Blog Action Day
Blog Action Day
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
-George Orwell, "Animal Farm"
When I think about inequality as a topic, I find it overwhelming to try to select just one aspect of it. There's so many instances that we all run into on a daily basis - be it the media, work, the streets, life on a whole.
For me, being someone of mixed descent, originating from a country that has still yet to come to grips that people do mix descent, the topic of inequality of race comes to mind. Growing up in Grenada, I wasn't forced to recognize the potential negative reactions of having black in me as the island is predominantly black. This, in turn, brought about an entirely different dynamic.
In Guyana, from what I've gathered and witnessed as an outsider, as the country is predominantly Indian, it is the culture that prevails. That's fine, it's typical for which ever race is dominant to have the dominant, accepted culture. However, the roots of slavery has shaped the culture of how colour lines are drawn. Instead of everyone being seen as equal, the Indians who entered as indentured workers saw themselves as better than the Africans that came on the slave ships. Of course, everyone knows in retrospect it was a deliberate act by the slave masters to maintain control through maintaining division of the people. Likewise, the dividing of the slave body with preference of certain slaves to be house slaves and others to be field slaves.
Yes, that was hundreds of years ago. However, it is still very much present today on a subtle level. Amongst Indian Guyanese, especially the elders, I have felt that quiet understanding of having to conform to being as Indian as possible. Anything done outside of eating the food, customs, dress, etc. is seen as quiet betrayal and dismissal of culture. Funnily enough, most black Guyanese that I've met have welcomed me openly without feeling much pressure. I recall once overhearing an elderly Indian Guyanese lady whisper to my mom, "Do you know her boyfriend is black?" I was so amused and disturbed by such an obvious question to ask my mother...especially as he's mixed like me, just darker. When I pointed it out to mom, she explained that some of the older folks just can't shake their way of thinking. It's not that easy as it's something cultural that they grew up with.
In Grenada, I've noticed that while I don't feel pressured to feel bad about having black descent as well, I've been encouraged to feel I have "good hair" and "high colour." As I have gotten older, through discussions with friends, I have heard stories about those that have been teased about being "tar babies," having a broad nose and heavy build to the point where... as adults, they now wish to do plastic surgery to make their noses straighter and smaller, make their bodies slimer, to bleach their skin.
I've witnessed first hand within school systems preference given to lighter skinned and white children over black children. In fact, I've heard disturbing stories of witnesses of black babies being handled roughly, whilst the lighter babies and white babies get treated tenderly.
Then I have heard of lighter skinned boys being picked on for money and things because it's assumed that they will have it because they are fair. Also, I've heard of the preference for fair folks for some jobs. I don't even have to mention our trusting nature of foreign "investors" to start businesses here or outsourcing skilled folks when we have skilled folks right here... but that's leading into another discussion about inequality.
For me, I won't say I'm perfect or that I'm not guilty of committing some stereotype that leads to inequality of people. But what I would say is that when it comes to race, I shut it down one time and try my best not to see colour.
I don't buy into the "good hair" or "high colour" philosophy. If someone points out that I have gotten darker from being in the sun in an upset tone, I ask why it's an issue? If someone points out that I have pretty long hair, I ask what's wrong with tighter coils of curls? If someone tries to define me as inherently either, I clarify - I'm mixed.
To claim one over the other, is to deny self. At this point in history, I think enough time has passed for the population to be a mixed pool of genes anyways to make a claim of a singular race relevant. Also, it's obvious that division of the people in their mind leads to division of people in the nation. If people can't get over colour lines, they're doomed to continue repeating the patterns that made slavery successful in the first place... and contributing to the subtle profits of the system.
The media has portrayed so many examples of this inequality still existing. I remember when that Trayvon Martin story were all the headlines and hearing the mixed views. I had met people who said he deserved it because he looked like a criminal because he's a young, black male wearing a hoodie. Ironically, some of those same people voted against Obama in his first election on the premise that he's black and he won't be able to lead a country the way a white man would. Now there's Fergerson. Let's not forget how different racial groups were portrayed during the New Orleans Hurricane years back. I have even seen the insinuations that with this new Ebola crisis, a treatment only suddenly existed when a non-brown person contracted it... Ironically, the first person in America to die from it wasn't given the same treatment and guess what race he was?
I've stopped following the media as intensely as I once did, there's too many inequalities that are obvious to depress me. I think the world would be a very different place if we consciously tried to change the way we think.
The most relevant solution that I can think of is something a friend posted recently. To solve not just the inequality issue I've mentioned in this post, but the ones the participating voices across the blogosphere have brought up. Chances are you may or may not have heard it already... and if you have, I suggest you listen to it again.