Several years ago, I saw a dark skinned woman in her early twenties and sporting Nigerian clothes in front of me at a bank ATM station. (I was many decades older than she while also a blond and white skinned.
I figured that it was a great opportunity to hear her views about racism in the USA, the country in which we were both residing at the moment. I knew that it would likely be objective due to her representing an outsider’s views.
In other words, she’d not have bias due to having grown up here in the USA. So she looked ripe for the questioning despite that her own background might taint her views.
So I, bluntly, asked as she stood in front of me at the ATM, “How do you perceive racism in this country?”
She, abruptly, turned towards me after which she, scathingly, looked me up and down to try to discern the background aspect of my enquiry. After all, I could have been a red-necked hillbilly (bully) racist asking the question.
She, then, relaxed her initial confrontational pose and anger in her face disappeared when she saw my own countenance and body posture. I posed no threat, nor other sort of ugliness, she perceived.
So she, then, openly answered. She responded something like: I have to compare it to my own experience back home to tell you. It’s that we have no surprise that there are Black and White lawyers, doctors, government officials and others in prominent positions in my country. We, accordingly, take it for granted that all skin tones don’t mean much, including those of mixed races.
Accordingly, we, largely, all rise in my country according to our interests, education and capabilities. Skin color and social class aren’t even noted much. We accept the diversity for the most part and ignore superficial differences like skin hue, facial features or other genetic markers.
Here, though, where I’m studying physical therapy in Massachusetts at Worcester State College, it’s so different. My boyfriend found the same conditions as I here and he’s is studying hardware engineering at the same college after which we plan to return to our country to improve conditions there.
So here’s the situation that I’ve noted: The people in the worst condition are the northern USA Blacks. They assume that because I have dark skin that I am one of them.
They get all excited or surprised when a Black becomes a lawyer or a doctor. They have low expectations for themselves – a viewpoint beaten into them, partly by themselves and historical means, and, so, they refuse to see themselves as capable or comparable to other lighter skinned people. Why, I’ve even heard lighter skinned members of them call darker skinned ones the “n- word.”
No, I do not belong to them culturally, nor ideologically. They, for the most part, make me sad.
The next worst group comprises of the northern Whites. They pretend that they are all-inclusive, but are not. They are devious racists.
The southern Whites are more honest. There are no deceits. They’ve drawn the line and show you where you fit into society.
They don’t deceive. They are blunt in terms of telling you your place relative to them. They are not two-faced like northern Whites, who are conflicted in their views and attitudes.
The southern Blacks are the best. They just accept you as you are. They are comfortable with you and with themselves regardless of your skin color. They seem, thus, self-assured.
Fighting against prevailing trends means sometimes shunning the status quo in a particular region of a country, such as the northeastern USA wherein this woman and I both were living. It means rejecting the views of northern Whites and Blacks as she described the prevalent dysfunction as she discerned as existing.
Her account is either true or not true according to the majority here in this region? Who cares since we have to stand against whatever relative amount of people follow such wrongfulness as she described.
So her outlook represents keeping your eye on your goal, such as when you are gaining capabilities and knowledge to bring them to your country or region to improve life there, such as this woman and her boyfriend were doing after which they would apply their new acumen to jobs to foster life in Nigeria. What other way forward?
They kept their focus despite the drag-away from others around them unto alternative cultural issues not pertaining to them in their own backgrounds. (They were not here for the long-haul and, with their studies, had little time to involve in US racial issues.)
It also meant their rejecting low standards as being “just the way it is,” such as the ones described by her as representing Whites and Blacks in northern USA. It also meant rejecting indifference or passively standing against the thought that the issue, whatever it is, is immaterial or not salvageable and, so, must be ignored. (Why even strive if hopeless or helpless?)
Should one just ignore as it is beyond your capability to change an issue or doesn’t involve you personally? For example, such as if you don’t personally eat beef, one should just ignore?
Put another way with a twist in thought, it goes like this:
If you want high standards, then work for them so you can bring them back to your community, such as this young woman, probably around twenty years old, was striving to do. If you reject paucity in being or some curtailed image due to being part of a particular social group, then stand up against it.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos performed their Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics.
Both avidly shun such ugliness and work with it to change as this Nigerian did, especially as she had to explain again and again to northern Blacks that she is not of their mindset while showing an alternative to a sense of paucity, poverty or other self-perceived impediments to rising up to be one’s best self.
The same sort of outlook, whether on a national or personal level, means standing against beef bans, standing against the caste system, standing against other forms of bigotry and racism, standing against the views of a group of people who tell you that another group is inferior and, instead, rising up in unison to support alternative ways forward.
The young Nigerian was, obviously, disgusted with the racial issues in the USA. She sought and saw a better way forward and was willing to bring the improvement to her homeland with new skills and understandings that she’d gleaned in a country, obviously, bizarre to her in terms of racism.
Can we not take her orientation to push forward ways to enrich a society somewhere? Can we not reject the beef ban or other wrongs in a steadfast, determined and steady way?
Who do you want to be? Are you like her – someone who sees wrong and takes another way forward rather than succumbing or are you comfortable in your little niche in society so that you can’t be bothered with creeping severe wrong? …
The bottom line is this: Can you rise and help others to do so? Can you try to create betterment?
It’s all about embracing uplift and fighting against wrongs, such as this picture shows:
Emotional Reunion: Jim Routon hugs Hezekiah Darbon at Briarwood Elementary school after a tornado
We must come together and improve society. We must stop actions that destroy one or more groups, such as the India beef ban does! Yes, come together as woes hit you (we) all!
Who are YOU? … I’m counting on people to fight the prevailing trends. What other way forward is there – to hide like a little mole in your safe little curtailed space and gradually give up more and more options (like beef eating or anything else) that increasingly delimit you in selection of your life choices down to practically nil?
It’s cowardly or indifferent in my view to not make a concerted, unified stand with others. What will you bequeath to your children and grandchildren if you do not right now fight for your own and their future rights?
Look: I live in probably the most aggressive nation in the world. Our government on the federal level leaves a lot to be desired, but resistance is not futile!
After all, check out Mike Moore’s new movie, especially if you have Amazon Prime since it is N/C through the service:
Where to Invade Next Official Trailer 1 (2016) – Michael Moore
Come on. Join the resistance. Rise up your inner strength to do whatever is right for the common total. Join us in rejecting the bad prevailing trends! There’s plenty to gain in the thwarting action even if only the satisfaction of trying to pull the world forward to a better place!
Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA.