TRUTH & FEAR
IN A MULTI-COLORED WORLD
It has been said that writing needs to be honest if it is going to be any good. So today I will give a swift kick in the groin to some of the lies people tell each other.
“I’m not being racist here, but the people here are just so f****n lazy. Excuse my language.” he stared at me for a brief moment and grinned. It was the kind of laugh only a truly irreverent moment can create because it abandons all reason. He had my attention.
Most people who know me think that I’m somewhat naïve in this African continent and they would probably be right. They smile disingenuously and say that I’m a soldier. They say I’m a scientist. (I’m not; I just think.) I’m a visitor. Some say it. Some are thinking even worse. It is because I’m a woman. It’s because I’m not black. It is condescending and it distorts their own insecurities into some quip.
People would like to tell you that racism is a thing of the past. We are beyond it; we have learned. We are ‘equal opportunity’ whores, we talk to everyone, we sleep with everyone and we don’t see color. Sleeping with a girl who is a ‘local at a bar’ doesn’t make you progressive. It makes you desperate for a warm bed at night, sir.
Maybe I’m naïve because I don’t swear or that I moralize on what corruption and underhanded tax loopholes do to a person’s slow grasp on the line between right and wrong. Perhaps this means that I am unable to accept the dirty principles that rule the daily lives. I’m white. I haven’t accepted the ‘white rules’ yet – but they think I will.
Casual conversations about knife stabbings in the face, drug running in the factories in nearby towns, and prostitution just outside my community do not make me feel safe. However, it is a part of life in Nacala. Why?
Almost two months of being a resident in Mozambique and I’m far from complacent about the ugliness I hear. I walk through the sludge-driven, unpaved roads in my steel-toed boots in a thinly veiled metaphor for the mud we are all being dragged through. In a Slavoj Žižek desert of The Real, things are never as they seem because the Real is the disgusting, prurient truth no one wants to face lying just underneath the daily grind.
Are we able to escape the truth? Not here. Here we have to look right at it.
The hypocrisy that you see in this country is not just a problem of one kind of person – it is an issue we all confront. If the impoverished of Mozambique are ignorant of public health issues, for example, it must have to do with the simple lack of knowing what to do. What is the excuse of an educated person?
I had a conversation just three days ago with a man who had the angelic face of an old man who wouldn’t hurt a fly. A few seconds later he told us all about his bathroom tiles. How they were being put in, what the shower looked like, took out his iPad, revealed a few photos…then dropped the bomb. The man who was doing the remodel was black, he said, and with a tone of idle surprise said as if to apologize, “But it’s actually coming out okay.” He didn’t sound convinced.
Who decides what is and isn’t an acceptable standard of work ethic? This man? I don’t think so.
But this is not simple a generation-Y question of what our children and children’s children can do to stop this. It is a question of what we are doing to combat it and why it’s failing. Stupidity.
Take the FUCK RACISM bracelets you see on artistic hipster websites – is this the answer to the ruthless fear inspired by the black and white lines we have created? Isn’t this just another brand of hatred we create with a new cycle of fear-mongering?
I wish I knew. In the meantime, maybe the KKK needs to disappear and the kicking minorities out of bars because of invisible ‘membership’ laws needs to stop in the U.S. but what about here? What about the way people continue to stab each other in the back with verbal abuse? Life goes on and the ugly or The Real, as it is lies just there underneath our feet.
In the meantime, the haters (quite literally) need to shut their mouths.
3 thoughts on “No Lies”
It is good that someone wants to speak their mind about what is going on in Africa. I don’t see a lot of this in the US firsthand probably because people keep their opinions to themselves. But aren’t you missing an important point? These people are simply uneducated and what they need is someone to tell them that their comments are damaging. I think you have every right to be getting angry about this. They are bastards. But – can’t someone teach them? And are the locals even aware of what is going on? Maybe you should talk more about what Black Africa thinks of these white people’s ‘accepted’ rules. I think it might shed more light on everything. I’d read it.
I remember when I was about 7 years old, growing up in New York, USA… my god-fearing, patriotic, conservative parents were hosting my godfather and his wife… They were talking about a white girl in their neighborhood dating a black boy. My father turned to me, thrust an angry finger at me and said, “If I ever catch you with one of them I’ll kill ya!”
I was seven years old. That had a tremendous impact on me, of course. As soon as I felt old enough to I had sex with a very good looking man I met through a friend, who happened to be black. Rebellion? You betcha!
Do I understand black folks? Not really. Maybe I’ve tried too hard. One acquaintance of mine tried to drown me in a toilet after I innocently patted her head and told her I loved her new haircut. A misunderstanding? You betcha!
My point is this: we’re humans. We’re frequently very stupid, occasionally well meaning but lacking in common sense, and often very quick to take offense. Racism is the combination of two things: Conditioning and Perception. We hear what people say, we take it in, believe it, regurgitate it and never think to question our perceptions of any given situation.
We hate/fear/despise/blame each other.
I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of racism. I’ll never forget each and every time I’ve said hello to a person of color only to have them look at me like I’m a piece of shit on the bottom of their shoe. OUCH! You bet that hurts. I’ve also experienced sexism (I’m a woman). I’ve experienced religious bigotry (for wearing a Catholic medal given to me by my deceased mother while working in a community that was heavily Jewish – and I’m not religious at all). I’ve certainly been discriminated against for being a lesbian, of course.
My point? The world is full of haters, of every stripe. The solution? Keep talking. (Like you are doing with your blog.) Be HONEST. (Discrimination runs in more directions than we could ever map out.) Forgive each other for our weaknesses. Remind each other what life is really about, and that we sink or swim TOGETHER. In the end, none of our petty prejudices matters one iota.
We take our first breath completely on our own and we’ll take our last one that way, too. What’s really important is how we treat each other in between. Hate the haters? Waste of time. Like you said in another post: Humor. Take the sting out of it and move on. Surround yourself with the high vibes and hope the bottom feeders raise themselves up eventually. Keep writing!