Tag Archives: Africa

A Message to White Privileged People Who Take Offense to “Black Power” Movements

At our nearby park, there is always a nice mix of people from all over the world.  Parents, mothers or fathers, accompany their children and watch from a distance while mingling amongst themselves. Usually, everyone finds their “own kind” and stick together. “Own kind” will change depending on who’s present. Sometimes it means the same gender, or home country, or expatriates vs. locals. Of course, sometimes it means the same race. That feels very familiar. But, when it comes to race, because there are very few of my “own kind” in Singapore in general, I must infiltrate if I want to engage at all, on the playground especially. home

One day, I happened to strike up a conversation with a congenial French woman, who has lived in Singapore for over six years. It began very mundane at first; how’s the weather here compared to our respective countries; how much more expensive is it here compared to home; where our children went to school and why, etc. We watched our daughters, very close in age, play with their toys in the sand box. One was more practiced in the art of sharing than the other, and one tried to take possession of all of the toys from the other.

Somehow the topic of race and white privilege ensued, and honestly I wasn’t the one to present the subject.

“I suppose I can’t help but have white privilege. I’ve never had to think about it.”

She stunned me with this simple truth. I’ve never heard anyone personally say to me that they were equally aware and ignorant of this benefit. She went on to share a story explaining when it first dawned on her that SHE was treated differently than her “African friends.”

A small group of them were on holiday (vacation) together, and went out for a leisurely night. Two in the group were of African descent, but all were French and none of them ever vocalized there being any difference amongst them. When they were denied entry into a pub most of them had frequented many times before, she initially thought that it must’ve been closed even though it didn’t appear so. It did not dawn on her that she had witnessed discrimination until her “African friends” brought it to her attention. They had been denied entry many times in many other locations, even France to her surprise.

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This sole experience allowed her to take notice of other instances where she’d taken her rights for granted and, you could tell, there were revelations happening even in our conversation. Perhaps this was just a French problem she pondered. I assured her it was not and adduced my own examples. She repeated her initial comment about it being out of her control, and expressed disbelief that there could be anything done about it by anyone. She said this as we observed her daughter continue to snatch my daughter’s toys from her. My daughter eventually took her toys and played somewhere else after all of the play negotiation tactics I’d taught her had failed.

I have come to see, even more blatantly here, that the intoxication of white privilege affords one an extensive list of rights or entitlements  far beyond the scope of those who lack such a luxury.  One of which is that it allows one to feel well within their “right” to comment on, analyze, criticize, and belittle the sentiments of those seen as the inferior (whether conscious or subconscious) , all while trying to impose their views upon the perceived wayward thinker. It goes beyond freedom of speech. It’s freedom of control and authority to admonish that which is seen as contradictory to the majority view. This gift of white privilege is inherent for anyone of European descent, even in America, (though it does not have to be consumed to the point of intoxication), and has also been dispensed sparingly to the “passers,” people of color who could very easily be mistaken for otherwise either in appearance, social status, self-identity, or parallelism in thought or actions of superiority. These are the white privileged people.(See Wide Awake Parts I & II)

This particular “right” has been exercised incessantly in the U.S., but much more noticeably in recent years. With the public upset over the disputatious verdicts in the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis cases, which really have crossed all racial lines, there has been an influx of contending commentary from offended white privileged people expressing their abhorrence of the vocalized disgust with the trial’s outcome. How dare anyone question, challenge, or protest the results of the U.S. justice system? The gall of any group to express disdain for the norm, (exonerating white privileged people), in America is unfathomable and met with great resistance.  (See aforementioned explanation of “white privileged people” as it relates to Trayvon Martin’s killer before you exercise your “right” here.) And, therefore, any discussion of making changes that could prevent such outcomes or such actions in the first place are seen as inflammatory, threatening, exclusive, “racist,” and vile. This idea of change and “black power” must be spawned from a spirit of hatred towards the unassuming white privileged people. It just must.

But alas, I must inform you, that pro-black does not mean anti-white. Black people also struggle with understanding this. Yet, I do understand your confusion. You are perplexed by this because, as historically evidenced, the reverse is not true. Pro-white has meant anti-ANYBODY else. When members of white supremacy groups bolster their views with the term, “White Power,” it is certainly laced in hatred and disdain for anyone other than they.

downloadThe implementation of “white power” in the United States of America has been and is systemically in opposition of any non-white person. It has been since the seizing of this country from the native peoples that already dwelled in and cultivated this land.  I certainly understand how and why many project the sentiments of their ethnic predecessors on the rest of the world, but it is simply inaccurate and false.

After posting “The Back to Black List,” we were met with a few comments of discourse. Some were well-meaning and sincere; some were malicious and irate. We were told this list would be viewed as “racist” if it were reversed, and therefore was racist because surely we did not have a right to avoid such a label when the privileged did not. We were asked if our list still included them; not that they wanted to be a part of it or help in any way because they were very content in the utopian land of equality and diversity as they saw it. They just wanted to ensure that no “right” had been stripped from them. Others expressed how hurt they were that we felt a need to “further divide.” There must be another way they admonished, but offered no alternatives or suggestions or assistance. They just wanted us to know that they were disappointed in us for hurting their feelings by developing an action plan without their permission that didn’t directly include them. Still others, and these were by far the most amusing because they looked “black” but were clearly intoxicated, expressed they had absolutely no interest in living among other black people, supporting black businesses, or  “helping black people because they don’t want to help themselves.” This was in response to our action plan to help ourselves. The list has been viewed as “racist,” unGodly, pretentious, and unattainable, and of course, “anti-white.”

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But, there’s that little thing called history. Our ancestors did not enslave, oppress, and enact genocide upon their European counterparts. The opposite is fact, and it was not so long ago in the context of world history. It is in your ancestral lineage to hate that which is different from yourselves. Those who do not, and there are many, are an anomaly. Therefore, I understand why you would want to project that reflection on others. But, that is not who we (most of us) are. The source of our declaration of “Black Power” is one of love and desire for such. You have always had power within this structure; there has never been a need for you to voice it or cry out for it. We’ve known. We’ve always known.

Your declarations of such were to serve as affirmations and intimidations, not demands or requests. And, they were always stemmed from your self-view of superiority and your disdain for everyone else. That is why a list in the reverse of “The Back to Black List” would be racist and unnecessary because it already has been written, but “The Back to Black List” itself is not. It cannot be. Wait for it…..here comes why.

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Only those in power,(economic, political, social, etc.), have the power to actually be racist. The rest of us are simply the pawn in the malicious enterprise of racism, and every other “ism” for that matter. Anyone can have prejudice, but only white privileged people can be racist because we were the prize, never the participants in the race. The only ones that benefit from racism are those in power. The only ones who are adversely affected by it are those who are oppressed. It is very clear who serves the former and latter positions in terms of race, this man-made divisive factor created long before we adopted “The Back to Black List.”

So, I denounce your baseless accusations that we are racists for having the audacity to love ourselves despite all that’s been done to teach us to do otherwise. I denounce the notion that we are racists because we recognize the importance of healing and restoring ourselves before we can fully and lovingly embrace anyone else. I denounce the accusation that we are racists because we decided not to wait for anyone to show up in a cape and save us.  I denounce the idea that we are racists because we have the brazenness to envision ourselves economically empowered. visions_of_black_economic_empowerment I denounce all claims that we, the educated and empowered few of us, will worsen the problem by restoring the economy, infrastructure, educational access in the already segregated impoverished black communities by moving there. They are actually quite humorous. It tells me that you actually feel somewhat threatened that we are empowered enough to SPEAK against the centuries old social structure that has been steeped in enmity and xenophobic practices in this country, and throughout the world.

Otherwise, you would show absolutely no interest in the messages of black empowerment. You would not engage in debate about issues that absolutely do not concern you or affect you and your general way of life. If you did not feel threatened or personally offended, you would not try to exchange racial epithets or hurl insults masked by the elocutionary critiques of your intelligentsia.

You would simply keep scrolling pass our posts, comments, websites, channels, etc., because you’d be confident in knowing that your quality of life will not be disrupted by ours improving, which is true. Yet, your privilege and fear make you feel a bit froggy.

So, jump, but after this post I will not be engaging in any further discussion with you on the matter, and I encourage other “Black Power” activists to take the same stance. This is a joint course in “How to Deny My White Privilege in Matters of Black Empowerment,” “How to Mind My Own Business,” and “How to Share in the Sandbox.” You either pass or fail. Class dismissed.

(I must state some of my “givens,” so it’s understood that I don’t take them for granted. We know that the term “white privileged people” is not a sweeping generalization to describe every caucasian person. Though, every caucasian person can and does benefit from white privilege, we are aware that not all adopt the mentality of the those who become intoxicated by it. We know “well-meaning white people” exist. This article was not to discredit those of you who support the cause of restoring the basic rights of humanity to all. No need to exercise your right in this forum by declaring your decency. We know you exist. We’ve always known.) 

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Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Saturday, August 1, 2013 4:51 AM

During our transitional process, we traveled quite a few times within the states. (See Planes, Trains, and Auto Deals coming soon.) In one trip, while waiting in the airport, my daughter saw a designated children’s play area and gleefully darted in its direction. Already playing were three children, two girls and one boy, ranging in age from what seemed to be four and nine; all a bit older than my toddler. Two were white and one was Asian.

I only took notice of any of this at all because as soon as my daughter landed on the rubberized play mat and touched the glazed slippery slope, the eldest of the trio jerked at her presence and screeched venomously, “Run! She’s evil!!” They all fled. I leapt towards her. My daughter chased after them because she thought they were playing with her, not operating against her.  Her innocence allowed her to enjoy the “game.” My insight made me want to jump to her rescue. I halted in my steps to assess. Why would this child say that? Why would her onlooking parent not say anything?

It could’ve been because she was the youngest, but at some point someone else was, and yet they were eventually included. It could’ve been that she was the “new kid,” but also at some point…. It could’ve been that she was a girl, but…. It could’ve been that she had three ponytails instead of one. It could’ve been that I was hypersensitive, but… How tiring it is to have to decide whether you’re going to honor or trivialize your feelings.

Part II

We, Black Americans, want so much to be a part of the standard landscape. I remember being entranced by “The Wizard of Oz” as a child. My favorite two parts of the movie were when Dorothy sang the classic, “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” and when she landed in Munchkin Land and her world was suddenly in color; the irony that there were no people of color in the entire movie notwithstanding. We all loved the story, but longed to see ourselves in it. So, we created the more colorful cultural iconic version in “The Wiz,” which immediately became my favorite.

Fast forward.

On the voyage over, the GPS of the airline tracked our trip and we could see the mapping of our course on our personal screens. I took a picture of the digital map that displayed where we were in the world. By the time we reached Singapore, we had created an arc, a rainbow so to speak, with Africa deep in its center.  It was symbolic of the transition. I knew when I stepped off the plane, things were different in ways I hadn’t expected.

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When I walk around here, I feel invisible. It’s not in the, “If I can’t see you, then you’re not my problem, so…” or “I only see you as a problem that I want to fix or critique, so I’ll say I’m colorblind or conservative” way of America. More in the, “You’re not that different. We all have to get where we’re going. Let’s keep it moving. I have to catch this lift*, train, taxi, bus, or bike,” sort of way.  I’ve gotten everything from the cordial nods and smiles & the congenial chatter in passing to the failure to hold and pass the door when I’m a step behind with my child in arms & the complete brushing, bumping, shoving of shoulders as someone whips by and barely notices I’m standing in their path WITH MY CHILD IN ARMS.

But, I’ve noticed everyone gets the same royal treatment. Singaporeans seem to be no respecter of persons when it comes to their courtesy or callousness; at least such has been my experience in my (extremely) brief time here. (I’m told, however, that there is a very overt discrimination against Indian people in Singapore. But, because we decidedly live in an area called Little India, I have yet to observe it. I’ll address that in another post.)

It’s remarkable to even entertain the idea of not looking through the lens of race.  In America, we, Black Americans, are exposed to the idea of race and its impact on our livelihood very early. We are taught to recognize racism in order to know how to respond to it. We are taught the code of conduct in various environments throughout our entire educational matriculation and maturation. We are taught to walk, speak, & conform in a certain manner as to not alarm, agitate, or instill fear in the status quo. We are taught the rules of assimilation and double standards for our own survival and as an instrument to achieve at least a marginal sense of success.

…….

The timing of this move was impeccable.  In the wake of everything that’s happening in the states right now, my home state especially, I was eager to travel, and certainly more excited about moving than I was initially…at least for a time. The frustration builds so much sometimes that you must have an exodus, lest an explosion. To be free from the constant weight of always having to contextualize life’s circumstances through a racial construct is glorifying, even if it’s just for this honeymoon period, however long that may be.

My daughter has played alongside a surprisingly diverse group of new peers everyday since we’ve arrived in Singapore. So far, I’ve had no need to jump to her rescue.  That’s not to say that Singapore

Over the Rainbowis a perfect, harmonious, ethnically diverse utopia where racism against Africa’s sons and daughters goes to hibernate. I’m not sure whether it is or isn’t just yet; too early to tell. But, history tells me it’s highly unlikely. I’m not naïve enough to believe I won’t experience racism at all here. But, I don’t think it will be all I experience here. We truly are somewhere over the rainbow, or at least not in Kansas anymore.

*A lift is an elevator.  Along with “pram,” it’s a new term I’ve fancied.