Children from my Village have Arrived.
Monday, December 31, 2007
HALF TIME BREAK
Alright time for entertainment. I seem to have more luck with traditional dances from Rwanda than Uganda or Kenya. Soon I will resort to the more modern performances from the Congo which are not entirely bad but have a very strong western influence thus removing their authenticity. But their music industry is booming as a result so I won't hate on them.
So Rwanda again it will be. I love all the dancers from Rwanda, whether courtship or war dances they are all very well choreographed and beautiful.
The dance movements are mostly inspired by the movement of their cattle that they love very much. Traditionally the Kings' cattle were never eaten and when they died they were given burial honors. This is one of the cultural traits that archeologists found as a possible link to ancient Egyptians who did the exact same thing.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The battle between native blacks and foreign blacks has been raging in blog-sphere and it has been disturbingly enlightening.
Firstly, before coming to America I had heard a little bit about the resentment of Africans by AAs though where I am from AAs are revered for their resilience and survival of a treacherous system.
When I first arrived, I met some Africans in New York who lived in black neighborhoods and spoke of living in fear of being attacked. I recently recalled an incident while in DC on a short course on my first visit to America, a BW guide of the class snapped at me for asking a question regarding a discrepancy in the payments I had to make. The same woman had been extremely courteous to the Russian students that asked the same question. I assumed she was having a bad day. However now that there is more evidence of tensions, I am beginning to wonder about such incidents, and they are not few.
When I ask my AA friends about such incidents, they actually acknowledge that there is a resentment towards Africans and also blame self hatred and the need for one to not want anything to do with being considered African.
There is evidence of this in AA entertainment movies and comedy routines. Some of which I am posting.
The big question to the African American is, if you resent Africans and Africa-ness, why maintain the title African Americans? And when I eventually become American , will you be offended if I call myself an African American? I heard one AA say that we become American Africans while another one suggested that we become African (Squared) American!
It is a pity that the situation is the way it is. I had to stop posting at a certain blog because the negativity was escalating to an uncontrollable level. And God knows I love my serenity and sanity. The level of hatred I sometimes felt from fellow posters was not any different what one would experience from a white supremist group.
I always felt we had the same struggle as black people. Every non black society in the world looks at us as inferior. Different societies apply this concept differently. I see America as the front line of the civil rights struggle whose effects get rippled through out the world. But what purpose is the struggle if members of the same oppressed group are ready to abuse the rights of those with in the same group given the opportunity. Is the Civil Rights struggle still relevant?
In other words why should I fight along side you when you are going to abuse me through your media and also malign me in the work environment because after all you have ‘ownership’ of the struggle?
As an African that has encountered some unheard of racism in this day an age, I have had more support by a few white people, a lot more than AAs that were in a position to be supportive. So then I wonder, if I am to fight for my rights in this country, is it wise to expect support from AAs or should I be open to well meaning people of any race?
I see racism today as a system with a life of is own in which some of the old methods of tackling it are not effective.
The key difference between AAs and Africans is that we do see our skin color differently. Black skin color for a traditional African is not associated as a burden. It just is.
So when I hear an AAs say, “Africans should accept their blackness” what they mean is that we should acquire the burdens of blackness as prescribed by American society.
Sorry to disappoint you, but, No thank you. Just because the rest of the world sees blackness as an ailment, does not mean that we should see it that way. Anyone that thinks that way is free to do so.
So until some AAs accept this basic difference in seeing black, there will always be tensions. And just because Africans do not see blackness that way does not mean that they forget they are black. I know for sure many of us stick to our traditions, the exception is those Africans that stay and raise their children here, even then the culture never completely dies.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Back to the subject at hand. We do not have the concept of best friendship. If someone is so close, the tradition is that they become part of the family. There are ceremonial rituals to tie the bond that then turns the relationship into a brotherhood/sisterhood and you become part of each other’s families. One very common one is the dipping of a coffee bean into an open cut in one’s arm and then exchanging the beans with your ‘sister’/’brother’ who dips it in theirs. (This practice is less common now because of AIDS after a lot of infections took place this way).
In America it seems like a requirement to have a best friend. I was surprised to discover that people were even possessive of their friends. The idea is, ‘if you are my best friend, I can not share you with someone else’ Ha!
Growing up, such friendships were discouraged. I have come up with a hypothesis as to why these two worlds view friendship differently. Traditional African societies are more communal and so there is less individualism. When individuals start bonding in exclusive friendships this threatens the community. They think of them as forming little clicks or gangs that are up to no good. On the other hand in the Western world where its every man for himself there is need for friendship in order for one to exist in a healthy state.
However my experiences with making friends out here have been met with disappointment. And this is mainly due to cultural differences.
My first good female friend in America was of Norwegian origin though she grew up in East Africa and therefore we had that in common to begin with. Now this is were racial matters become tricky. I grew up with out knowledge of racism. So it came as quite a shock on arrival in the Western World. This friend of mine grew up the same way although being a white person in Kenya, she was very aware of her skin privilege.
We never had any racial issues at first but being to long in America does get to you in various ways I guess. In appearance, she went beyond the American standard of beauty. She could have been a model.
Personally I am never taken up by people’s appearances. Even in my native country where women are advised not to be good friends with beautiful women, I went against that rule. The most beautiful girls were always my friends. I appreciated their beauty as long as they did not get conceited or misused it.
My Norwegian friend had that African value of not taking her beauty seriously but being in LA took its toll on her personality. She also started noticing her skin privilege and before long I became the African friend and later on the mammy. We got special treatment where ever we went, the same places that would treat me suspiciously when I was by my self.
I don’t completely blame her change on the new society because I am not that familiar with Norwegian culture as it relates to blacks. Naturally I was disgusted and started distancing myself. She had become so comfortable in her princess role and expected me to be around to pick up after her. I felt used and abused. The last straw was when she dropped the N word when she saw some AA kids. That was it, end of friendship.
I recently met a wonderful AA single mum female of my age. We met in one of my classes and we became study mates. Very nice person with out any of the negative stereotypes associated with black women (and I do carry some). We worked together through the class and have mutual respect for each other. For once I knew I had met someone I could call a friend. This friendship too has met with its own challenge, which is our own personal outlook on how to over come those things that are meant to keep us down ie the system
Now I came to America all the way from my village so I could get a better life for me and my children (biological or not). Right now, I don’t care for obstacles, whether systematic or those with in my own head. There are children I know that will be better off once I survive and succeed in getting part of the American dream. In other words, being in America is not about me. Its about a community of people I care about deeply.
Back to my friend, this person started off strong in the math class, but when her first failure popped up, she never recovered despite the fact that she was very capable. I know this for a fact because we studied together and a lot of what I applied in our math tests were her own corrections of my errors. In the end I got the better grade, not because I am smarter than her but because I am more focused on what it is I want and not paying attention to the naysayers and believe me I could fill a country with them. I told her that she needs most of all to work on her confidence and kill some girly dreams like marrying a rich man. At the end of the semester her confidence was so battered that I feel she has given up. Now this is the tricky part, I have often heard that one should surround them selves with people that can make them better. I now believe that advice. My Norwegian friend was an airhead and was sucking the life out of me. The last thing I need is someone with enormous insecurities that I have to continuously emotionally support despite the fact that they have millions of opportunities staring at them yet are still reluctant to see them. That puts me in a disadvantaged position once again and though I like this woman, I am not going to play the enabler to her self destructive ways.
And once again I am left wondering if friendship the Western way is possible for me and if all these people calling themselves BFFs are genuine friends.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I prefer to see truth ultimately as absolute, anything else is a variation and should therefore have a warning.
Why do I speak of truth? No, I am not a christian fundamentalist proclaiming the truth the way and the light. (although not entirely a bad idea)
I just came to a realization of my own culture's obsession with truth, even when it obviously hasn't worked very well for them.
My tribe is one of about 50 in a small East African country and is stereotyped as valuing truth even if this means hindering their own progress (especially in politics).
Mine is an immigrant group that has been in the region for less than 3 centuries. This tradition was further strengthened by the coming of Christianity mainly Catholicism whose ideology was very compatible with the local beliefs.
A dishonest person is castigated and marked as evil and known to all and despised. This person could be what in America would be termed as an industrious or shrewd business person. These are qualities that are traditionally frowned upon. As the overall economy grows people not fitting the mold tend to integrate into the bigger tribes were the 'behavior' is not a problem and is indeed progressive. But among traditionalists this truth virtue is still exercised.
A part of me still looks to this ideal, although of late I call myself a realist, but the search for truth never ends.
In the West, truth is the domain of empirical scientists ( who too BTW are corrupted by prejudicial forces). All other areas have their own variations of truth. To follow my traditional ideal here is tantamount to being suicidal.
Which brings me to many IR discussions I have been involved for the past few months. In America, race rules. Any opinions one forms or shares are highly influenced by one's racial make up consciously or subconsciously which dictates one's life experience.
So as a truth seeker whose life experience has not been shaped by my racial make up, I am not popular to those whose life has been formed by their racial make up and this is a potential source of great conflict. When I get into a discussion or debate, I am first and foremost interested in the issues being communicated, not the race from which they come. And then my process of analysis starts from there. Race is an issue when the issue is about race or is obviously being biased by the speaker's racial makeup.
I have had many subtle or not subtle accusations of being a 'cooer' and defender of WM. And lacking full knowledge of AA issues and therefore ought not to comment on them.
However if you asked the same WM they will tell you how unforgiving some of my criticisms of them are. Some will even call me a racist. So in this game, one can't win. I like to see things in their realistic even brutal state regardless of what my own race will think of me.
I prefer to call myself an equal opportunity critic and have successfully clashed with people of all races and backgrounds even with my fellow Africans and wouldn't hesitate for a second to clash with a tribes mate (this BTW is considered honorable as long as truth is adhered to).
Unfortunately for those whose life experience is different, such disagreements are perceived as an attack on their person or race. Will I stop disagreeing to appease? Now that's not possible. Its cowardice, which is a seriously despised attribute again in my culture. A coward is referred to as "nothing". You don't stab someone in the back, you do it through the front.
Does that mean I am not loyal to my race? Hardly! Truth first, then race second.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I am fascinated by African dances. My own not being very excting (wreckless jumping with the ultimate aim being to crack a concrete floor) I love to watch the other tribes that have more advanced styles of dance and choreography.
The Kiganda dance is by far the most difficult one that I know. The idea is to move your waist independently from the rest of the body then the other parts are supposed to fall in sync. All the while, you should be mostly on your toes. It is very exhausting, even watching it. But it is a good work out. There are different variations of it depending on occassion. The most honored one is that performed for the king. It is incredible to watch.
This particular artist sings in fork tradional style with traditonal instruments. Nothing Western. Her themes are mainly about Marriage and social graces according to Kiganda tradition. You can tell alot about the tribe by what she says. The visuals give a good idea.
Time for Meme!
I was tagged by Miriam so without (any more) further ado, here's my meme:
The rules of the game are:
A). Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog...
B). Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself...
C). Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs...
D). Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
7 Random /weird facts about me:
1. I have no clear cultural identity. My people assimilated into a larger tribe. I found out about my roots after the Rwanda genocide and have since been on an identity search.
2. I was first held at gun point at 4 years of age. I was looting the Russian embassy during a civil war. Many more countless times after that. At the same age I was put in jail with my mum.( I hadn't done anything this time!)
3. I played on the school soccer team.
4. I played junior tennis tournaments.
5. Swahili was my first language to learn, then lost it to learn others.
6. I slaughtered the chickens for the family when there was no male to do it.
7. I was kicked out of my chemistry class for the last two years of my secondary school for breaking a lab apparatus set up that I could not afford to replace.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
It appears that there is growing tensions among blacks based on geographic origins, Africans, Caribbeans and African Americans. Each group accuses the other of assumed superiority. African Americans (AAs) in particular are agitated by the attitude displayed by the foreign blacks who they believe treat them no differently than the other races that historically discriminated against AAs.
The other blacks too are accused of buying into the stereotypes of AAs and using those to "look down" on them.
Rightly, AAs believe that these other blacks should not forget that the way has been paved for them by the sacrifices they have made through history. So the debate or argument, if you please, is raging with both sides telling the other how they should behave.
Popular sentiment among black immigrants is that AAs don't have any more excuses not to own part of the American dream, since themselves come to America with little and manage to "make it".
Personally I go against this popular immigrant sentiment, firstly because immigrants don't seem to put into proper perspective the contributions of AAs to America and the world at large. If they did, they would simply join the struggle.
The person usually talking is one that has come form either, a well to do family whereby their way has been carefully paved for them or they come from abject poverty, the kind that makes the ghetto look like the hills and are therefore ultra motivated to 'make it'. All these advantages are subsidized by a healthy psychological state of mind, which for the black person means simply a lack of knowledge of racism. With which comes the benefit of never 'seeing' another race as better than them.
A first time traditionally bred African traveller to the West will always be shocked that the color of their skin can be a problem. It takes one a very long time to get the reality. That is why some Africans tend to be naive on matters regarding racism. They don't understand it to the extent the AAs do and so don't see why that can be a hindrance to progress.
On the other hand you have people like me that were too quick to grasp the dynamics. Why do you wonder, do some immigrants see it while others don't?
I would guess it has to do with one's own indigenous culture and personality i.e. the ability not to shy away from confrontation.
As far as cultures are concerned, there are many African cultures that tend to be conformist. Same way you have, for example Asians in the US or other groups that don't appear to be overtly vocal on Civil rights issues. These types of Africans will not rock the boat, they will simply work around the system and always appear agreeable making them popular with employers. You then have others that are more confrontational. I happen to belong to one. To the American employer, I am a nightmare, because I am hired on the premise that I am African and therefore 'docile' not like the AA. Problem is my culture being quite the dominant type, I can spot the dynamics of discrimination pretty quick and I am on top of them.
My experience with employers has been simply this, I am hired as an African and favored over the AA, however, the moment I am in, they want to treat me the same way they treated the AA pre civil rights and I am supposed to accept it. Many Africans go through this and some don't even see it.
As far as the debates on which cultures are more superior, it is laughable. No one knows exactly how many ethnic groups exist among blacks. In Africa, they are estimated to be around 4000. Some are probably not known yet, and they are full fledged cultures with languages , traditions and philosophies. So who is better than who?
Simply put in my humble opinion, blacks in the world are so interdependent. There would be no AAs without Africa and there would be no progress for Africans or Caribbeans with out AAs.
And unfortunately for all of us we will always be bound by racism despite our "superior differences".
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Friday, November 9, 2007
After long deliberation I have decided that some of my thoughts are best expressed on my own blog which will be a relief to many who had to put up with my often off topic comments.
Why do I choose to blog? Because it is better than a paper diary. One has interaction with other people regrading their own private thoughts. And what can beat that? Instead of one entertaining their own point of view, they throw it out there and get varying feed back. (Though some of it is definitely not appreciated).
My favorite pass time is thinking and exploring cross cultural differences. I am stimulated by insightful commentary especially from a different cultural back ground and human experience. Because of this interest I am most likely to be identified as a pacifist or sycophant to those deemed more superior. Of course this comes from those with a different experience from mine and from them too I find a lot of wisdom.
Speaking of superiority. This is another great fascination of mine, the constant need for humans to assume their superiority over the next person or group. I know this too well, my own people applied this concept that eventually led to the Rwanda genocide.
I am not from Rwanda, thankfully (or not) but my ancestors were and thanks to the artificial colonial boundaries the border crossed my tribe and we ended up on the British side.
I grew up in Africa, not the Africa most western minds imagine, but some elements of the images do apply. I would compare the western image of Africa and the actual reality as a man who claims to wholly understand women. Even those that have lived there for lengthy periods of up to 30 years(And I have known a few) still don't get it. Even those that have been born there and are generations into Africa like White South Africans, still don't get it fully although they are definitely closer than the Western Mindset.
I recently read a review of the D'Souza's 'White Man' and the reviewer said the most profound and truthful statement I have known from a Western Author . He said something to the effect that it is an unknowable continent with unknowable people. Even I can't pretend to know all of Africa, and least of all my region located in the great lakes area. but I know one thing for sure, Africans (Sub Saharan) have different mind sets from the rest of the world which cannot be explained (though some scientist would like to think that they can).
Anyway, what will be the focus of my blog and why the title Black-African-Women? Its obvious I am the latter and that gives me a special and unfavourable position in America. But also it gives me a rare point of view that is unseen/unheard and will often be misunderstood.
Also I started my blogging hobby as an admirer of WM. I have recently come to accept my strong attraction to WM. It has always been that way. There is no particular 'excuse' for me. I grew up in a predominantly black environment till my late teens. I was never particularly attracted to BM and there is no shortage of BM for me. It just was and just is.
With all the racial history it is a 'condition' I am not comfortable with. But since my nature seems to be inclined that way, I have accepted it and seek better understanding of myself and those I find myself attracted to.
So all are welcome to interact in sharing your experiences and questioning my assumptions and often concocted theories.
To those that feel the need to offend, you might want to consider taking your opinions to forums where they really care. Otherwise you are welcome too.