Friday, 29 January 2010

Black or white

To call something a "black name" or "black music" bothers me. I don't think the subculture from which these things come is inextricably linked to the skin colour of the people who typically comprise it. Furthermore, I think that using terms like that is going to perpetuate the false idea to our next generation that there is a "white world" and a "black world", and the people who come from these places are very different from each other. I don't believe that will have positive consequences.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I just don't think these are healthy distinctions to draw.
PPS - Variations within people groups are bigger than variations between them.


littlemissrandom said...

Let me start by saying that I love that you have these values. I wish the whole world believed as you do, because then my mission would be accomplished and I could by a beach in Lamu and live out the rest of my days writing songs and sailing. Plus, the world would be a better place.

But I think to deny that there is a 'black world' and a 'white world' out there is naive.

There are different worlds out there, whether they're black or white; developed or undeveloped; capitalist or communist; Christian or Islamic. They ARE very different to each other. The differences between people who come from these worlds are vast, and to cross the divide between them is difficult.

It can be done. But it won't be done by denying that the differences exist. I believe that the solution is to open our eyes and acknowledge the differences between our 'worlds', and walk forward in the knowledge that even in our differences we have similarities and common goals, and that bridges can be built so that the aims are achieved. Sitting around holding hands singing 'I love you, you love me, we're a happy family' is great until Uncle Ishmail brings out an uzi and starts pumping bullets into Uncle Balfour because Uncle Balfour started talking about how Palestine deserves the Gaza strip.

I grew up whole heartedly believing that we are all the same, and would have defended to the death that belief. I know I alienated some people over my vehemence about it.

But then I lived in Africa and understood that there ARE different worlds out there. For me it was 'developed' and 'undeveloped'. And there are positives and negatives about both, and there is much we can learn from each other. But that learning will only take place if both parties sit down and understand each other's differences and acknowledge them, even if they don't accept them for themselves. Only by understanding where we come from can we together move forward to where we're going.

Much like Martin Luther King Jr, I have a dream. I too dream that my children grow up in a world where they are not judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I wish that I could raise my children in a world where I didn't have to teach them about the different 'worlds' they will encounter, and to just treat everyone equally regardless of their background.

But that's not going to happen in my lifetime, and possibly not in my children's lifetime. It may never happen. The truth is, while there are people living in different countries with different cultures with different religions and different values and different beliefs, we will never be able to simply take people at face value. We will have to understand the world that they come from before we can meet on mutual ground.

'Black music', 'black names', 'black neighbourhoods' - all come from black culture. That culture is inextricably linked to the skin colour of people who typically comprise it. It is part of their history and their heritage. Acknowledging its existence teaching our children that it is not a stigma, but merely a difference is what will bring positive consequences, not denying its existence.

Sorry for the rant, but I felt like I didn't express myself as eloquently as I would have liked to on the weekend. This is where I'm coming from. :)

John said...

I understand what you mean by there being different worlds out there, as in different cultures. It makes sense, and I know it's real. I just don't think they're essentially defined by the colours of our skin. There are hundreds of different "black" cultures out there, as there are hundreds of "white" cultures. It's not enough. It doesn't tell me who you are to know that you have dark or fair skin. If you have dark skin, and I acknowledge that, what does it tell me about you as a person?

I'm not about denying differences. Our differences make us human and interesting. I just think that defining people by the colour of their skin is too limiting.

There's ideological differences out there that aren't going to be resolved overnight, and the people who perpetuate them aren't going to make it easy. The issue is obviously bigger than what I posted, but if I hang onto the smallest bit of artificial division myself then I'm part of the problem.