Thursday, March the 9th, 2006

There is one thing that’s bothered me ever since I came to this country, but I decided it’s best to shut up about it. After something I saw on TV yesterday, I realised how much it irked me, and I can’t keep quiet anymore. Before I begin, standard disclaimers apply. If you feel your pretty little feathers are going to be ruffled by reading this post, don’t. Stroll down over to the beach or something.

After a long time, I actually watched some TV last evening. I happened to catch the finale of one of the funnest reality shows around, and also got to see the season premier of another—featuring black/white people disguised as white/black people and experiencing life on the other side. While this premise is all nice and dandy, and it makes for good TV, there is something I don’t understand. Why do black people seem to define their identity around being black? Why is everything that happens to them (or doesn’t) have to do with their colour? Why is there so much hurt and repressed anger against a society that’s scheming to “put them down”? Why does every facet—from music to clothes to vernacular to mannerism to…—revolve around being black?

I understand that there were evil things done to your ancestors by the ancestors of another dominating culture. I understand that your great-great-grand-pappy was probably hauled on a boat from the dark continent and forced to work for pittance while having his rights trampled on by the dominating race. While I get why you’re angry, what I don’t see is why it’s so intense, and so pervasive.

Compare a generic black suburban family here,

Generic suburban family

with one in, let’s say, Uganda (it doesn’t really matter where).

Generic suburban family, in Uganda

Are you—you latte-sipping, SUV-driving, fubu- and bling-wearing denizen—seriously telling me your current generation doesn’t have it orders of magnitude better-off than that woman who has to walk 10 Km to fetch drinking water for her family? Even if it’s true that you’re not treated fairly and with a bias to this day?

Why so much resentment?

I am not excusing the actions of the ancestors of the white man. I am just wondering how you could possibly not realise how much worse it could have been. I am not taking sides because this is in no way my fight; I didn’t oppress you nor was I oppressed like you. I am just a curious fly on the wall.

In closing, I’d like to point out that this is just one man’s uninformed opinion. Opining accurately after carefully researching all the facts is just not how this journal operates. But you knew that already.

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5 Responses to “Amongst the things I don’t get”

  1. anita says:

    a couple things –

    1. they don’t have to look back hundreds of years to how their ancestors were treated. the civil rights movement didn’t get going until the 1960’s – meaning many people who are alive today had to deal with discrimination on a regular basis back when they were younger.

    2. to some people, being poor and having to walk to fetch water IS better than being discriminated against because of your skin color.

  2. pundit says:

    I agree with 1. It was disingenuous on my part to keep harping on the word “ancestor”. I tend to do evil things like this when I’m trying to make (or force) a point.

    I thought long and hard about 2, even before you brought it up, and that is what is clearly central to this post. How much ever I try to bang-on about sticking to principles and values—and things of that nature that sound cool—during my pondering, I realised that I’d be willing to give up parts of it for trivial things; like 2 hour long showers or 40 kinds of soy milk. I am quite willing to take some flack purely because of the other superficially(?)-pleasant things my being here offers.

    I sort of extrapolated this point of view on that poor woman and her 10’s of Km walks to fetch a pail of water. As in, if this was my history in question, I wouldn’t be this mad at the whole situation, given what I’ve gained. It’s sad that my great-great-grand dad (there I go again) had to suffer, but at least I have my Lexus.

  3. anita says:

    so you wouldn’t be mad at the situation, even if say, cops pulled you over for no reason other than the color of your skin? (this happened to a black male friend of mine, and i’m sure it happens to many black males here. in fact, i’m sure much worse things than that happen.)

    i just don’t think you can say for sure unless you’ve been in their position and had to deal with stuff like that your whole life.

    anyway, i get what you’re saying, and i’ve probably thought similar things at one point or another – going to a high school that was ~40% black, i’d get really annoyed at some of the issues that were brought up. but i kind of get it now and have a better understanding of why such resentment exists, even if i can’t put it into words.

  4. pundit says:

    I would be very mad if something like that happened. And I realised I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about.

    I clearly have extremely warped ideas on what constitutes discrimination (“She got her menu before me before me because I’m clearly not a hot blonde”), and how much difference there is between the standard of living one can expect here when compared with backward portions of Africa.

    There is a reason I didn’t show pictures of some family drowning during Katrina in my post. I was fixing the evidence. Meaning, if rural Africa it is anything like rural India, life can go along just fine. I have one set of grandparents in some tiny village; and they lead a very pleasant life, even lacking many modern coolnesses.

  5. pundit says:

    Oh, and a couple of other things. Both of these have a (large) bearing on my thoughts on the matter.

    1. In all the settings I care about, most of the “discrimination” I’m subjected to is non-negative—“He can do this easily in this head; he’s Indian.” Stereotyping is inherently evil both ways, but I’d wager one way is much more palatable than the other.

    2. No matter how hard I try (not that I am; but assume that it mattered to me and I did), I will never be fully (or even partially) integrated with society here. I will always be unaware of of cultural differences, will never be “one” with society, and will always be this vague outsider person who sees things differently or talks funny.

    When/if I have kids, and if I choose to do that here, things will be different. They’d get to grow up here, they’d be more attuned to everything—after years of schooling and interaction and things like that—and, on any measure, truly be a homogeneous part of society here.

    I’m almost envious of their situation in this not-yet-reality. I’d rather have had my great-great-grand dad do the hard steps (in which I imply, “illtreated or not”), and me just be an integral part of where I live. And not have to be the constant outsider who needs to keep “working on things” just to fit in and be somewhat normal.

    (The audience is free to replace “just to fit in and be somewhat normal” with “sleep with hot blonde,” if you feel humour adds to the palatability.)

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