discover that great crimes could lead to great fortune. In the end, The Almighty Dollar, not some form of Christian morality was the ultimate God of this New World.
But why didn’t the Poor White Man’s Children, Immigrants’ Children and Black Man’s Children not see their shared struggle and common oppressor? Why didn’t they unite and help one another climb over the wall?

During times of economic depression, racial violence against blacks would spike.

They might have come close a few times but then a Great Depression made everyone go “every man for himself” and “to each his own” and there arose great resurgence of terrorism against the Black Man’s Children as even the most menial jobs were now desired by the Poor White Man’s Children who had fallen on desperate times. After the Great Depression subsided, next came the new threat of Communism. The Rich White Man’s Children took great pains to stamp out any talk of “sharing wealth” and “brotherhood” and so it made any who wanted to unite be fearful of being labeled a Bolshevik.

However, that was not really the most powerful reason why. The real reason why the common struggle did not unite the lower classes, black, white, immigrant is far more depressing and so typically human.

Many, particularly among the Poor White Man’s Children and Immigrant’s Children who had experienced exclusion and persecution from the Rich White Man, decided to regain their self-esteem by victimizing others in turn. They derived great pride from not being dead last in line for a ladder according to the Rich White Man’s ranking system and became virulently preoccupied with all the reasons why they were still “better than those niggers!”

The Effects On The Grandchildren

Times were changing though. The Black Man’s Children had multiplied and were mobilizing and demanding equality. What aided their cause greatly was the love affair America now had with the musical magic they had spawned that now filled the airwaves with jazz, soul, blues and rock n roll (the slang blacks used for making love). The feelings aroused and the integrating nature of the rhythm instantly put those who had appointed themselves “Protectors of White Progress and Virtue” on edge. Watching their sons and daughters gyrating to the devilishly pagan drums of “negro music” was the start of them using “morality” as a code word for “race”. Jazz was evil. Blues was evil. Rock n Roll was evil because it was negro-derived. It would not be the last time “moral values” was used a code for “white”.

The orgins of the Religious Right in America are closely linked to racism. Anything that threatened integration of white and black became a crusade for the racist whites who euphemistically called themselves the "Morality Police" who sought to have it outlawed on equally frivolous grounds- marijuana, Jazz, Blues, alcohol, Rock n Roll, and yes, also integrated education.

Despite the protests, increasing numbers of the White Man’s Children, rich, poor and immigrant including some in the echelons of power began to soften and notice the marked injustice being done to the Black Man’s Children. It soon became more important to their image, political and economic interests to demonstrate humanitarianism and reconciliation towards this abused and neglected group.
The Poor White Man’s Children could not believe it! Their response was swift and violent, especially in the South. So it was, yet another generation of the Black Man’s Children experienced a further set back of crippling disenfranchisement, terrorism and discrimination. However, a hope was slowly dawning with the birth of the Grandchildren. It was into a world where blacks and whites and everyone else danced to the same soundtrack. In addition, more of the Black Man’s Grandchildren inherited the collected savings of lifetimes of menial work. By pooling resources together the Black Man’s Grand-children finally got enough money to afford one rung of the ladder. With each rung, came enough courage to attempt to climb for the first time.

When America black and white began dancing to the same soundtrack, one that originated with the black rhythms, it was a sign of change to come.

It was not easy trying to purchase a rung. Often, the White Man’s Ladder Store refused to sell it to them or would only do so at a higher price and only if they stayed on their side of the store. The Black Man’s Grandchildren decided to pay the higher price. It was also not easy getting a spot on the wall to place the ladder as they were often pushed away and ganged up on. They were undaunted though.
“Once we get over to the other side to the Promise Land, we can at least help our brothers and sisters over the wall too,” they kept on saying and it gave them strength.

So they contentedly paid the added “Black Man’s Tax”, swallowed their pride, held themselves to a higher standard, did everything to set their white neighbors vying for a spot on the wall, at ease. They minded their manners and acted diplomatically. They hid the hurts and offense. They groomed themselves in a way that soothed the Rich White Man’s Grandchildren’s fears of anything overly African, nappy or vengefully angry. They pretended to forget there was any reason to feel hurt or have a grudge. In this uneasy and unconfirmed forgiveness, the Rich White Man’s Grandchildren and Poor White Man’s Grandchildren convinced themselves that the Black Man’s Grandchildren had “gotten over it” and they could breathe easy. They became gradually comfortable with the occasional token black who managed to secure a ladder and somehow learned how to climb it even though “it was not in their nature” to do so.

It is hard for many to understand the level of self-hatred inculcated into the Black Man’s Children and Grandchildren and how the White Man's Children and Grandchildren are unaware of how they still contribute to it. One way of summing it up can be found in the experience one of my black sisters who decided to choose to wear her naturally kinky. She worked in upper management of a large bank. The manager called her into his office and asked whether or not she could get a more “corporate hairstyle”. Thankfully, the young woman had rediscovered her pride and replied, “If I were to apply harsh chemical relaxers and painful weaves a French Poodle’s hair so it resembles a Maltese’s or Afghan Hound’s long silky hair everyone would consider it animal cruelty and disrespectful to their breed. Funny isn’t it how when it comes to dogs, we accept and celebrate their differences and still see them as beautiful in their own right and yet cannot even do the same for ourselves.”

When the miniscule number of Black Man’s Grandchildren climbed over the wall, they exclaimed,
“But there has always been more than enough for everyone!”

They felt such humbling gratitude to have made it over because many of their brothers and sisters still had not and many more they knew never would. It became an urgent mission to provide ladders to their people and teach them how to climb and protect them as they did. However, it would be harder than they had anticipated. The bitter fruit of despondency fallen from consecutive generations had now fermented and their people were drunk on it. The Black Man’s Grandchildren had grown so pessimistic and desperate they had begun using their brothers and sisters as human ladders, pimping, addicting and killing them in order to escape their misery.
“We are already too late!” the few successful Grandchildren of the Black Man panicked. “How are we going to repair this tragedy? We cannot do it alone!”

Fortunately, there were Liberal Grandchildren of Immigrants, Poor White Men and even some Rich White Men who were touched by their efforts and whose hearts had not completely hardened despite being raised to turn a blind eye to injustice. They actively disagreed with their parents’ fear, avoidance and racism. They admitted the truth: All of America on the privileged side of the wall had profited and benefited from the Black Man serving as a human ladder while his own Grandchildren had not received one percent of the rewards of his labor and were still being stymied by racism. For them it was an expression of humanitarianism, gratitude and resolution to assist those disproportionately disenfranchised.

Imagine the courage of the first black people to cross the wall. Courage that is needed even today for many who try to break barriers of race.

Together they marched with the Black Man’s Grandchildren for integration and equality.
“But we thought they were happy and contented! What the hell more do they want?” screamed the Conservative Grandchildren of the Poor and Rich White Men.
They unleashed their dogs and hoses. They accused those who demanded an equal place of Communism. Among those very unhappy about this development were the Poor White Man’s Grandchildren who were still holding on to the assurance that, “We were supposed to be next in line for a ladder over the wall, not those niggers!”
“Reverse racism!” they cried.
They pointed to the fermented, poisonous fruit growing in black communities not as proof of the atrocious seeds that were sown by their forefathers but as proof of the Black Man's Children's current unreservedness. Every time there was a crash in the economy, their cries would grow louder.

Some of the Rich and Middle Class White Man’s Great Grandchildren took offense as well. All the increased talk of “sharing” also bothered them tremendously.
“Why can’t the Black Man’s Grandchildren climb over on their own merit? Cause that is how we did it! Totally free from hand-outs, entitlements, and special privilege at someone else’s expense!Right?....RIGHT?"

Everything I just wrote, captured in a concise little cartoon!

And there you have it! A synopsis but I want to delve even deeper in a rather unexpected direction. I am going to do the unthinkable and explore…

How slavery and racism has damaged the psyche of the White Man's Children, Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren and why resolution is being made so difficult between black and white today.

July 02, 2010

Grow Up Women!

I let the men have it, now it’s our turn ladies and if you are expecting me to go easy on us because we women have it so very hard, for so very long, you are going to be disappointed. I’m going to be just as hard on you as I am on myself, so gird your loins and buckle in. First up…

You are not a victim!

Have you suffered abuse and neglect in your childhood? You are not a victim! Have you had one or several bad men enter your life? You are not a victim! Have you felt ugly and unloved? You are not a victim! The only victims in this world are children or those too impaired mentally, physically to defend themselves or determine anything true about their life. If you are reading this, you are not a victim! The moment you can identify the ills that plagued your life past and present, then you graduate from victim to actively aware person. The moment you can say,

“I was abused.” Or “My mother’s terrible life and unloving nature impacted negatively on me,” you are now wide awake.

Once you can pin point whatever injustice (so typically meted out to our gender) was meted out to you, then you have now become a conscious participant in what happens next. You can either prolong the effects of those ills or make up your mind to evolve past them.

When you have had your epiphany and know what has handicapped you all your life, what happens next is all on your shoulders.

Who am I to tell you this?

I am a woman who was sexually and physically abused, neglected, suffered two suicide attempts, two scary near death experiences; battled chronic depression; got rejected by those closest to me, experienced poverty, near homelessness twice, discrimination because of gender, orientation, race and colour, verbal and phyiscal abuse and assault because of gender and orientation.

Just when I think I have it all figured out, I get yet another emotional breakdown/breakthrough that has me bawling my eyes out till 2 in the morning. The latest one was all about my surprising realization that the abuse I suffered is still impacting my self-esteem and sex life within my thirteen year relationship. Yes, even when I think I have it all figured out and therapy, affirmations, meditations and spiritual healing has worked, I discover there is always another layer to peel away and something new to fix-up. Of course, once the fixing up is done, the tremendous leap forward is more than worth it...until the next hurdle.

Beauty is pain on the outside and the inside.

So, no, you do not have an excuse ladies. If you can commit to the “beauty is pain” mentality for the exterior of your body and subject yourself to bikini waxes, scalp melting chemical relaxers, spine-snapping, crippling high heels and 800 calories a day, then surely you can endure a little honest evaluation of the dark, depressing, disempowering ugly bits of baggage hanging over your heart and strangling your soul. You can summon the strength to pry its bony, fingers from your throat and unleash destruction upon it, with the same determined anger you apply to those pimples and knots in your hair.

“Well I had a hard life, so I doh give a shit about nobody!” attitude will not get you places, it will not win you respect amongst your sisters and brothers nor cultivate deep peace and joy in your life.

Don’t worry, it is okay if you don’t know how to stop tearing down others and sabotaging yourself, all you need to begin with is the desire to admit that you do it. Stop making excuses like, “People just don’t like me!” or “They are just jealous of me,” or “What can I do about it?” Acknowledge that your negative thoughts and actions are what play the most important role in attracting negative results to you in the form of being truly disliked by others ( other women especially), disrespected by men, destructive towards men, distrusted by your children, unsuccessful in your profession, unhappy with your life; being easily provoked, overly controlling, insecure and resentful.

Be brave ladies! Look into your past and see where it originated and understand how it affected you, and follow it up with a compelling reason to change.

That compelling reason could be anything from wanting to become a better lover, mother, sister, wife, workmate, teacher or friend or simply wanting more health and happiness in your life before you kill yourself. Of course the most successful reason is; wanting to become more spiritually empowered as part of your journey to Divine enlightenment. It is the most successful because it does not hinge on anyone else. Many women who link their self-improvement to their husband or lover or friend fall off the wagon once the relationship ends. Your relationship with the Divine and your own soul however, is everlasting.

While we are on this topic, let me make something clear.

Many women in our Caribbean region are extremely religious, praying constantly to be transformed by the Lord, forgiven by the Lord, become more forgiving through the Lord, be healed by the Lord. Many of them mistake the religious ecstasy they feel as these prayers being answered, because they are looking for miraculous change and spectacular signs. They go to church, catch the spirit, speak in tongues and then return to their families, communities or their own private spaces no more spiritually evolved than they were before. The “church fix” lasts only so long as the euphoria wears off. It is not long before their old thinking rears its ugly head and self-discipline prompted by religious obligation crumbles under their excuses of victimhood.

A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Here is a little bucket of ice cold reality for you fiery holy rolling sisters.
The answers to your prayers do come. Not in the form of grandiose miracles but in the form of emotional upsets; failures, disagreements, conflicts and obstacles. They come in the form or embarrassing exposures of your weaknesses and being hurt or being faced with the shocking realization you are hurting other people. If all you are expecting are grand miracles then when these bitter greens are served up to you by the Divine Chef, you will not digest them with appreciation for the healing lessons to be learned that will help purge dysfunction from your life. You will continue to feel like a victim of external situations imposed on you.
You will be overly defensive and seek to justify your misbehviour towards others.

Case in point:
A woman prays and testifies and prays in church for deliverance from resentment towards someone who has done her wrong. She gets some relief from unburdening herself at church. Ahhh! She thinks this is it! Healing has come!

Then just hours after, the very person who irks her somehow does it again. She takes a deep breath and prays for deliverance. But the person keeps on entering her life and exacerbating the situation. No matter how much she prays for deliverance, the Divine or the universe sends her confrontation. Why?

It is trying to help her solve the issue. However, she does not realize it and thinks some miracle is going to happen when she must save herself using the powers gifted to her. She must take responsibility for her role in the situation. She must learn why she attracts the situation. She must then tackle it from that angle, forgiving herself and the person out of true understanding of their cosmic soul relationship before this life, presently and after their souls move on. Until that happens, she will either think: A- Her prayers are not being answered B. Demonise the person to the extent of assigning them the role of Devil come to disturb her peace.

And that my sistas is how you can have devout, sanctimonious women who continue to have severe emotional and interpersonal issues. They pray very visibly, attend church, preach to others constantly but are disliked, dysfunctional, dishonest and deluded about themselves and the world at large. They continue to be unclear about why their love relationships fail, why they cannot enjoy sex, why they still feels unworthy of love, why they constantly need to control and undercut other women and project a less than honest display of their emotions.

Take heart, identifying that you have “issues” and linking those issues to the triggers lurking in your past is more than most women ever do in their lifetime. You are already half-way there!

Little Girls Tear Down Their Sisters To Ease Their Insecurities

In the previous essay, I mentioned that Caribbean men have an exacerbated form of male chauvinism to compensate for the dehumanizing aspects of slavery and colonial oppression on their self-worth. It is in the nature of a man to outwardly express his pain by inflicting it on another. Men who are abused as boys or who have witnessed abuse are more likely to become abusers themselves.

Women are a little different.

We tend to turn the pain inward on ourselves first. A woman who is abused as a girl or witnessed abuse is more likely to become a victim of abuse all her life. Therefore you can expect Caribbean women who had to endure the whips, rapes, babies pulled from their arms to be sold off, lovers tortured and killed, colour and class discrimination, financial dependency, endless toil, endless disappointment and on top of all that, chauvinism and abuse from their brothers, to truly have the lowest of the low self-esteem.

Understand that we have a lot of self-love to regain.
Woman is the nigger of the world
Yes she is...think about it
Woman is the nigger of the world
Think about something about it

We make her paint her face and dance
If she won’t be slave, we say that she don’t love us
If she’s real, we say she’s trying to be a man
While putting her down we pretend that she is above us

Woman is the nigger of the world...yes she is
If you don’t believe me take a look to the one you’re with
Woman is the slaves of the slaves
Ah yeah...better scream about it

We make her bear and raise our children
And then we leave her flat for being a fat old mother then
We tell her home is the only place she would be
Then we complain that she’s too unworldly to be our friend

Woman is the nigger of the world...yes she is
If you don’t believe me take a look to the one you’re with
Woman is the slaves of the slaves
Yeah (think about it)

We insult her everyday on TV
And wonder why she has no guts or confidence
When she’s young we kill her will to be free
While telling her not to be so smart we put her down for being so dumb

Woman is the nigger of the world...yes she is
If you don’t believe me take a look to the one you’re with
Woman is the slaves of the slaves
Yes she is...if you believe me, you better scream about it.

We make her paint her face and dance
We make her paint her face and dance
We make her paint her face and dance

John Lennon

My employer, a strong woman and first ever female Director of Tourism in her country lamented to me about the women who have Masters Degrees and all kinds of academic and professional accolades and yet continue to allow themselves to be at the mercy of nasty, dishonest, locho or abusive men. “Where is their pride? Where is their sense of dignity?” she asks. How could it be they have all that education but no value for themselves?

She also recounted her first professional experiences with female co-workers after returning to her Caribbean island home with stellar and highly specialised tertiary qualifications from Canada and the UK. Before her return, local women in the hotel industry worked for white, male, foreign management for years and never thought to aspire to achieve more than menial and administrative positions. Suddenly here comes my current boss with international training. She was the youngest and only black, female working in at the very top of the Hotel Industry in her country.

Of course, this came with special perks. She could use hotel facilities. She was attending cocktail functions and tourism conferences all over the world with her white, male colleagues. She was now the boss of the women who were there for years in the same position. She admitted how scared she was to be placed as their superior and how badly she wanted to be accepted by her elder, fellow local, fellow black sisters and to also learn from them.

Did they welcome this opportunity to have a fellow sister in a position of power? Did they see in her inspiration for bettering themselves by working with her and sharing their level of expertise while gleaning from hers?

Hell to the no!

They made their resentment very clear with sabotage, gossip and insubordination. Thankfully, my boss learned to toughen up quickly and stand up to women as old as twenty years her senior. Sadly when all attempts at camaraderie failed she was forced to replace a great portion of them with a newer generation with more first world experience and a willingness to aspire to something better with less “small-island”, “crab in barrel” attitudes.

Simone de Bouvoir often said that we women seem incapable of reaching across class, religion and racial lines to other women. We are so desperate for any single shred of self-esteem that we will actually buy into the inhumane machinations used to oppress others, designed by the very men who oppress us. So, we turn up our nose at our sisters from a “certain class”, “certain religious persuasion”, “certain colour”. The sad truth is that the mullato sister is no more “free” in our male dominated world than her darker-skinned sister and although the slave master’s wife or daughter was living in cushier kind of prison, than the slave-woman it was still a prison none the less. Caribbean women, whether descended from slave, indentured labourer, trader or slave master, whether educated or illiterate, all experienced some form of oppression yet were unable to see past our class, race and religion to our common struggle.

This attitude is reflective of the small feminist movement here in the Caribbean. Instead of making the enlightenment and liberating philosophies accessible to all women and using the existing, indigenous female leadership; from the Orisha Priestesses and Spiritual Baptist Mothers and Hindu matriarchs, the Caribbean’s intellectual women continue to turn up their nose at lesser educated women. So fragile is our ego! Feminists in the Caribbean segregate themselves in elite academic circles and corporate ladders, benefitting greatly from the knowledge they were given but not allowing it to trickle down to their less literate or less “legitimate” sisters. Our lack of generosity makes women who had little access or acumen for higher education or financial freedom to develop a hostile and suspicious attitude towards women who do. The “female professional” and the “feminist” are still the hoity-toity elitists for most grassroots, working class women, who are not given their due for their strength and resilience.

It’s not like the men care who is educated and who is not. They sexually harass and assault us all, regardless of our station. They are still intent on pigeon-holing, objectifying and infantalising all of us, whether we are dressed in a power suit or in pom pom shorts with powder on our chest. They are still pushing Ephesians and Corinthians down all our sisters throats and making them feel like less of a God-fearer if they do not accept a subservient role in marital relationships.

If feminism is beneficial for me, then it must also be beneficial for my housekeeper and her daughters! It is beneficial for the woman who sells me mangoes and cleans my office. How dare I or anyone else look at these woman and say, “They can’t understand things like that!” In my experience, they can, if you speak to them with reference to their realities. Let us not forget Sojourner Truth. She was no university graduate but a black, female, slave. The voice that cries out for freedom does not need a degree to be eloquent. The will to fight for freedom does not need a certificate to be resilient.

So I charge all women literate enough to read this and intelligent enough to understand and debate it, to reach out and touch the lives of other women all around you. So many opportunities exist to spread little gems of liberating truths wherever you go. When you see school girls waiting for a bus along your route being subjected to sexual overtures from the thugs on the corner and they are acting these are the only options they have for love and fulfillment, don’t turn up your nose. Stop your $200,000 car, offer them a ride home and tell them a little story on the way to their neighbourhood about your journey from that same neighbourbood to the successful career you always wanted. It may not stick with all of them but for one teenage girl, it could be the moment that changes her life. When you see two women arguing over some locho man, be the woman that tells them both that they deserve better.

Be known as the sister who never talks badly about anyone behind their back and refuses to play along in catty exclusionary games to tear down another sister’s confidence. Wherever you see a sister burdened and bound by limited thinking…set her free! Don’t shake your head at her and feel superior. If you do, then you are not a true feminist. You do not carry a torch for your sisters or any real pride in being a woman. You are just a taker, using what you know to get ahead and to hell with everyone else! You are no better than the men who enslaved your ancestors. You have no idea how significant it is to be born a woman. You need to GROW UP!

Being A Lone Woman Among Little Girls

One is not born a woman, one becomes one.
Simone de Beauvoir

There are childlike qualities you should keep all through life; curiosity, honest expression, openness to the world, natural joy and even silly playfulness.

Then there are childlike qualities that you should abandon as you get older and wiser like the fearful selfishness you feel about what you own, comparing what others have to what you have, feeling easily jealous if you are not the center of attention, allowing your infantile ego to determine your actions, wanting to belong so badly you lose your self-worth, allowing others to make your mind up for you, fear, ignorance, lack of common sense.

Have you ever found yourself surrounded by little girls in women’s bodies? Some of them are even mothers already- little girls raising little girls. Some are in their 40s and 50s but are still so insipid it hurts! Being “girlish”, “unconcerned of weighty matters”, “helpless”, “befuddled,” “easily abated with bright shiny objects,”, “manipulations through tantrums, tits and ass” unfortunately have been inculcated in our Caribbean women. Those of you who do not subscribe to this model and choose to act like grown, intelligent women; are unapologetic about your sexual empowerment, decisive, serious, daring, individualistic and blatantly honest are rare treasures most do not appreciate. Sometimes not even the women in your own family welcome you as they should.

Have you ever found yourself surrounded by women whose scope of conversation is always (1) Materialistic (2) Complaining (3) Salacious bad-talking? Or who are glaringly racist, classist or exhibit some other form of unintelligence and degradation? It is tough isn’t it? It is even worse when those women are members of your family or workmates whom you cannot avoid. You sit in silence and suffer through their girlish comparisons and deductions. While in their presence, you must fight constantly to balance your refusal to perpetuate destructive norms with your fear of being militant and unsociable. When you try to steer conversation into deeper waters, you get laughed at or sidelined.

I have found that instead of ranting and railing against them, I insert little humorous thought-provoking sound bites here and there.

THEM: Hah! Hah! She cyah get a man!
ME: Considering how “getting a man” worked out for the majority of women in this family! She must be the one laughing at all of you in secret!
THEM: “But look how she nice and fair-skinned!”
ME: I didn’t realize that being fair-skinned was still considered a bonus with skin cancer on the rise? Seems to me it is the melanin gifted who shall inherit the earth.
THEM: So when you going to have children? Hurry up!
ME: I am only entertaining suggestions about what to do with my eggs from people who willing to pay $100,000 and upwards for the outcome of their fertilization!

Make them laugh and make them think at the same time. You don’t need to preach.

Women Do Not Compete With Little Girls For Men

Little girls are in constant, heated contest with other little girls over boys. Their self-esteem and identity comes only from exterior and circumstantial factors, including being desired by men. They are confounded and challenged by grown women who act above or oblivious to all the subtle and not so subtle forms of catfighting they use in their contest.

Intellectually and spiritually mature women simply have better things to do than engage in little girl bitch games. You are not motivated by the same factors nor are you interested in pursuing the same target. No enlightened woman wants to end up in a relationship with someone who actually wants a little girl as his life partner. You are looking for an uplifting, soul-enhancing, equal partnership, not one where you fight, play petty ego games and soothe it all away with sex and gifts.

A real woman clearly see that men are the ones who must be kept on their toes, defending their turf, fighting for your love. When women do it, it is just pathetic. Why? Well in all honesty, it is a natural privilege for a man to have a woman, not the other way around. Even animals know that.

If you are an independent woman pursuing your career dreams, earning your own money with good friends around you and a wonderful community, social, spiritual life full of meaningful and orgasmic experiences, all without a man in your life, then you know that although having a man would be nice, it is not a necessity. In fact, having an intimate, sexual relationship with a man will present far more risk and upheaval in your life, so it better be worth the headache, HIV testing, condoms, yeast infections, fights, worries, hurt feelings and pregnancy scares. The man who gets the privilege of throwing your life out of wack needs to work for it. Those who fall miserably short, you do not need to think twice about discarding. That is the female role. Again, even animals know that.

Desperation and worry over what a man does can easily be solved by having a full and satisfying life of your own with or without him. Remember that he is the one who is lucky to have you.

At a party with some friends, a married female-friend of mine was drinking and watching with great amusement as a “little girl” made the moves on her husband of 20 years.

“Go and tell that sket to keep her claws off your man!” her friends urged.
“Why?” the empowered woman answered. “If my husband actually takes that bait then our marriage must be in real bad shape or, he is a complete moron and I am in bad shape for being with him. That sket is the litmus test. She will help us end a bad marriage or improve it or just go home tonight and fuck our brains out. I am a strong enough bitch to handle all possible outcomes! So just let me enjoy my drink.”

She enjoyed her night alright! Upon seeing her enjoying herself, her husband soon joined in and from the suggestive dancing I imagine they went home and fucked their brains out. She did not let some sket ruin her evening and gain some false sense of accomplishment doing so.

Easier said than done right?

The ability to love a man without fear of “little girls” taking him away is a privilege only strong women will ever know.

My accomplished, forty year old female friend belly laughed and laughed at her fifty year old boyfriend when she found out he cheated on her with a “little girl”. He was always something of a megalomaniac and so, could not handle my friend and her ability to match his success. So he found a “little girl” in a bar, half his age, whom he could bamboozle. As it turned out, what the “little girl” lacked in principles, intellectual and spiritual acumen she more than made up for in desperation, emotional sexual and social manipulation; basic tools of the “little girl” trade. His infantile outside woman got herself pregnant, stalked him, threatened suicide and scandal until he married her. That was actually the funniest part of all because he was always and still is extremely marriage-phobic. In the five years, she was with him, my friend accepted this, being a bit of a maverick herself and having absolutely no emotional or financial need to “tie down” a man.

My friend gathered all her girlfriends and shared a good laugh at his wedding video, leaked to her by a mutual friend who attended. Her marriage-phobic ex-boyfriend clearly uncomfortable while dressed up like prince charming. There were horse-drawn carriages and white doves. His little Bridezilla made him fork out hundreds of thousands for an elaborate, tacky wedding. Now he lives to support his new desperate housewife’s suburban social climbing dreams. He hides from her by spending most of his time at the bar, golf course and the office where he still encounters my friend who has long moved on. He is trapped. If he leaves now, he has to pay child support for four children. His new wife turned out to be quite fecund, go figure.

The man looks like he does not know what hit him. He still unburdens on my friend as his own wife is nowhere near his intellectual level.
“You idiot,” my friend still playfully tells him when he does.

He could have had a woman who only wanted him for his mind, meaningful conversation, mind-blowing sex and mutual growth on this adventure called life. But no, he fell for the “little girl” trap because my friend was too empowered to mistake his shit for her sustenance. Elizabeth Aston used to say, “When men are scared of a woman, they always accuse her of being mannish,” which only proves they are scared of their own potential.

Ladies, stop spending your time time pining over men that dumb and unenlightened! Ladies, no one is going to treat you like a prize if you don’t treat yourself that way. Men who are serious stay. The little boys (yes even those over 30) flee and go chase after the little girls and get tangled up in their little girl games.

Ugly is irrelevant. It is an immeasurable insult to a woman, and then supposedly the worst crime you can commit as a woman. But ugly, as beautiful, is an illusion.
Margaret Cho

This physical shell of ours is not going to last forever, in its current state. Little girls will always be scared of aging because it takes away their one asset. Nothing is more pathetic than a toothless cougar, desperately trying to cling to her physical attributes and bitter at all the little girls who have usurped her place.

Personally, I cannot wait until the grey hairs start peppering my dreadlocks. Such a relief to be free of the constant sooting and sexual harassment! Oh! To move around freely in this world without being seen as simply a sexual object! What fun! For many women in the Caribbean, the moment she becomes an elder, is the first time she is ever given any kind of respect by, men.

Many empowered women look forward to the freedom of their post-menopausal years because being sexually viable to men was never their main source of their self-esteem.

Oh and I intend to be fearsome! I want to be a wizened old hag full of mystical power and secret knowledge, puffing on my hash pipe. I want to be someone with whom young artists, thinkers, lovers climb mountains to consult. Those in need of comfort and healing I will resuscitate with love. Those who need empowerment I will deliver fearsome knowledge that awakens their warrior spirit. Those who need inspiration, their minds I will open. My silliness, crude humor and lust for life would not have diminished one iota but my powers would have increased exponentially. My scandalous, cackling laughter would echo from my little eco-friendly dwelling. Call me Tanty or Mama Jessie. Love and fear me. I will be unafraid to surrender my mortal coil and return to the Source.