Posted on April 9, 2015
I just saw Hotel Rwanda for the very first time, and it was very enlightening, thought provoking and disturbing. To think that Belgians were in many ways the architects of intraracial discrimination and self hatred by delineating the Rwandan people by height and nose width—and then the Rwandans just embraced this distinction—is incredulous. But it happened. Of course there are other supposed differences from what I have gathered from my research online, but there are truly no meaningful distinctions.
The methods that the Belgians used to divide and exploit the ancestors of the present day Rwandans seem eerily similar to how the slave masters and overseers used skin color to divide the house slaves and the field slaves in America. To this day, Americans—black and white—have perpetuated divisions between light-skinned and dark-skinned African Americans. The effects are still pervasive as is evidenced by “A Girl Like Me”, a documentary made by Kiri Davis. Fortunately for African Americans, this subtle and insidious form of intraracial discrimination and self hatred never ran as deep as that which caused a civil war in Rwanda. And the effects of civil war are still being felt in Rwanda today.
It seems to me that the extremist Hutu groups that started the genocide against the Tutsis (and Hutus who were supposed Tutsi sympathizers) couldn’t even tell who was Tutsi and Hutu without looking at their ID. It’s crazy. Many of them intermarried anyway, so what was the real difference? The intraracial discrimination that led to the genocide, when you get right down to the basics, was ultimately based on how whites originally decided to split the people up. And the blacks fell for it. Unbelievable! And then decades later, many of the powers that be who were mostly white stood by while the genocide took place. Man, oh man! This is too much.
Blacks all over the world need to stop separating themselves, discriminating against one another, and killing each other over tribal, cultural and ethnic differences because all blacks have African blood, and all blacks “don’t fall too far from the tree”, so to speak, if blacks’ hateful and hurtful actions towards one another are any indication. Too many other races discriminate against blacks, all over the world, for a myriad of reasons that are often rooted in stereotypes and misinformation for blacks to display such self hatred for people of their own race. The Rwanda High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Protogene Nsengumuremyi, recently said that the Rwanda has left all of that hate behind to build a more prosperous country. Let us all hope so, because intraracial discrimination is arguably one of the core reasons why blacks the world over lag behind in social, political and economic viability compared to other racial groups. If Rwanda has truly risen above its own history of intraracial discrimination and violence, then perhaps Rwanda can be a shining example to other peoples and countries that ignorantly depress themselves by depressing their own.
We will see.
Posted on February 12, 2015
“What happened to my grandparents neighborhood?”
When I was growing up, I used to visit my grandparents in their downtown Raleigh, North Carolina home. Their neighbors were much like themselves, working class citizens who had lived in their neighborhood and homes for decades. My father used to reflect about stories of his youth, living in that very same neighborhood filled with what Southerners sometimes refer to as “shotgun homes” that only set back maybe 10 feet from the street, and less than that from the house next door. Since my grandfather was skilled at carpentry, their home was a little larger than the rest. Moreover, due to my grandpa’s additions, you couldn’t actually look through the front door and see through the back door. My grandparents had 10 kids, so their home warranted the additional space. When my father was coming up back in the 1950s and 60s, the neighborhood was very much still a viable, old southern area, where many of the women—my grandma included—worked as maids, and most of the men worked as some form of laborer to support their families. Over the years, things gradually changed. My grandfather died unexpectedly. Though he died early around the age of 55, at least he was spared by not having to see the decline and decay of his once proud neighborhood.
With the economic troubles during the late 1970s and the early 80s, along with the proliferation of illegal drugs within American culture, my grandparents’ neighborhood gradually changed into a place where many of those in the younger generation abandoned the values, wisdom and experience of their predecessors. The young people succumbed to drugs and became victims of their own philosophy of instant gratification, self entitlement, and/or “Me, first!” mentality without regard to their community, or even their family. Of course it can be argued that many within the white culture developed these same values, and that these beliefs in concert with social and economic neglect were the origins of the downfall within communities like my grandparents’. Needless to say, the dynamics of all these problems were too much for many communities to bear. It’s unfortunate, but some of these communities have still yet to recover from the socioeconomic ills that have plagued them since the 1980s.
In 1980 when I was 13, I had a debate with my youngest uncle on my grandparents’ front porch when he said “This is the ghetto.” Though, I reflected upon what he said with my young mind at the time, I really didn’t believe that my grandparents” neighborhood was the ghetto. But over the years my uncle’s statement rang all too true, whether it was true at that moment or not. But for this specific community, at the same time that the neighborhood was stuck within social and economic malaise, a large Mexican migration to America began in earnest. Well, almost 30 years have passed, and my grandmother has died. Her home was sold unbeknownst to me to a developer who I suspects wants to gentrify the whole neighborhood to my dismay. But before my grandmother got too sick to live on her own, I used to visit her from time to time. On that same front porch, I had a conversation with another more mature uncle about the state of the neighborhood. We discussed how much better their community seemed to be doing now that the Mexicans had “taken over”. Yeah, there were still quite a sizable portion of s, a few whites and maybe a few other different ethnic groups, but it was the influx of a large population of Mexican immigrants that breathed life into a neighborhood that had long been a victim of social, economic and moral starvation. The Mexicans have had the greatest positive impact upon this once, drug infested, crime filled five or six blocks of Raleigh. As you can imagine, there are still many problems. It is still far from perfect. But with the Mexican migration has come marked improvement. At that time, my uncle said that the only “problem” that he had with the Mexicans in the neighborhood was their penchant for drinking beer out in front of their homes and listening to loud Latin tunes. But he agreed that this was a far cry from having to deal with the blight that had been there before (and there were really no yards to speak of).
The neighborhood is gradually changing back into a place where working men and women support their young families. It has changed back into a place where people can start to believe in (at least the concept of) the American dream. In many ways, I feel as though my grandparents” neighborhood is getting a second chance. Hopefully, this time around, the futures of the Mexican and kids in this neighborhood will be brighter than those of the kids a few decades earlier. Perhaps, this time, the children of back street America will grow up with the same opportunities, goals and aspirations as the children of main street America as the result of the attention from a smarter and more concerned nation, who truly cares about the social and economic conditions of every neighborhood across this country.
Posted on January 11, 2015
President Obama has recently stated that he suffered racism the same as any black man before his presidency, mentioning things like cabs refusing to stop for him, and being mistaken for the help as opposed to a patron of establishments. Those things are fairly minor “irritations or indignities” as Obama referred to them. A few things that he didn’t mention are some of the slights that he has had to endure during his presidency. One affront was being referenced as a “magic negro”, but there have been others.
Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio shock jock, referred to Obama as the “magic negro” during Obama’s first bid for presidential election. I am still trying to figure out what a “magic negro” is, but I suppose that in Limbaugh’s world, a magic negro is an educated, well-spoken black person who appeals to liberal-minded whites, come to cast a spell upon the world, making people believe that they can rid the earth of all its ills. I don’t know. In my opinion, Rush Limbaugh is a backwards thinking, fear dealing, anti-visionary. In my world, it is Limbaugh who is actually the grand wizard—the Pied Piper—of modern day racism that casts a spell upon his millions of gullible listeners, duping them into believing that America of the 1950s is the correct vision and goal for America of the 21st century. But, I digress…
Since Barack Obama has been elected President, he has been subjected to all kinds of stupidity—skirting racism—that no other President before him has had to experience. President Obama, like any not-so-magic negro has been likened to a monkey. He has been called a liar by a senator within the supposedly hallowed sanctuary of the U.S. Senate. And, during Obama’s last re-election campaign, Donald Trump, the country’s most famous real estate magnate, questioned the validity of President Obama’s status as a natural born citizen and had the audacity to ask that Obama produce a birth certificate to prove his status. Why didn’t Donald Trump request a birth certificate of all the white presidents that came before Obama? Was it because Obama provided an easy target because of his multiracial and multi-national heritage? Let me just say that sometimes black men in all positions are subjected to much more scrutiny than their white contemporaries. Moreover, some white men—even if it’s only on a subconscious level—have difficulty accepting a black man as their social, professional and intellectual equal.
Trump’s modus operandi is not so special, and the way that he addressed President Obama is further evidence that Obama is not the magic negro after all. After Obama provided both the short and long form versions of his birth certificate, Trump basically questioned Barack Obama’s intelligence. Trump insinuated that Obama didn’t deserve to be at Harvard (or Columbia), saying that he had heard that Obama was a “terrible” student. Mind you that though Trump denied it, it seemed as though he was suggesting that Obama only got accepted into Harvard due to Affirmative Action. Now I am not going to discuss the many facets of Affirmative Action, and how whites have benefited from affirmative action in the form of black oppression for hundreds of years, but suffice it to say that Barack Obama is a highly intelligent man who is arguably more qualified at more diverse positions than Donald Trump.
All I am saying is that Trump, as well as anyone else, needs to keep the criticism of Obama—and any black man, really—-above the belt. Tiptoeing through racism by using double standards and stereotypes is not exactly a new, clever or subtle way to insult Obama or oppress any black person. If not outright racist, it is at least racially insensitive. All Obama or any black man desires is to be given the same opportunity, courtesy and respect that is given any man. And, just like Obama or any other “negro”, there is nothing magical about it.