Thursday, June 5, 2008

Identity Crisis.

In the spirit of Obama nabbing the Democratic nom ::insert extreme happy dance, for ultimate happy dance will come in November:: (sorry sen. Hills. Its time to take a bow) and in the spirit of irksome individuals who just do not seem to get it [and in the spirit of addressing the African American dilemma since Obama can’t focus on it for more political reasons. No worries and no hard feelings. I get it even if the Rev. Jesse Jackson does not... (we'll discuss that at a later time...)], I have decided to make a few things painstakingly clear:
::Ahem Ahem::

I am in no way shape or form attempting to make an excuse for the attitudes and actions of the African American (AA) people, but I will attempt to make plain that our current stagnant status as a minority group in America is directly correlated to a persistent system of institutionalized racism and oppression.

1) The African American people (descendants of African slaves brought to colonial America) were part of the dehumanizing and brutal slave trade from the early 17th century to the mid 19th century. Hence the 400 years of disenfranchisement we tend to always throw out.

2) After slavery ‘ended’ we were not granted full rights as American citizens until almost a century later.

3) Even after the civil rights movement, we are still being treated with racially charged hatred in the country we’ve inhabited for damn near 400 years. So pretty much we’re still being treated like the scum of the earth in OUR FRIGGIN COUNTRY!

Now when I have this conversation with white Americans, I always get the age old rebuttal: “Slavery is not unique to just your people. Almost every other group of people throughout the scope of history has at some point or another been enslaved."

You’re right. You’re right.

But WAIT. There has been no other group of people on this earth who were taken from their motherland, raped of all their cultural identity, and likened to that of an animal. When the Hebrews were enslaved by the ancient Egyptians, they still held on tight to their cultural identity. If I recall, Ramses did not order the systematic reprogramming of them into mindless abled bodies. So when the Hebrews were set free, they had something to build upon because they knew who they were.

Even now I am troubled by the fact that I cannot trace back my ancestors. When I traveled to Germany, the family I homestayed with could not grasp the fact that I did not have a true country of origin. Another African American student who I had a conversation with about these issues had a similar experience at her homestay in France. When asked what she was she replied “I am African American” They replied with “so you are African, what country?” She then told them that she did not know and spent the whole day trying to explain the anomaly that is the ethnic group I belong to. Even my friend Nabeela (Love you girly!) had a hard time trying to understand why I did not, quite literally, know who I was. She even replied with "Doesn't that make you angry?" Girl that ish makes me irate! lol

We are the GREAT RACIAL EXPERIMENT. I’m sure anthropologists and social commentators are having a field day analyzing the appalling and unfortunate side affects of being a virtually identity-less people.

Now what really grinds my gears (I love Family Guy. And Stewie. 'What the deuce!' haha ok and I'm done...) is when members of the African Diaspora who are not African American (mainly West Indian and Africans, btw do not take any of this to heart. I love you guys!) seem just as bewildered and contemptuous by our situation, more so than the majority. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the story: “My family came over here from an impoverished third world country (I guess they mention this to say that they come from worse off means than African Americans), so I don’t understand why AA people don’t take advantage of the plethora of opportunities you have?” I will answer this once and only once so tune in your retinas and soak it all in:

Now you wonder why the majority of us do not take advantage of opportunity and are not ‘ambitious’. Well centuries of being told that you are not good enough and that you cannot achieve success eventually does seep into and poison your brain and all good sense and logic that is associated with it. I know it seems like a cope out, but it truly is not.

~I was recently reading the Cornell Daily Sun and one of the front page articles was about how female engineers are not performing as well as their male peers. The article went on to say that taken out of the class room and removing all societal constructs, the female students performed just as well on aptitude test, but in the classroom they fall 2nd to the male students. Psychologists have said it’s a phenomenon called Stereotype threat: “[It] occurs when a behavior confirms an existing stereotype; in this case, the stereotype is that women do not perform as well as men on mathematical assessments.” These studies were published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

~Well damn. Those poor engineers. All I can say is welcome to the African American Experience. Life’s a bitch huh?

Finally I would like to add that unlike West Indian and other African groups, African Americans have never EVER experienced the privilege and entitlement that is associated with being in the majority. Every other minority group in America comes directly from a cultural or ethnic group that is the racial majority in their native country. Some might think that that does not make any difference, but I argue that it is in fact what makes all the difference in the world. African Americans have never had the comfort of being completely immersed in a social class system where they were the highest rung on the ladder. For instance, while Jamaicans were once descendants of colonial African slaves, they have had the luxury of experiencing and having their own identity and a nation full of others who look just like them. Even if Jamaica is considered “poor” and “undeveloped” by Western classification, the people of that country still have pride in themselves in knowing that people LIKE themselves can excel.

So yeah next time you hear the prison statistics and the woes of black neighborhoods in America, do me a favor and don’t just curse us “lazy” and “troublemaking” people. Refer to the historical roots of the problem and make an effort to change this cyclical American malady or at least modify your perspective.
It’s about progressive perspective…and thinking… and actions. It’s about change.
Shameless plug… GOBAMA!!!

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