In George Lamming’s debut novel – In the Castle of My Skin (1953), this famous Bajan son of the soil describe the psychic scars of racism in direct and powerful terms. In The Castle of My Skin he wrote, “No Black boy wanted to be white, but it was also true that no Black boy liked the idea of being Black. Brown skin was a satisfactory compromise, and Brown skin meant a mixture of white and Black… There was a famous family on the island which could boast of the prettiest daughters. Their father was an old Scottish planter who had lived from time to time with some of the labourers on the sugar estate. The daughters were ravishing, and one was known throughout the island as the crystal sugar cake.”
Grantley Adams, a British educated lawyer – who later rose to political prominence as the first Black Prime Minister of Barbados – had an English wife. ‘At that time’ Neville recalled, she was a member of the Aquatic Club in Bay Street and Grantley was not a member, he was a Black man, he wasn’t a member, but she… had that privilege as a white woman to be a member of the Aquatic. And Grantley would carry her to the Aquatic Club, drop her there and turnaround and come back down the road [laughs]. Tell me when you’re ready and I’ll come back and pick you up when you ready to go… He dropped her there. That is your thing. You belong to that club. I’ll put you there, you come back when you’re ready to come, call me and I’ll come back and pick you up.’
It is now 177 years since the Wilberforce Abolition Act of 1833; 147 years since the American Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the 44th years of Barbados’ Independence from British rule and sovereignty since 1966.
A whole new generation has grown up across the geographical, geopolitical divide where overt acts of racism are outlawed and where the geo-spatial markers of segregation are now less obviously recognizable.
In Rajen Persaud’s book, ‘Why Black Men Love White Women: Going Beyond Sexual Politics to the Heart of the Matter’ is a fascinatingly funny, yet illuminating discourse on this critical issue of interracial dating and the identity politics which challenges our notions of “RACE” and it effects on the Black psyche today. We are forced to look at ourselves and our cultural intonations pondering matters of how celebrities from Michael Jordan to Bryant Gumbel to Tiger Woods – high-profile interracial affairs and marriages with no shortage of theatre, intrigue and controversy has played upon us as men. We must ask: Are Black men choosing white women – or rejecting Black women because of SEX? Does the issue of “Race” affect how white male insecurity is the key and at the heart of our understanding of structural as well as institutional racism? Is it more than love that brings interracial couples together? How is fear used to gain power, from sexual politics to global war? And finally, how movies and television keep Black men running to white women through the cultural machinations of the media?
Susan Crain Bakos in a NYPress article – ‘A White Woman Explains Why She Prefers Black Men’… begs the question: “How many white men can treat a woman like a lady and ravish her” all at the same time? She forcefully opines, “Black skin is thick and lush, sensuous to the touch, like satin and velvet made flesh. There’s only one patch of skin on a white man’s body that remotely compares to nearly every inch of a Black man’s skin. The first time I caressed Black skin, it felt like a luxury I shouldn’t be able to afford. I craved it more strongly than Carrie Bradshaw craved Manolo Blahnik shoes. That phrase, “Once you go Black, you never go back” is all about the feeling of the skin.”
She further contends that “I want Black men. They want me. We look at one another and exchange a visible frisson of sexual energy in the lingering glances. And our attraction is based first on race… that deliberate seeking of the specific other makes some people, especially Black women, damned mad… We are what they denigrate and castigate: white women and Black men who choose one another because of our racial differences. They resent our taking their men. Black men are two and a half times more likely to marry a white woman than a Black woman is to marry a white man. Black women can point to that statistic in justifying their wrath. But in truth, Black sisters, we’re after the sex, not the ring and these guys aren’t the marrying kind anyway. Yes, the sex!” Continue reading
Whenever I get the opportunity to address a group of black youths or counsel a black male one-on-one, I always impress upon them two truths in our society, which I tell them never to forget. The first is: you are not white. This may seem obvious, but we have come to think of ourselves as being “the same” as our white friends and co-workers. We are fed the lines… and most of us have come to believe it, even on a subconscious level… that “colour doesn’t matter”, “we’re all the same”, “if we cut we all bleed red”, “blah blah blah”. The second truth, which flows from the first, is that: the colour of your skin matters. It matters in how you are perceived, accepted and treated. This may also seem obvious, but again on a subconscious level, we expect to be treated “fair”-ly by society, that is, “the same” as our “fair”-skinned brothers and sisters.
It is because of these two truths why I am not very sympathetic nor supportive, when black people complain that they are not being treated “the same” (there’s that term again) as white people when they do illegal, unethical or just plain dumb shit. For me the issue isn’t the fact that the white person would get probation for the same crime that a black person is getting 5 years in jail. Nor the fact that a Barry Bonds is being vilified for using steroids, while a Mark McGwire is now a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. The point is that they shouldn’t have been doing what they knew was wrong in the first place and once they got caught, they should know and expect that they won’t be treated “the same” (there’s that term again) as the white person… or let’s say “fair”-ly. Let me ask this: “when have we ever been treated “fair”-ly… whether it is for the good or the bad that we’ve done?” So why are you expecting it now!? White boys caught doing drugs are seen as going through an “experimental phase”. Black boys caught doing drugs are seen as “drug fiends”. This is our real world, not one of our imagination.
Which all gets me to Tim Wise. The blogosphere, as well as the afrosphere, are all abuzz about his article, “Imagine: Protest, Insurgency and the Workings of White Privilege”. In it he argues that if black people did the same crazy, ignorant, obnoxious, reprehensible, racist, illegal or just plain dumb shit that some white people do, then we’d be perceived and treated differently. That’s it. That’s his theory. Well any black child in grade 3 could tell you that black people are treated differently than white people, although maybe not in a self-righteous pseudo-intellectual essay. However for this insight, Wise is given accolades, much props and worshipped as a prophet of enlightenment.
The problem I have with his treatise is that he is working from the premise that black people and white people are “the same” (there’s that term again), so given the opportunity black people would be likely to act just like them. The issue isn’t to “imagine” what would happen if black folks decided to arm themselves with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition, and then descended upon Capital Hill or the White House calling for revolution. The reality is that there are countless guns and ammunition in the black community already, which we’re using to exterminate each other, so in time there won’t be enough black people left standing to call for any kind of revolution. The issue isn’t to “imagine” how black folks would be perceived if they acted like the “Tea Party” and took to the streets to express their anger at the government and organize politically to achieve their agenda. The reality is the apathy and lack of urgency among black folks to take to the streets of Washington to demand that their government also look after their collective interests, like it did for big business.
Listen I get his act and I’m not hating (although it may sound like it). It’s all about marketing and Tim Wise has been able to market himself as the embodiment of white guilt. In a previous post, “Stuff White People Like”, I explained that there are the “Tim Wise” types… white people who make their living pimping diversity workshops and anti-racism seminars, as well as hustling their books, cds, dvds and t-shirts… and we get dazzled and follow along mindlessly… again.
America is about capitalism, which means also capitalizing on others pain, fears, sufferings and weaknesses. Marketing works because it appeals to our weaknesses, not our strengths… and we, “black folk”, have a weakness for the white guilty liberal male. We graciously give them the platform so that they can feel privileged to speak to our pain, to rage against the injustices we experience… be it yesterday, today and tomorrow. We celebrated them for confessing to the guilt that they are privileged to feel, due to the “fair”-ness of their skins. Of course (and here’s the irony), all for the privilege of paying the price of admission to hear them lecture on this, their area of expertise… and also to buy their merchandise.
By declaring the end of third world just recently, Robert B. Zoellick (President The World Bank Group) left me baffled.
When this was declared, in all honesty, my first question was: “Is Africa included in this make-believe leap forth?” If yes, how with all the vampiric regimes made of corrupt big spenders and their cronies, armies, families especially first ladies? If no, should the west go on pumping money in the name of aid knowingly it will be frittered by our mad spenders in power?
Tantalizingly, Zoellick’s focused on the lack of inter-trading mechanism among African countries. He too pin-pointed lack of light industry in Africa and the way people, common ones, spend.
Mine is a different take. I will ponder on how big people, fat cat, fattened by the taxes of a common man, misspend. To know what I actually mean, refer to their sprees of shopping abroad where they spend more money than their government set aside for public services.
Another thing that needs to be appreciated is the fact that many of African rulers do nary think about tomorrow. Refer to the embezzlement of public funds, corruption, and lack of future and sustainable plans for their nations. Or you can refer on the fact that despite being helped for long, Africa has kept on cascading down a great deal more as her rulers become master beggars.
Today I am not going to opine with regards to this news that looks as if gods have smiled on Africa. But again, are they trustworthy? Do they live up to their promises?
Mine is to put facts together so that the reader can decide. My vector today is South African region in which, excluding South Africa and partly Mozambique, the rest of the countries are niftily poor. So too, this area has mad and big spenders amidst abject poverty.
In the list of big spenders is Fredrick Chiluba (former Zambian president), who is renowned for spending over a million bucks of taxpayers’ money on designer suits, shirts and shoes. This is the guy whose case involving corruption of $500,000 burned a cool $13,000,000. Ask a common Zambian of life. It is but miseries.
South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma follows. During his third marriage in January 2010, about 3,000 people, along with traditional leaders and VIP guests, attended the wedding. They were entertained with all luscious yum yum a person expects to get from any tycoon.
Malawi’s president Mutharika’s marriage in April 2010 to Ms Calista Chapola Chimombo (his former cabinet minister) stole thunders. The President’s first wife, Ethel, died from cancer in 2007, and his new wife is also widowed. An estimated 15,000 people witnessed the occasion at the stadium, while 5,200 guests were treated to a State House banquet. How much did they burn? Some said $1,300,000. Others said that amount was but a peanut.
To crown it all, the head of the Catholic Church in the country, Archbishop Tarcisius Ziyaye, officiated at the ceremony where he was expected of condemning such extravagance. To embellish the occasion, president arrived at the stadium in a brand new white limousine that was generously donated by Chinese government. Was it a bribe? I have no idea.
Though Malawi is famous for its generosity and poverty, on 19 December 2009, Muluzi did not want to be left abaft in this game of spending. He married his last born daughter, Duwa off to her former Zimbabwean gym instructor, Tonderai at Sanjika palace. The nuptial festival was spiffy, classy and truly glamorous. Guess what? The news for this personal matter was broken by the Ministry of Information! This is Africa.
Mind you, this was the second time for Muluzi to show the world how rich he is though his country poor. In October, he spent $333,000 of taxpayers’ money on the wedding of his wife Patricia Shanil Fukulani Muluzi. One disgruntled Malawian had this to say: “Despite tax’s payers’ money to be spend on the wedding, officials are mum, citing the President family’s desire to keep the event “private”.”
Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe has his way of doing things. His 86th birthday’s concert in February 2010, not the whole function, gobbled more than US$150,000 down. If anything this is obscene. Remember this is the man whose wife Grace is known as Gucci Grace thanks to her taste of spending on expensive designer ware. To pass up the anger of his suffering people, Mugabe “thanked the Chinese embassy for its painstaking preparations for the birthday celebration and hoped to further expand friendly cooperative relations in every field between the two nations.” Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi was quoted as saying. This Chinese style of inducing African corrupt dictators!
Sadly, this is the guy owning two palaces whose price tag is over $26 million a piece. Gucci Grace is known for her lavish lifestyle. The Daily Telegraph called her “notorious at home for her profligacy” in a 2003 coverage of a trip to Paris, during which she was reported as spending £75,000 (approx US$120,000) in a short shopping spree; and over the past years leading to 2004, has withdrawn over £5 million from the Central Bank of Zimbabwe.
Hold on. Feb 2005 saw King Mswati III of Swaziland, one of the world’s poorest countries, spent £450,000 on 10 new BMWs for his 11 wives and three teenage fiancees. His latest extravagance is equivalent to almost half the £1 million of British aid that Swaziland received in 2004. The cost of the BMWs is equal to 1.5 per cent of Swaziland’s health budget of £30 million.
In a word, Swaziland is kept afloat thanks to more than £14 million of international aid. Yet in 2004, the king spent almost £9 million on palaces, parties and cars. His 36th birthday party, which was celebrated in the national stadium with 10,000 guests, cost £330,000.
Mark my words. This is but a tip of an iceberg. What a telltale bump sort of news this is! For we know a little of the above spending and suchlike. What of unknown ones?
Out of the cuffs: Did you know that the president of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, takes home more dosh than Barack Obama despite being the top of the richest nation on earth? This is why Africa has always remained poor. Pathemata mathemata namely one learns from suffering. Should we suffer anymore in the hands of these selfseekers?
The hip hop artist GURU (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal), a member of Gang Starr and the creator of the influential rap-jazz series “Jazzmatazz”, died on Monday from respiratory complications associated with multiple myeloma. He was 47 years old.
Rest In Peace
Commentary submission by Project 21
A couple of days ago, MSNBC’s David Shuster called me the n-word.
Later, Chris Matthews called me a “sellout.”
Keith Olbermann then called me a “Little Black Sambo.”
CNN’s Rick Sanchez also called me a “biscuit-and-chicken eatin’ white wannabe.”
I’m just kidding, of course. They never said those things — although Sanchez’s actual contempt for me is obvious.
But if I had really made such claims and meant them, these media celebs would demand that I produce evidence of the alleged incendiary accusations. If I couldn’t, they’d justifiably be on the phone with their lawyers.
On March 20th, during the tea party rallies on Capitol Hill, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) chose — and I use that word tactically — to walk through the throng of protestors to go vote for the government takeover of health care. Surely, if the tea parties were one generation removed from the Klan, CBC members might’ve either taken a different route or would’ve had an armed escort greater than less than a handful of Capitol Hill cops.
I’m personally amazed that the allegedly objective mainstream media has failed to produce ONE video or audio clip out of the many shot by their crews and countless citizens who were also there with cameras, that backs up the claim of Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) that he was called the n-word by a tea party bomb-thrower. It should have been easy to catch, since Lewis is said to have compared the demeanor of the crowd to when he was beaten in Selma 45 years ago.
Obviously, it’s a given that the media will readily accept the word of a God-like politician such as Lewis. After all, he’s a civil rights icon. John Edwards can also explain how all that works. Making oneself a victim is easier for some than others. It is certainly different when it comes to the anti-tax, pro-small government tea partiers. The media is in almost perfect sync against them, running with the template that the tea parties are populated by a violent and racist horde.
Funny how my son and I — who are black, the last time we checked — went to the two large protests that weekend in Washington, D.C. The only name I was called was my own as I ran into many people who knew me from past activism or my website work. They assaulted me with hugs and demands that I pose for pictures with them. Other blacks and minorities in attendance — who, from watching later media reports of the day, curiously must have hidden from the mainstream media’s cameras — didn’t seem at all concerned for their safety.
In fact, in all the tea parties held nationwide, how many arrests were made for disorderly conduct or property damage? I’m not aware of any. I figure there were none since, knowing the crack media as we do, we’d surely see images of those disturbances right along with the audible racial slurs hurled at CBC members such as John Lewis at an O.J.-like pace if they actually occurred.
Alas, either the media has done a very sloppy job at reporting, or… those events never happened. Why ruin the perfect chance to slime the opposition?
Once again, I would never claim someone such as a media pundit or newsreader used racial slurs against me without irrefutable proof. However, this should not be the one-way street that it is now. Until the media can produce evidence that can link hateful racial comments to an entire group of thus far non-violent, clean-up-after-themselves, civic-minded citizens, any claims are slanderous. To tell the truth, there are times I wish I was a lawyer.
Bob Parks is a member of the national advisory council for the Project 21 black leadership network and operates the website: Black and Right.
Other articles of of interest on the topic:
Do you ever think of a woman when you hear the word “warrior”? We usually think of those great men of history, such as Martin Luther King, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Chiekh Anta Diop, or the great kings and princes of ancient Egypt, or even the Mau Mau or Zulu or Black Panthers. But does a woman ever come to your mind?
Whether or not you answered yes to the above question, let’s consider now a great black woman warrior. Not so much a black queen as we understand that designation, because generally speaking, the term is slightly watered down. But a true warrior woman! Does she exist? Yes she does. Well what does she look like? What makes her a warrior? How does she behave? Is she similar to a male warrior? She’s fierce, focused, intelligent, brave and determined. She’s similar to warrior men in that she’s strategic, she knows how to best her opponents. But in other aspects she’s different, because she has to use her intelligence being that she doesnt have the physical strength to battle, generally speaking. She’s usually fighting against men in power for things that would truly benefit all but the men dont see it as such, yet. Yet she is no less valorous.
Wangari Maathai is just such a warrior woman. She was born in Kenya and her parents are farmers. They followed a traditional life and were hard workers. She was taught at her mother’s knee to love and respect nature. Wangari was a keenly intelligent and inquisitive child and excelled in school. She was taught by Catholic nuns, and her brilliance shone through. Upon the completion of her schooling, she was chosen by Pan Africanist Tom Mboya to be a part of an education program he initiated along with then Senator John F Kennedy. The best and brightest Kenyan students were chosen and sent to America for college educations.
Barack Obama Senior, was also among this brilliant group of Kenyan students who started their American college careers in the Fall of 1960.
Wangari Maathai landed in America in the midst of the Civil Rights movement and was deeply affected by the fight being waged by African Americans at that time. She was also shocked at her ignorance of what was truly going on in North America concerning the civil rights of black people. A seed for political protest was sown in her heart. She completed her education and left America and headed back home to Kenya with both a Bachelor’s of Arts and Masters Degree in Anatomy.
She returned to Kenya and earned a PhD in Anatomy at the University of Nairobi and remained on the faculty to reach the level of Assistant Professor, and Chair of Veterinary Medicine. Her climb up the ladder of success showed her the inequality of women at the University and she started to campaign for woman’s rights in that setting.
At this time Wangari met and married politician Mwangi Mathai, who was another of the brilliant students of Tom Mboya’s education program. They married and had three children. Mwangi Mathai was a politician and campaigned to gain a seat in the Parliament which he won. His campaign was based on jobs for the people of Kenya to stem the tide of rising unemployement.
End of part 1.
Wangari Maathai became very involved in politics, joining the boards of a number of organizations such as the National Council of Women of Kenya. She became the director of the Kenyan Red Cross Society and was a member of the Kenya Association of University Women. In addition she was also a member of the Environment Liason Center which worked closely with the United Nations Environment Program. Through her work with all of these organizations, she was able to determine that the problems of the people, especially the women, was one of deforestation and land erosion.
Her husband, Mwangi Mathai held a seat on the Parliament and campaigned under the promise of finding more jobs for Kenyans who were the victims of growing unemployment. Wangari connected her idea of environment restoration to creating jobs, and created Envirocare Ltd., which paid ordinary citizens to plant trees. Envirocare Ltd. eventually failed because of lack of funds, but through her conversations about her work, the United Nations Environmental Program made it possible to send her to the UN conference on human settlements, known as Habitat I.
She returned and spoke to the National Council of Women of Kenya, proposing to continue to plant trees and they supported her. On June 7, 1977, marking World Environment Day the NCWK walked in procession from downtown Nairobi to Kamukunji Park and planted 7 trees in honor of community leaders. This was the beginning of the “Greenbelt Movement”
But all was not well. Wangari’s marriage broke apart. Her husband accused her of cheating with a member of the Parliament and he later stated that she was just too educated and too strong minded for a woman and too hard to control. In addition the government was trying to limit the amount of influence of civic organizations such as the NCWK, which Wangari was running to become the chair of at the time. There was a lot of politricks going on, and though Wangari did win eventually, the organization’s funding was cut. They survived by focusing on the environment and she stayed on as chair until 1987.
The Greenbelt Movement was started in earnest when Wilhelm Elsrud, executive director of the Norwegian Forestry Society was interested in partnering with the Greenbelt Movement. He arranged for the movement to receive “seed money” and Wangari put forth all of her efforts, hiring a small staff and paying a small stipend to the tree planters. She organized seminars and presentations and escorted delegates to see the work of the Greenbelt Movement. Forty five delegates from 15 African nations came to see the work model so they could implement it in their respective countries. Greenbelt became well organized and well known.
Wangari used the movement to push for democracy. Many were already in the streets protesting against Arap Moi’s government. Wangari was in the mix with the Greenbelt Movement and the government came down hard on her, doing what they could to discredit her. It all came to a boiling point when she heard her name was on a list of people marked for assassination. In fear, she barricaded herself in her own home and was beseiged by the police for three days until they cut the bars and arrested her. When she was freed, she initiated a hunger strike in Uhuru Park for the release of other political prisoners. The police again came for them, knocking Wangari unconscious in the process of her arrest. She was arrested many more times because of the work she was doing. There was so much going on, and now worldwide attention was on Kenya.
As in previous times she ran again for a seat in the Parliament under the National Rainbow Coalition and through much struggle, she finally won as the Coalition was able to break the government of ArapMoi. She was appointed to Assitant Minister of the Ministry for Environment and National Resources in 2002, and served until 2005.
In 2004, Wangari was selected to receive the Nobel Peace Prize as the culmination of all the work and the struggle she endured for the sake of the Kenyan environment and for Kenyan women and by extension, for peace. Very fitting for such a hard working lover of her people.
So again, what does a warrior woman look like? She looks like a giant among women and men! She inspires us with her determination, focus, intelligence and sheer bravery! To Mama Wangari Maathai, a beautiful black woman warrior!