3 Nov 2015

"You talk like a white person.”

Disclaimer: I'm revisiting some of my old pieces. This piece was originally written back in 2011 but it feels like I recently thought about it. It's still one of my favorite article, such a relevant topic that  I want to write about in my books
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As a child and even as an adult, people have tried many times to “box” me in.  Although at times I fight against being boxed around, sometimes I question if I am really free from all the boxing? When you've been enclosed in for so long it is difficult to break away from your prison box without people making you feel like you are different.
Few years ago, I was talking to this guy about how to budget money and plan for one’s future. After my point of view he commented “Mame (a Ghanaian affectionate term for a female), you talk sense. You know? You talk like a white person.” I was offended and shocked. My blood boiled. If he wanted to speak in colours then why couldn’t he recognise that I am a clever black woman? Why always associate cleverness to whiteness {I write this based on other comments from other people}? I said “I don’t talk like a white person, I speak like me, TOI!”   
His words threw me in the loop although I was able to defend myself.  My child, I am afraid may not have the words to defend herself or himself.  Words are easily used without knowing the origin and for what purpose our ‘ancestors’ used it for. I know that in certain places black and mix-race children are called all kinds of nasty names. I know I will always try my best to protect my child from many things but I don’t think I can protect him/her at the play ground. When nasty kids will call her/him awful names because their parents didn’t teach them better.
I believe my worry is accentuated by the fact that a well known English historian, David Starkey, commented “There has been a profound change… the white have become black”, when he was interviewed about the reasons behind the August 2011 riots in London, England. He went on to equate black culture to violence, gangsterism, nihilism and destruction. He concluded that young black and white kids operate in a false language like the Jamaican patwa which has ‘intruded’ into England; and many of ‘them’ – David Starkey’s sort – feel like they are living in a foreign country. He pointed out that black culture is not about skin colour but ‘cultural’. He went so far as to state that if you close your eyes and listen to David Lammy, a successful black British politician, you would think he was white.
The pity, aside from the black community being boxed-in, is that Starkey is part of those who tend to have power over historical books and TV programs which blatantly stereotype against black culture. The English riots happened not because of a cultural shift, but mainly because there is a great divide in the social and economic distribution in the world. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. It is easy to blame the situation on culture to mask the real issues.
My child will be born into this high intense racial era in the media and society.  As a proud black Ghanaian woman, married to a white British man, I don’t want my mixed-cultural child to refuse her black Ghanaian heritage due to what the media promotes {I know it won’t happen, but who knows}. I am dark skinned.  I have curves.  I have natural locks and full lips. I speak with an accent. Her father is light skinned, has blond hair, blue eyes and fine lips. He speaks with an accent.  All these different traits will converge in my child’s make-up.  
The popular image the media and society will teach her is white is beautiful and desired. And I will point out her black side is also beautiful and desired.  I will show her/him that black culture is more than simple hip-hop, consumerism and gangster ideology. I will teach her that black culture has great literature, music (jazz, blues, easy listening…), arts, great politicians and human right activists. 
My greatest wish for my baby is to not let people push her/him into a preconceived box. But knowing how most human beings reason in our society, someone will try {like it happened to me, my sister and brother growing up in the West)!  And when that happens, I would have done my best to teach my little one good values including, loving who she/he is {identity and culture}. Never accepting the box but pushing and fighting against it and just being herself/himself – human!
Few days ago my brother had to stand up for himself because he was accused by one of his housemates for something he never did. The landlady without asking his version of the facts sent him an eviction note, this was a form of discrimination. While we were talking he said “… you have the most beautiful thing in this world in your womb… and the first thing I will teach her/him is to forgive those who don’t know…”
There may be many words swimming around in my mind but the one that stands out right now is LOVE.

The love I have for this little child I have yet to meet.  My emotions may be high, my thoughts rampant.  But my heart is at peace as I feel the butterflies in my stomach.  I know what is going on in the world at this moment but for now, I am glad my little Berry is safely “boxed” in, loved, and protected within my womb.
Question: How do you feel in society?

6 comments:

  1. great points and well-written post!

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  2. I used to get that a lot and felt self-conscious about it when I was younger. As an adult, I haven't encountered anyone saying that but even if they did I don't care one bit. I don't care if anyone thinks that. I talk how I talk. Deal with it!!!

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    Replies
    1. I love your attitude towards what people think about the way you talk.

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  3. TOI, This is so beautiful and very well written. Thank you for sharing.

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