Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I come from a family that has generations of roots in the South, and I don't think I have to recall mounds of Southern history for you, e.g., slavery ---> racism, segregation, strict socioeconomic/racial divisions. Despite what anyone says, those things are still present in the U.S. Maybe segregation is against the law, but it still happens because of economics, education, and culture. And because of that separation, mostly between races, racism is brewing, and I think it is going to really bubble over sometime soon. What can be done about that, I don't know. There are many sociopolitical problems that I won't even begin to try to discuss. But there is one thing that I know must stop, and that is carrying on stereotypes.

Yesterday, I went to breakfast with my grandmother, and she was telling me about something she'd heard on the radio earlier in the morning. We have a radio personality who has a reputation for saying whatever is on his mind. He shares his thoughts as different characters; I'm not sure if this is to help him get away with the things he says. Yesterday morning he was talking about New Orleans and the reelection of Mayor Nagin (which I honestly think was a HUGE mistake, and I can't believe that THE PEOPLE HE HUNG OUT TO DRY VOTED HIM BACK IN!!!). And he was talking about the attitude and the behavior of the large black population there, and concluded his thoughts with "You can take them out of Africa, but you can't take the Africa out of them."

I have a low tolerance, even a hate, for ignorance, and that statement is the epitome of ignorance. I cannot believe that someone could say something like that on the radio and not get um...harmed later that day on his way home.

When I went to Senegal, West Africa, three years ago, I saw a lot of REAL poverty. Here we have homeless people, too, but the diffence between here and there is that we have programs to help anyone who needs it. People don't have to live on the streets here. In Africa, they don't have many programs to help people out, and off the top of my head, I can only think of international missions that offer things like medicine and the most essential nutrients to the people they can reach, i.e., the people who live in cities and easily accessible villages. Despite the poverty, I have never met happier, more loving, more accepting, more hospitable people in my life, EVEN in the South, which takes pride in its hospitality.

Maybe having pride in our hospitality is the problem. We are only as hospitable as our prejudice allows. We no longer invite the random stranger to eat dinner with our family. However, in Senegal, upon meeting ANYONE for the very first time, we would be invited to eat dinner with them in their home. It was likely they were only going to be eating rice and fish, and maybe there was only one fish to share among everybody, but they were happy to have less if it meant making us feel welcome.

Real jobs are scarce in Senegal, but it was rare to see someone out on the streets who wasn't working, even if all they did was sell bottles of peanuts that they'd roasted, peeled, and bottled themselves. Work was important to everybody; there were no freeloaders.

I have an idea of who the radio personality was picking on. There are many people in this country who survive on, and sometimes abuse, the welfare system, and many of those who receive the benefits of that system are black (but the majority of people receiving welfare are WHITE, people). Comparing the black people who abuse the system, as well as those who exhibit behaviors that are morally reprehensible, to the people I met in Africa is ignorant. The only thing African about most black people here is that we politically-correctly call them African Americans.

Saying sterotypical and highly racist things like, "You can take them out of Africa...," puts up a barrier between groups of people. It changes attitudes in negative ways. It destroys trust. It puts people on the defensive, where they will do whatever is instinctive to survive attack. It creates fighting words and wars. I don't think we need any more wars in this world right now, especially in our own communities. We have a moral responsibility to love one another, to build each other up, to watch what we say, to be part of this family of man that we and everyone else in this world belong to.

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At 11:17, Blogger Azúcar said...

I remember once reading a statement that Coolio (the hip-hop artist) made. He talked about how he had so much resentment about his poor upbringing in Compton until he traveled the world and got to see and experience REAL poverty. It was such an interesting statment about how lucky we are to live in this country because even our poor have options.
I can't find the original quote, but here is a substitute:

"You know, rappers travel the globe and get to see a lot of the world. One thing that sticks out in my mind that Coolio said to the kids at the tournament was that they should not see poverty as having a “black” face. He told them that many of the poor who have no food and are at extreme poverty levels wear a “white” face. He said, “…many of these whites are far worst off than any black is. Some of these whites are literally eating crumbs off the floor.” “Though many of these black kids hold to the mindset that poverty only comes in “black face” and think they are poor and will always be poor. The truth is poverty comes in many complexions.”

Plus, wouldn't it be a good thing to have more "African" in all of us? The open hearts, the hospitality, reverence for family, and a generous spirit?

The only reason Nagin was reelected was that the other guy was worse...SAD.

At 15:45, Blogger ~j. said...

Preach on, Kiki. That was a great post. How does that radio personality still have a job?!

At 17:43, Blogger Kiki said...

He owns the radio station, quite simply.

At 19:42, Blogger noelle feather said...

Mayor Idiot of New Orleans (Nagin) is a FREAKING TOOL. Not ONE PERSON pisses me off more than he does.

At 10:13, Anonymous Wendy said...

Beautifully said!

By the way, I followed you here from CJane.

eightgumdrops at yahoo dot com


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