Thursday, February 17, 2011

On Being African-American....

I was over at Abagond, reading the comment thread, and I saw a comment that has always irked me during discussions of African-Americans and racism. Usually, I have been on the tail end of this comment during my conversations about African-Americans with my immigrant friends (and friends from immigrant families) - be they African, Asian, Caribbean, etc.

The comment usually goes something like this: "Well, I don't understand why African-Americans complain about racism keeping them down because Africans and Chinese, etc. come over here all the time and make something of their lives. And they (we) come from a legacy of colonialism. I think African-Americans just use slavery to make excuses for bad decision-making."

A version of that comment has been launched at me repeatedly during conversations with many of my African friends in particular. It's always like, "Look at Africa! We have a fucked up history too! But we manage to not let it hold us back like you African-Americans do!" Usually the comment pisses me off so much that I find myself incapable of squelching my anger in order to coherently respond to it.

I was going to respond on the comment thread on the site, but someone beat me to it with an almost perfect response (pasted below). The only thing I would add is: "What makes anyone think that some brown and black immigrants here are not similarly suffering from the same limitations - psychological and economic limitations that stem from the legacy of the racism that manifested itself as colonialism in their home countries? Furthermore, for every African or Chinese, for instance, who comes here and succeeds there are probably a dozen more who end up like many of the black Americans who live perpetually in slums, pathologized and blamed for their near inability to rise from their underclass position. The successes of a few don't erase the suffering and continued oppression of millions." Anyway, what's your opinion on the topic?

“How is it that African, Caribbean, and Asian immigrants with their own painful colonial pasts (some experienced first hand) can come to this country and not similarly suffer from the same limitations?”

A lot of it has to do with subtle differences in the oppressed minority group psychology.

Colonialism has usually meant a minority of powerful Whites controlling (by threat of force) a majority of non-White native peoples.

Americanism has been a MAJORITY of powerful Whites oppressing a much smaller minority of imported, non-White alien people, in a culture that is extremely hostile to them.

The damage done by Americanism is different.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines, Single's Awareness, or Hallmark Day!

What’s a woman to do when she finds that she is constantly the BFF and never the GF? Now, anyone who is reading this post knows that I don’t often write about dating and love. Why? Because, quite honestly, the shit confuses me and I feel no need to further confuse myself by constantly writing blogs about it.

That being said, it has struck me lately that I am always the best friend and never the girlfriend, at least when it comes to my experiences with men. This has been the constant theme in my life since high school. I am always the little sister or big sister, depending on the relative size and/or age of the man. As a teenager, I watched movies like When Harry Met Sally and even The Best Man (don’t know why my mom let me watch that one). I sympathized with Jordan (Nia Long). Like Sally (Meg Ryan), I sometimes feared what sex would do to a perfectly good friendship. But as I grew older, I became less like Sally – to hell with fear, it’s a lonely world more often than not. I became more like Jordan, fearless but, like her, relegated to bestie position. Longing for some dude who has eyes only for someone else – whether or not he’s met her yet – a dude who says, “I respect you too much to expose you to my bullshit,” who will never be anything other than my homeboy. Constantly cherished but not quite the way I’d like to be cherished.

What’s a woman to do, I ask?

My initial answer was to do the Kanye shrug and keep it moving, cultivate a good friendship with homeboy and keep my eye open for greener pastures. But…a sista’s legs can get mighty tired, mighty fast and her vision mighty blurred from the fatigue of looking.

So, my answer now? Kanye shrug, cultivate a good friendship with homeboy, focus on self. It’s not a satisfying answer, but it will have to do, right?

So, I say to all of the singles – male or female – during this valentine’s week, send some chocolates to your besties and your fam. Know that if you are the BFF and never the GF (or BF, guys), you are not alone. In fact, there are many of us out there, I imagine. So, go pick up a box of chocolates and get at it. Be your own valentine, 365 every year.