Black Friday: Conceptually Racist

Black Friday: Conceptually Racist

By N Oji Mzilikazi

November 23, 2012

So today is Black Friday, Eh!

Leftover turkeys from Thanksgiving are in fridges and refrigerators, and millions of Americans are out and about, participating in the shopping madness, hitting stores for their widespread sales and huge discounts on merchandise. Except some of Walmart employees who intent to picket or conduct some sort of protest outside various outlets.

As a Canadian, I’m immune to the Black Friday hype. But that didn’t stop our local Walmart from buying into the uniquely American Post Thanksgiving shopping madness and advertising a 3-days only Black Friday sale.

As a person of African descent, I have issues with Black Friday.

Given the struggles of people of African descent in the “New World,” since enslavement and Trans-Atlantic transportation to the same, Black America seen as the flagship for the worldwide Black Diaspora, it is always disconcerting to see its leadership inattentive, to the point of negligent, not vigilant, and mute.

And, precisely at times when clarion calls for mobilization is necessary, its voice needs to sound from hilltops and rooftops. Case in point: The Friday after Thanksgiving that is designated Black Friday:

Given the long-standing designation of any kind of disaster, calamity, financial crash, military defeat and even bad news as a black day, Friday the 13th of any month entitled a black Friday, with the full range of negativity implied and expected, black being never imbued with positive qualities or attributes, black added to words in order to make them negative, and the codification, entrenchment of racially offensive and racially abusive words, terms and expressions, and discriminatory language in language – speech, I’m at a loss to understand why America’s Black leadership allowed business to name that day Black Friday. Transform the long-standing negativity of a black day into one of economic positivity.

Lest we forget: Black is only good, positive, when “a company is in the black.” That is, the company is making money. The expression slavery derivative, based upon the huge profits made by those who invested, traded in African slaves, traded in Blacks – and which wasn’t good, positive or profitable for Blacks.

Black Friday is thus conceptually racist.

Language is not inconsequential. Language connects to identity, culture, race, ethnicity, altitudes, values, and beliefs. The language of every ethnic group empowers their sense of self, their culture, their gastronomy, their physiognomy and concepts of beauty, and their race.

Language matters. Names matter. Truth matters.

Christianity, the Bible states that God made man in his own image. As such, people of African descent must see God and Beauty as reflective in them. That empowerment, our God being Black, necessitates we attack the usages of black that denote, perpetuate, and reinforce the racist ideology of its equation with negatives and evil, and we rewire the negatives affixed to Black.

The English language (and others) is replete with words and terms that discriminates against people of African descent. We ought not to, cannot afford to accept terms and language that discriminates against us, and we ourselves must be vigilant so as not to engage in or continue to use them as well.

It’s our responsibility to inform others as to their offence, to put out a “cease and desist” notice. How else can racism and its legacy of bias language be dismantled?

Language matters. Names matter. Truth matters.

We Are Grenadians, Who Are You?

We Are Grenadians, Who Are You?

By N Oji Mzilikazi

Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 22, Number 22

November 15, 2012

I’ve been a member of Montreal All-Fours Social & Cultural Association since 2004. The club meets every Friday night at the Cote-des Neiges Black Community Association. This past January, our All-Fours session started at 10 p.m. rather than at 9 p.m., because the space was being used by the Grenada Association.

Its members were using it to practice, to hone their dance routine for their commemoration of Grenada’s Independence in February.

Arriving early, I decided to take a “look see.” And there were these women, some of them elders, and for surety grandmothers, dancing and twirling holding their flowing skirts in hand and the like.

I immediately had flashbacks to “home” – Trinbago, and folk dances, maypole dances, Better Village and the like. And simultaneously felt regret that of the multitude of “Trini” organizations that have existed in Montreal, there is not one actively ensuring the survival of those cultural elements in the Diaspora.

In addition, I was blown away by the beauty of the song to which they were dancing – Casimir Pitt, “Grenada May God Bless You.” Though recorded in the early 70s, it was the first time I heard the song, and I must confess it raised both my pores and spirit.

Upon completion of their session, I asked them for a replay of “Grenada May God Bless You” so I could soak up as much of its rays as was possible.

The patriotism the song invoked was such; I couldn’t envision any Grenadian refusing to sacrifice his/her life for country if the nation was fighting a foreign invader and the song was being broadcasted.

What really got to me was the infectious line:  “We are Grenadians, who are you?” The positivity of self-identification, of knowing oneself spoke volumes and opened up a world of thought. There and then I felt “We are Grenadians, who are you?” deserved a philosophical treatment. But first, I needed a copy of the song.

It took me five months of scouring the Internet to find “Grenada May God Bless You,” upon which I could’ve beaten myself. I could’ve saved myself a lot of time and energy by asking DJ Starlight Joe, a Grenadian national, and someone I’ve known since the early 80s.

In August, repair work at NDG local in which the Grenada Association meet had them returning to Cote-des-Neiges on Fridays to practice. Once again, “We are Grenadians, who are you?” left footprints in my feet, heart, and soul.

Since October, teens from the Grenada Association have been using Cote-des-Neiges on Fridays to practice their routines for the November 24, Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique Masquerade and Fashion Show extravaganza.

Given the failure of many community organizations to attract youths, lamentations from same about “our” youths not interested in continuing their work, and our young being politically, socially, and culturally lost, the participation of male and female teenagers and pre-teens with Grenadian roots doing their thing to R&B and hip-hop flavoured music points to the continued transmission of island pride by a healthy and vibrant Grenada Association. Respect is due!

Youthful participation and Grenadian parents/adults in attendance at sessions made it clear; I could no longer delay my long-intended treatise.

When in “Grenada May God Bless You,” Casimir Pitt intones “We are Grenadians, who are you?” I see “Grenadians” as referencing much more than the nationals of the “Spice Island.”  I think of it as transcending island tribalism and representing both the cultural consciousness of the West Indian Diaspora and West Indian collective.

I think of its rhetorical question phraseology as asking both West Indian born persons and their progeny if they have any real sense as to who they are. If they have any understanding of the otherness they represent, and the need of a united face and united base, if as a people West Indians abroad are to be economically, politically and socially empowered.

West Indians are a “callaloo” people and it matters not if their roots and or ethnicity are Syrian, Lebanese, Chinese, Portuguese, French, Spanish, English, European, East Indian or African. The various narratives and overall history of the region left its inhabitants with “an indelible and irreducible thing” and several unique flavours.

That uniqueness, an otherness in its own right, set West Indians apart in spite of our intra-racial and “island” differences, and the disgust some members feel when identified from the “wrong” island. That otherness allowed for West Indies communities abroad to sustain and feed the soul of its members.

Even when West Indians are visually “white” or “Chinese,” their phenotype, shade of colour, language style and pronunciation of certain words still identify them to the larger white and Chinese community as other. The same goes for East Indians.

That “irreducible thing” in West Indians made it impossible for us to run from ourselves – though many have tried to pass as or become another. And though we became Canadian, British, and American citizens by naturalization, marry others, have children born and socialized in their metropolis, or we ourselves were born here, a cultural and culinary otherness still massage our heartstrings, define us, and have us most comfortable when among us.

Our otherness makes us special as well as gives us advantage. We can eat with knife and fork as well as with our fingers and from a fig leaf. Celebrating Christmas, Eid, and Divali, giving prayers, having a thanksgiving, going to a pundit, seer-woman or obeah man for their special insights give West Indians a heads up on religious tolerance. Our mating makes us multicultural.

We know the ways and history of others while they remain ignorant of ours. We are able to speak perfect French and perfect English and still drop patois that only island insiders understand. We can appreciate and play classical music yet get down to dub, bubble and wine.

Much of the social misbehaviour, disconnect, and poor academic performance of our children could be traced to our failure to transmit certain imperatives of our culture as well our history. Thus, they having no knowledge as to who they are, and their aping many of Black America’s cultural negatives.

It must be pointed out that in “Grenada May God Bless You,” Casimir Pitt name checks Guyana and every West Indian island except Trinidad and Tobago.

Given that ever since Africans were transported in the West Indies, Grenadian, as well as Bajan and Vincy roots run deep in the soul of Trinidad and Tobago, and that many “great Trinis” have Grenadian roots, Pitt’s omission was deliberate.

While the omission in no way, shape or form detracts from my take of “We are Grenadians, who are you?,” it underlines anti-Trini sentiments.

While people are free to be ignorant, myopic and xenophobic, and there are individuals back home given to holding anti-island sentiments and positions, we in the Diaspora cannot afford to do that, given the commonality of hurdles faced by members of the diasporic community.

To engage in island tribalism, to discriminate against people who look like us because of their birthplace or the flag they wave could only disadvantage and impoverish.

Lest we forget, our people back home do not face the sort of obstacles we do here. Race constructs, racial profiling, and the criminalization of communities on account of ethnicity do not grease their machinery of law and order and isn’t mobilized against the people as is wont to occur here.

Secondly, the people back home look just like us. Many are highly educated, wealthy, propertied, and are in positions of power in every field and sector of the nation. And even though colorism exists in pockets, institutional discrimination and racism and being treated as “last class” outsiders that many of us experience here are totally out of the question.

Clearly, attitudes and/or beliefs that might be accepted or cool back home could very well be obstacles to progress, have no place in West Indian communities abroad.

Furthermore, when one considers the scope of our sexual interactions with different islanders, the multifaceted nature of identity and island identification make for complication.

Unfortunately, the new found West Indian nationalism in the diaspora, the love of national identity, pride in island representation in garments and fashion accessories, and the proud display of island flags, island colours, symbols and the like on vehicles is bringing on a chill, and building division between the many kinds of West Indians that comprise our community.

Eddie Charles is an internationally known soca artist out of the twin Islands of Trinidad and Tobago. He was in Montreal for its Carnival festivities – rocking the house at every event in which he appeared. He was also one of the thousands who attended the July 2012, “Vincy Day” – St. Vincent and the Grenadines picnic at Brown’s Bay Provincial Park in Ontario.

Other than a gospel singer out of the U.S., the acts on the SVG stage were local. With no thoughts as to financial remuneration, Charles’ Montreal “man of business” felt Eddie performing on their stage would be a boon and boost.

He was rebuffed three times. The reason – “they” didn’t want any Trini on their stage. The telling confirmed to me by Eddie Charles himself.

It is Trinidad and Tobago that gave the world pan, calypso and soca. Trinbago’s Carnival allows artists from every Caribbean country to come and “eat ah food.

Many artists from other islands can attest that appearing/performing in Trinidad and Tobago during Carnival was the catalyst for international success and acclaim. Yet, a Trini, a professional exponent of soca, and someone who has performed on numerous international stage wasn’t good enough to be on that Vincy stage – “free, gratis, and for nothing.”

Island people abroad need each other. There aren’t enough nationals of any one country to support their functions and grow the businesses of their entrepreneurs. So while you go about waving your national flag remember small-mindedness stunts growth, and prevents us from seeing the “Grenadian” in us all.

Divali Greetings to our Hindu Community.

General Petraeus Scandal: Is Monogamy A Burden?

General Petraeus Scandal: Is Monogamy A Burden?

By N Oji Mzilikazi

November 16, 2012

If one is to believe the Biblical story of creation, the introduction of Woman led to the expulsion of Man from the Garden of Eden – was the downfall of Man.

Since then, men have abdicated thrones, waged wars, started feuds, committed murder over woman, and have physically and figuratively lost wealth, kingdoms, position, titles and their heads over woman.

The latest high-profile casualty to the “hairy bank” is General David Petraeus, the head of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, and a man regarded as a military hero. Married for over 37 years, Petraeus letter of resignation cited poor judgement by engaging in an extra-marital affair.

How much of that “poor judgement” was on account of humans being sexual creatures and their innate sexual wiring – the desire and need for serial or multiple sex partners and the constraints placed on it by monogamy?

Furthermore, females are attracted to alpha males. Petraeus was also called King David – that’s as alpha a male could be. Petraeus was extremely fit. Active males have high testosterone. Females are attracted to males with high testosterone levels.

Historical evidence is that early societies were overwhelming polygamous. Catholicism military conquest of the world resulted in Christian doctrine dominating political institutions, religious, public, and private life, sex and sexual interactions/relationship for centuries.

The church then defined marriage. Monogamy and the sexual exclusivity it engendered was touted as the best, most stable institution for rearing children, and became the only acceptable form. Since divorce was at variance with the teachings of the church, terms like “for better or worse,” and “till death do us part,” became part of the marriage vows.

As historical sources can attest, back in the day, people especially women lived shorter lives. Additionally, women were married quite young – as soon as they got into their teens.  Pregnancy and birthing placed their youthful and still developing bodies at risk. Thus, deaths from complications during childbirth, marriage till death do us part, and males free to remarry.

People living longer lives, humankind innate and powerful sexual urges, and sexual attraction to others make fidelity a millstone around the necks of men and women. And it’s made more so by a combination of factors.

The religious beliefs that held sway over people have become a shadow. Medical technologies, together with the fashion/clothing and sex industries have females sexually attractive and reeking of sexual desire. Female empowerment and female financial independence have women willingly and frequently engineering extra-marital affairs and/or sexual encounters. Plus, the pervasive sexualisation of culture has males and females wired, primed for sexual intimacy.

Overlooking those things, in spite of all the religious holiness, goodness and greatness ascribed to monogamous marriages, and the love between couples, infidelity has been wrecking havoc with monogamous relationships and destroying the lives of men, women and children since its compulsion.

Supporters of polygamous marriage see themselves as performing a service. Monogamy ensures many women would never marry, never get a man. Polygamy reduces the total of single women. More importantly, betrayal, abandonment, and damaged children are absent in their marriage construct.

Their men stayed, not strayed. For whomsoever the man desired as a sexual partner was brought into the marriage fold. There was no telling of lies, crafting excuses, and running around the wife’s back. If a wife needed to contact her husband, she knew she could reach him by Linda, Paula or Jill. The children are raised by all the wives, and that extended parental and family structure ensured they are well-cared for, well-adjusted, and know how to relate and work in harmony with others.

Petraeus fall from grace has his entire life ripe for examination. If polygamy was permissible, optional, there would be no need for anyone to shed a tear for the pain Holly Petraeus is currently experiencing, and which is sure to stay with her for a long time.

Romney: The Idiocy Never Stops

Romney: The Idiocy Never Stops

By N Oji Mzilikazi

November 15, 2012

Yesterday, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney blamed his 2012 election loss in part to President Barack Obama promising “gifts” to minority groups.

After having a week to do a post-mortem, that’s the crap, I mean, the best thing he could come up with? Incredible! And to know his platform included extended tax breaks for the fat cats who are already not paying their fair share, and he had a lot of goodies lined up for big business and energy companies.

Talk about a delusional and pathetic sore loser!

Then again, his disconnect with reality was most visible in his concession speech. He lost, lost badly, and still had the temerity to declare that Ann “would have been a wonderful first lady.”

Mitt, the election was about you, your agenda, your vision for America, and not about Ann. As much as Ann could well be a wonderful person, neither a “wonderful first lady” nor a not so wonderful first lady runs the country, makes policy.

Mitt, for starters, you were a weak candidate. And, even if people were to overlook your flip-flopping, your self-deport solution, your intent to repeal “Obamacare,” and your 47 per cent quip, the presidential debates exposed the extent of your feebleness.

Before each debate, television networks (I watched CNN.) carried an interview with Ann. She stated you look to her after each question for feedback. Then, there is the subject of you writing down your father’s name on a piece of paper and placing it on the lectern for inspiration.

Mitt, you are not five years old, needing the approval of mum, fearful of dad, and want to please him, live out his dreams.  And with such insecurities, lack of self-esteem, and self-confidence, you wanted to run the most powerful nation in the world?

Grow some!