my journey to be my best self

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

black ≠ black: what a riot

In travel, Uncategorized on August 10, 2011 at 11:18 am

Watching the news I was astonished as I saw Tottenham, home to one of the largest and most significant populations of African-Caribbean people, in flames. The riot left the neighborhood in rubble.
After 11 weeks of “black” people telling me that the British are not as sensitive about race as Americans I want to ask: Is that your final answer?  It can’t be.  I came across these words in the newspaper: “Too many black men have been killed by the police.  Too many black men and women have been treated like criminals when they’re not.”   I knew this wasn’t specific to America.  Despite the history, the racial environment here is more like the landscape at home than anyone is willing to admit but they are not fooling me.  Why?  If they were more honest with themselves, and me, we would better understand the unrest.
First I thought it was because Mark Duggan was shot.  For years I thought the police department was only outfitted with handcuffs and batons. So how was he shot?  Because some cops carry guns — like the ones that were involved in the pre-planned operation to carry out Duggan’s arrest. 
The question was did Duggan shoot first.  Hard to say.  He was a “known gangster” but I was not surprised when the news reported that Duggan, though carrying a loaded gun, did not fire at the police before being shot 2 times and killed.
The real question I have been desperately seeking the answer to is why, in London, where no one admits that race matters, was there a riot after Duggan was killed?  Three nights later London is under lockdown.  The headlines in the newspaper and the commentary on television are dedicated to the riots (that have been compared to the riots in 1985) and we have been advised to stay home after dark because the riots are not limited to Tottenham.  They are now taking place in neighborhoods all over the city and as I look at an infographic in the paper I cannot map where the rioters are headed next so I am resigned to my flat hoping the rioters do not come to South Kensington.  Last night as I complained that I was a prisoner in my own home Whitney’s mom said, “Oh no – out of wine! Obviously you and Lola did not take that Brownie/Girl Scout oath to heart (a Girl Scout is always prepared). Daylight will soon be here.” Damn.
How many more nights will this last?  With cops powerless against the teenagers that have taken over the city leaving us in a police state unable to leave our homes after dark?  Today, the newspaper says the use of plastic bullets has been approved. Plastic bullets?  How do the police plan to fight teenagers throwing car bombs, firecrackers and missiles?  The cops at home know better.  They will fight violence with violence.  The police used tear gas and water hoses and dogs and nightsticks (and any other weapons at their disposal) on peaceful protesters during the Civil Rights Movement.  I am glad these riots aren’t taking place at home because the police certainly wouldn’t be asking for approval to use plastic bullets if the streets were taken over by rioters 4 nights in a row.
At this point I think I know all I need to know about “black” people in London.  And I am ready to go home to America, where everyone knows race matters.  At least were prepared.


black people ≠ black people: i do not call myself african american. i call myself black

In travel, Uncategorized on August 4, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I am afraid I have to go home without the answers that I hoped for when I started asking about black people inLondon.  But I think I know enough. 

Last week I had drinks at CanaryWharf with Ian, a “black” man I sat next to on the plane from Geneva back toLondon.  And eventually the conversation went to black people (of course, but this time I’m pretty sure I didn’t start the conversation).  Ian said he didn’t understand why black Americans did not use their resources and go back toAfrica. 

Africa? I asked.  Like Marcus Garvey?  Here we go. 

I told him he has the luxury of knowing where he’s came from (Sierra Leone).  He still has a homeland, history, culture, religion and a language rooted in that place.  And I said I envy that (might not be the appropriate word) but I wish I had a connection -because of institutionalized slavery our history and culture is within the context of the history of America.

His response was I can go to Africa and I’d be welcomed.  Fine.  He didn’t understand what I just said.

I explained that while I am concerned about things that are happening in other countries I am most sensitive to issues related to black people (not in quotes).  For example, there are more black men in prison than in college.  He asked me what the percentage was. Percentage? More. I just said more in prison than college.  He said because I didn’t have a statistic it was just my opinion. My opinion! How could that be my opinion?  He told me Americans are just hung up on race.

Next he told me to genetically trace my roots.  He (falsly) cited a statistic that 80% of African American men can trace their roots straight to Africa, meaning they are not mixed with other races (he was trying challenge that I consider myself to be African Slave – White Master).  When I asked why he thought I looked the way I do he told me I belong to a tribe of people that look like me that were brought to America as slaves.  Now this was getting ridiculous.  He’s lucky I don’t have an iPad because I would have Googled his false facts.  But of course I did when I got home. After reading the article about people tracing their roots and 80% finding that they have direct links to Africa I sent it back to him and pointed out that this research was about British African-Caribbeans. 

The conversation grew louder and Ian interupted and said: everyone in here probably thinks were having a break up.  Well if we were dating we would be!

What I learned from this exchange:  I need to date a black man (not in quotes) or a white man that wouldn’t even begin to argue that he knows about being black inAmerica.

Note: I do not call myself African American.  I call myself black or African Slave – White Master.