The Point of Being Human; Part One
“The world, as we all know it, is plagued by racialized discourse, greed, and wars. It is filled with what we all use to divide ourselves one from another. We relentlessly pursue consumerism as an extension of technological advancement, but we fail to glean the point of being human: to be, to know, to feel, to experience and to understand.’
This curious blurb is something that I wrote about a year ago, and I just came across it last night on my computer as I was going through some old school files. It screams “school style” but, it has several important points in such a short paragraph. So, I am going to take it apart sentence by sentence (and sometimes word by word) in a series of five writings that I will call The Point of Being Human.
What do I mean by “racialized discourse?”
I am referring to any word, phrase or other form of expression that differentiates between people exclusively based on the things that none of us can do anything about, our individual genetics: colour of skin, hair type, prototypical features, such as facial bone structure and so on.
It is reasonable that I would want to discuss concepts such as melanin differences (unfortunately also known by the misnomer “race”), because I am a Woman of Colour. That does not make me an authority on any other Peoples of Colour, since I can only speak about my life experience in this skin. It is important to raise the issue though, simply because I have not had a lot of opportunity to hear other Colour-full people discuss it without being so enraged and so impassioned, because of the negative reception that they have had at the hands of those around them. That negativity has permanently coloured their perception of Colour-light people and of themselves.
Personally, at this stage in my life, I do not like referring to anyone by their colour of skin. Do I think that skin colour is important? Of course it’s important. Your self concept has absolutely been shaped by two potentially opposing forces; a) how you take in the world immediately around you, which rests on b) how those in your world have accepted you. A positive response from your family or from your community at large and from your family about the community at large, can contribute to positive feelings about yourself within that context. The opposite everyone has seen. It is the stereotyped, ignorant, obnoxious “Black” person, with a monolithic chip on their shoulders.
Quite simply, I have never had “a history of slavery” hanging over my head or my mom’s head or my grandmother’s or her mom’s or any relative that I can think of for a few hundred years, at least. Could there be that history if I went far enough back? Perhaps, it could be there, but why should that, even if it is true, change how I deal with the world as it is now in my present? I did not grow up with negativity that I could recognize based on the colour of my skin. I do not have that history either. So I see the world very differently than do other “Black” people. Ironically, I have received the most and the worst racialized responses and “attitude” from other “Black” people than from any other grouping of people combined.
Other Colour-full women can see me coming for many kilometres and vice versa. How they walk, dress, and their comportment; everything carries pervasive negativity. Before I even open my mouth they know that I’m not like them, and God help me if I have to actually speak in front of them!
I can remember being in high school and having that same type of “Black” person look at me straight in my eyes and tell me I am “White washed!” Does that somehow mean that I am less than “Black” because I “don’t walk with no switch and don’t talk no street slang” (L. L. Cool J)? That (White-washed) statement gets under every last layer of skin I have like corrosion on steel!!! Allow me to explain why.
The aftermath of slavery is being used as a measuring stick, by some “Black” people, to hold other “Black” people to an ultra low standard. We, as a historically displaced group, are supposed to sound stupid and ignorant, and supposed to ascribe to that ugly N-WORD that Rap artists love to use so much. We are supposed to be simple and uneducated. If we dare to rise above that and embrace education, learning, self-improvement or anything that’s too high hat for the britches of ole “country folk,” then we are somehow less than our ancestors. If I want to learn, I am trying to be “White.” Say the f_ _ _ what? Only someone who wants to live to the most minimal achievement standard, with the lowest of expectations, could ever accept something as stupid sounding as that, as logical!
That is the single biggest difference that I can come up with between myself and the few hard core “African American/African Canadian” types that I have ever had occasion to speak to directly. I might get myself into hot water here, but I’m going to say what I have always thought to be true: how can anyone align themselves with an entire continent as a component of their identity?
Furthermore, how do you align yourself with a continent you have never visited and are unlikely to ever visit? Everyone, try this experiment, Google: How many countries are there in
Africa? You will get what I got: 47, 53, 54, 55, 57,
and 61 because there are so many disputed regions and borders that no one is
quite sure how many countries there are.
That’s extremely relevant. North
America is comprised mainly of just three countries: Canada,
the U. S. and Mexico (there
are other islands and territories, but these are the big three). Is there any difference in the climate,
landscape, and therefore the social context of the peoples from these three
places and from different provinces, states, towns and regions within these
three places? It’s one of those things
that make me go; hmm (Arsenio Hall)…
I understand the concept that the origins of African slaves were deliberately eradicated as a type of brainwashing to keep the slaves in line. I get that. I understand wanting to claw back a little bit of identity separate from being incorrectly referred to as a colour that most of us are not. If I say I’m “Black”, everyone will know what I mean, but when I look at my skin, it is clearly brown, so what am I? I get that too.
Think about this example; though accurate, I would be very unlikely to identify myself as a “North American.” The area is simply too vast and gives no real indication of where I am from to anyone because the character of so many parts of the continent are different from each other. I would say that is even truer of
Africa, where even nature itself is extremely varied from
the very north, to the very south, and I haven’t discussed the differences in
So, what is “racialized discourse?”
It is a fancy phrase for terms that separate people in a negative way, one from another, based on our exteriors. I am not at all ashamed of being a Woman of Colour. I am comfortable, confident and quite content in my own skin.
The reason I thought now would be a good time to launch a little series based on the above (bolded) quote is due to my international readership. I am honoured and humbled that I have so many readers from Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, France, Australia, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Russia, Switzerland and my “true, north, strong and free” Canada. Thank you. I look forward to having all who have visited, return again to hear my thoughts, or better still, my philosophy of life and living and how we all can best get along with each other. I also look forward to more people from new places reading because they find in me, in my writing, a kindred spirit; one who chooses to bathe the world, in all of its complexity, hardship and beauty, in words of peace.
I am not so full of ego as to think that I can possibly change the whole world. I really believe however, that I am here to challenge how people think about various issues. Some are local and some are not, but the general themes apply to virtually anyone. In a big way, this blog is not about what I think and what I say (suffused with my opinion as it is), it is about what you, my reader, can take away from what I have said. It is 2013 people! Shouldn’t all us Red, (Brown) Yellow, Black (Pink) and White folks just get along already?