Friday, February 15, 2008

BF and Unity - - An Oxymoron?

Hi all,

I fear that in my tired state, I may not do this topic justice. However, I've been procrastinating too long and fear Febuary will leave before I post anything. So here goes:

A change is definitely happening in the "black world" (for lack of a better term). I am more and more hearing the phrase "we are not a monolith" and even hearing folks wanting to redefine what is means and who's included in the term "black". Some are taking an exclusionary approach to it all; some inclusionary. All this as the white world looks on.

Sometimes I see the black world as a piece of bread with peanut butter spread all over -even to the far reaches of the bread. Its stretched so much that the upper left even forgot that the lower right exists; and the upper right is absolutely disgusted at the lower left. Each group is wanting that they be declared the "true black" because that is what they each want black to be. Divide the bread! Cut it up.

This readiness to "cut the bread" comes from, I suspect, a confidence that usually follows good jobs, money, status, pride, etc. Either that or it can come from the notion that there is no more "outside enemies" so, 'i don't need you no more!'

Could it be that racism is so seen as obsolete that we don't need all able bodied members? Or that we have such organizations in place such as the venerable NAACP that some feel we can begin to discriminate ourselves? (Or can it be that some are so tired of feeling discriminated by other blacks that they want to do a tit for tat?)

Whatever the case may be, i'd like to put out an argument for unity. For those who are spiritual, you know that ultimately God is One. The Universe is one. However you want to put it. The closer we get to that oneness, the more godly we are. Yes, there are differences among us. We are like a matrix.

picture of a matrix:

2 4 5 6 7 7 4
2 5 7 8 4 7 4
7 5 7 5 2 7 4

Just like this! Even though we are different (some of us are 2s, 5s, 7s) all the answers, all the numbers, are needed to complete the matrix. To be complete, we still need the difference -the difference- of each of us.

On a non spiritual standpoint, there is strength in numbers. We have seen all too well what happens when folks are divided. After division, comes the conquering.

Often times, I read from non Jewish sources how they talk about the Jews. Its always "the Jews". Living a jewish life, I can actually see European Jews, Jews of African /Morrocan descent, Lithuanian (litvish) Jews, Khassidish Jews, all different types! But nobody makes that distinction (ok, maybe they'll point out the Ethiopian Jew). They just hear the Anti-Defamation League and they think Jewish.

Why tear down the power that we have in numbers? Its sad enough that White America is aware of the difference in Caribbean vs AA black -and don't tell me they don't play on that when its convenient!

Lesson from the Incense Offering.

In Judaism, there was a special offering that was done when the Holy Temple stood. The big 'kahuna' or the cohen, or high priest (whatever you want to call it) had to grind up about 11 spices. These were to be burned as incense both morning and afternoon. It was forbidden to leave out any spices. But one of them was GALBANIM. A very stinky spice!

Why was that spice included? Why was it so mandatory that it be kept?!

That reminds me of another thing. When we fast, the fast is said to be incomplete unless a sinner is also fasting among us. Why must the bad be included? What good does including even the bad, the stinky, in the group do?

It is said that by adding this pungent smell to the incense, it only enhances the overall fragrance of the incense. Just as when we include a sinner in the group, it gives him a chance to repent.

I think that even though we want to 'discard' a few blacks from the whole picture of things, including them just might bring them to your way of thinking. For sure, if nothing else, it will increase our numbers.

In summary, there is a definite wind of change happening in the BC; but it does not have to preclude unity and togetherness. Our differences can actually enhance this unity and give it a beautiful 'fragrance'!

(Lastly, I once saw a movie called "Nick of Time" and loved it tremendously. Why? Because I enjoyed the way all the 'laymen' of the hotel had to work together to beat the criminal. This kinda reminds me of the movie.)


ilio said...

Great piece miriam. i like your thought process. In Haitian creole they have the proverb, "Divize pou renye" which translates to "dividing to conquer". the most powerful have been doing exactly that all throughout human history, and I don't see that changing anytime soon


Grata said...

Nice post Miriam. A little idealistic.

Firstly, I have a problem of forming a society or group based on skin color. To some of the blacks who may fall in the "stinky" category they find it hard to form along those lines since it is an ideal alien to them.

Here ofcourse I am speaking of Africans. Our identitites a multi layered and are based on thousands of ethnicities. This is not to say that we don't identify with a black person when you see one. In this environment that constrantly threatens our dignity as a race, it is natural ( a survival tactic) to initially identify with the other black person regardless of background. Where I am from, you treat people from other tribes with the same respect they give you.
There are some pretty dominant groups that end up taking control but too realize in a very short while to regard the humanity of others.
Now my challenge in america, is as much as I may honor and respect the non African blacks, I am not going to earn the same respect back. If there is anything an African has, its pride in their own individual humanity which partly explains the numerous conflicts, mosg of it is about maintaining a group's dignity.

So if in America I happen to fall into a group due to the nature of social-political environment and find that my dignity with in that group is threatened, there is no way I can affiliate with the group.
I have mentioned before that many of us have never known what being a second class citizen, and so will not accept that position in America whether it is enforced by whites or blacks.

This idea of standing together in the struggle is plausible, but there is an insidious need for the group to have under dogs and in America's case, the under dogs would be Africans. Why would any African want to be part of that group?

Grata said...


Also, in Africa, when one's human dignity is threatened, the solution is war. In America that is not possible, it is a free country and one can comfortably exist in their own exclusive environment and individualy fight racism they face.

Also remember that most Africans have the choice to return to Africa, so why fret on something temperal.

Miriam said...

Ilio - Thanks! This "divize pou renye": I don't see that changing anytime soon either.

Grata - Thank you for your comment. You bring up a very interesting point which I neglected. What to do with the "second class citizen" treatment.

I don't have an answer as of yet.

Grata said...

"Grata - Thank you for your comment. You bring up a very interesting point which I neglected. What to do with the "second class citizen" treatment".

That my friend is a tough one. Africans he are reputed to be arrogant as many people in blogsphere have witnessed therefore they can never be comfortable in that position.

SheCodes said...

I love this post. And I have no problem with idealism, for all great movements are founded from idealism.

I think that everyone, (not just Africans), are multi-layered, but black people, regardless of heritage and nationality, have had some form of oppression due to white supremacy.

As a West Indian, I may not have experienced the same 'second class citizenry' as I would have here, but our countries have been adversely affected by economic and political white Imperialism, as have many countries in Africa.

And that is reason enough to unite based on skin color. Blacks do not need to agree on everything-- only on the things that we want changed.

Miriam said...

Thanks SheCodes -

"And that is reason enough to unite based on skin color. Blacks do not need to agree on everything-- only on the things that we want changed."

This I should have added to my post!

Grata said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grata said...

"And that is reason enough to unite based on skin color. Blacks do not need to agree on everything-- only on the things that we want changed".

And this is where the idealism fails.

The reality is that blacks are extremely diverse. It is easy to gloss over the differences but knowing the diversity among Africans, I am almost sure that unity based on skin color can not unite Africans. It may unite blacks in the diaspora but not Africans.

Again, why would I as an African want to be part of a group that wants to make me its second class citizen (and this is not a minor difference in agreement) as we continually witness in the Western black media and black culture that seeks to distance itself from African-ness while superficially displaying African pride?

The historical forces of oppression exist and yes need to be fought but I doubt that it will take a unity based on skin color to create substantial change least of all in Africa.

Soila. said...

I had vowed to never post about race/ BC in diaspora on any other blog but Grata's but I will post on your (I hope that's ok)...

And the rant begins...

Coming from a place that the whole entire world looks down upon to make themselves feel better, as an African all I have is my pride and dignity.

It was hammered in my head over and over that I am not from a disease and poverty infested dumpster as people may want to make me feel. I was always told that the best quality of life I will ever obtain was in Africa (when I start making my money).

As many are proud to be Americans, Brits, Germans blah blah blah, I am proud to no end of being an African but I have also come to realize that to be accepted in the diaspora, it seems one has to lose their African-ness. Like I am not cool enough to identify with other blacks if I hold onto my being African.

I have also come to realize that refuting or questioning things in the BC automatically makes me have a "superiority complex". Giving a different POV is looked as me disparaging other blacks...

For example, Grata and I disagree on so many things and have different outlooks to so many issues however, I have never once said or felt that she feels like she is better than I am (Our arguments and discussions run deeper than anything I post on any blog. They are also a zillion times intense than any back and forth I have had with anyone in the online world)...

Anyway, back to my point... My militancy only occurs when I see another person trying to insist who I am and what I stnd for is not good enough or acceptable hence if my African-ness doesnt sit well with people, I am more than happy not to be associated with anyone.

And, I also do have a problem with forming a society based on skin colour. I am all about seeing individuals for who they are and forming my society based on that. Can we apply the United colours of Benetton to reality?!

Sorry for the long post :)

Miriam said...


your point is well taken. It is a sad state of affairs this black=ness business.

I wish I had something better to say.

I totally understand what you are saying. There are certain things I don't bring up because they are 'tabou' but I do see AA are opening up to serious dialog about colorism , racism, weave??? perhap change will happen even for those who chose not to lose their wonderful heritage of African-ness (or Caribbean-ness) Especially with Barak in the picture.