Tuesday, 20 March 2007

What's in a Name?(3) The Enslavement of our Children

Does the way Black children are behaving have anything do do with the slavery of their ancestors and their own achievement? With Britain currently commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade, it got me thinking about the real legacy of slavery on Black people, particularly in how we perceive ourselves, the names we use and the way our low self-esteem affects our children.


Once I attended a meeting in London of very keen, Black education professionals, who had each paid £75 for the privilege of discussing a particular report and its potential impact on the community. I waited eagerly for its content. However, my one abiding memory of that meeting was the negative way three very vocal 'sisters' totally hijacked the proceedings to question who had written the report and what colour that person should have been. For the next two hours, absolutely nothing was discussed until the terminology was sorted out and the colour of participants was fully checked and analysed: a total waste of delegates' time, money and talents. Months later, I am still trying to work out what we achieved on that day because we never did get to the actual findings! I am sure my experience is not unique and could explain why often so little is achieved within our community.

Black though we may be, if we have never been to Africa, we are no more 'Africans' than the descendants of the early Britons across the Pond who fought with the UK for their independence and are now very much Americans. They cannot call themselves Britons when they have very little physical or cultural ties with the mother country, and don't even speak the same language. Names are extremely important when they are associated with a sense of wellbeing and a definite history. However, people who cling to the past, long after it has lost its meaning, tend to be stagnant in their ambitions, fearful in their thoughts and fossilised in their actions. Having a sense of continuing frustration, yet not sure how to deal with it, they gradually find it easier to look towards another utopia, to see it as the answer, even when it is alien to them and is merely just a dream. Thus the place they left decades ago, like Bangladesh, Jamaica or India, is still 'home' even forty years afterwards. This view stops them facing their new reality, keeping them exposed as very obvious minorities, forever on the periphery while they abdicate responsibility for their future and blame the past for any present predicament.


Inscurity and Underachievement

The notion of a home far away also harms their children's present and future. It implants a constant reminder of instability and impermanence and is one of the biggest causes of insecurity and underachievement. If their parents are going 'home' sometime in the never never, why should they bother to work here? Why bother with making real friends? With buckling down to school work if you are going to be uprooted suddenly to 'go home'? Sadly, 15 or 20 years down the line, when the parents are still in Britain clinging to their outdated memory of 'home', the children would have completely lost theirs through apathy and alienation. In the meantime, the 'home' they fondly hang on to has changed beyond recognition. Trapped in time and fossilised in their brain, the cherished perfect past is a far cry from the actual reality; one which is a vibrant, moving form of constantly changing mores; one which would be almost as alien to them as to anyone else.

We stop developing when we live in the past and hang on to it for its own sake, while being constantly bitter and vengeful. In this way we learn nothing from it to safeguard or improve our future. Black people are of African descent, and that is labouring the obvious. Though we need to know our history and our roots, that knowledge should enhance, not retard, our progress. We have chosen, or been given, a different future which we must develop to the fullest in the brief time available. If you feel strongly about any country, more than you do about the place you live in, then DO something about it! Why not visit that place, examine its prospects and help to build it up? Share your expertise with the community to enable others to benefit from your contributions while you gain a sense of fulfilment.

Hankering daily after somewhere else, while we do little to improve our current existence, makes life needlessly difficult and frustrating. It becomes a good excuse, and a handy ploy, to prevent us ever facing our own reality. It also keeps us stuck in the paradise of our dreams while the paradise we could help to build disintegrates around us. A country divided cannot thrive. Its people has to work together, not against each other, to give it life and success.

It really doesn't matter what we call ourself. We can only extend and conquer the earth when actions take precedence over words; when we know who we are and wish to be, when we accept that identity fully and head off into the future to give it life. Only then will we be able to deal with any obstacles in our way; to feel confident about our potential for making a difference to ourself and our environment. Repressing our ambition under a daily concentration on labels, names and theories indicates real fear and little self-esteem as we replace deeds with semantics and a lack of vision.

Key Questions for Our Future

Whether you are an African who has never been to Africa, an Asian who left your country years ago, or a Briton who is going nowhere else, here is a little challenge to tease out your true identity: Apart from mere words, what have I done for Africa lately? For Jamaica? For India? For Pakistan? For Britain? For Me...?

The answer will not only be truly enlightening, it might actually point you in the right direction for the greatest achievement of all time: liberating yourself from the semantic slavery which has chained you for long enough to the aimless sinking ship of negativity and regret. There really is a connection between the death of seven Black youngsters in six weeks, the state of the Black community and how it views itself and the apology demanded from the British government over slavery. They are all linked to our self-perception, sense of impotence and genuine frustrations. We have got an apology from Tony Blair about what happened hundreds of years ago and the legacy it has left.

Fine, so what now? Only self-confidence and high self-esteem can propel our children to greater self-love and achievement. Unless we love and respect ourself, our children have no hope of loving or respecting themselves too. They will always be ashamed of who they are and keep taking it out on each other. Many of us are still back there wallowing in self-hate and slavery. But it's time to start taking responsibility for our lives so that we can give our children the reinforcement, strength and pride to take reponsibility for their lives too.

An apology from the politicians might force some superficial accountability and assuage some egos, but it is an empty gesture which reflects the past and does little for us and our future. The real question is: When are WE going to forgive ourselves for our distressing past and actually discard our slavery mentality to realise the wonderful, talented beings we are? This is fundamental to the progress of Black children, to their feelings of security and value, and to leaving our own positive legacy, no matter where we are settled in the world.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

What's in a Name?(3) The Enslavement of our Children
Does the way Black children are behaving have anything do do with the slavery of their ancestors and their own achievement? With Britain currently commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Abolition fo the Slave Trade, it got me thinking about the real legacy of slavery on Black people, particularly in how we perceive ourselves, the names we use and the way our low self-esteem affects our children.
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Serious students of human development must understand the fundamental dynamics of ancestry.

Africans, Asians and other recent immigrants to the UK rightly looked back to their ancestral home with pride, partly because it gives them cultural and even psychological groundings, which current environment may not provide.

These groundings are necessary in order that many will be able to function on equal cultural grounds in contemporary society - being able to answer basic questions like “who am I; what am I and where am I going”. Where these questions cannot be understood and answered satisfactory by individuals, whatever their ethnic origins, they and the society in which they live are in trouble.

There are many stories of adopted children searching for years, even into late adulthood, for their natural parents. Not because the adopted are poverty stricken; but because they want to know where they belong.

To deny the individual understanding of ‘self’, is to deny his/her very identity.

We all come from somewhere; from someone; from something. Even ‘Darwinian Fish’ presented as part of the Theory of Evolution, came from somewhere - the sea. To understand human evolution, according to Darwinians, we need to go back to source.

History is important. Genealogists’ life long search for the human gene is an act of interpreting history.

Cosmological ‘Big Bang’ is traceable because it left behind relevant trails. What we are today, even after many millenniums of evolution, is the result of that Bang, many scientists believe. From residual traces, we can determine the age of our Universe. This is another way of looking back to the past to understand the present.

Africans, first human on our Planet, according to palaeontologists, developed ‘Sankofa’ - means to "go back to the past in order to build for the future."

To deny the individual their rights to their cultural history and heritage is potentially fascist. If individuals have no history or perceived cultural heritage, one will be invented and imposed on them. As was the case of Arab and Caucasian slavers relating to African peoples. Their type of slavery was not just physical subjugations, but mental and cultural. In effect, cultural genocide, where languages, religions and ways of life were removed from the subjugated, lasting over many centuries.

“African and ethnic minority history” – basic but fundamental teachings of human development and inter-actions from Africa, Asia, and respective Diasporas - are not been taught adequately in British schools. If any history is to be taught, and it is being taught, then it must be the history about the ancestries of the pupils sitting and learning it. The individual’s history does not start at birth, or even at the birth of their parents. It starts from the journey of their ancestors – black, white, brown, yellow and red people. To teach multi cultural children mono cultural history is a form of brain washing.

The laws of inheritance, derived by Gregor Mendel, a 19th century Austrian monk conducting plant hybridity experiments, in my view does not only relate to the biology of man but also man’s cultural and historical inheritance. This is programmed into the ancestor’s DNA and transferred to off spring. Without which there will have been no identity or a point of human reference. "Genetics" - “gene” are important.

We have not heard fundamental denials or apologies for the deep and ingrained love by Caucasians for Europe, their Motherland. This love motivated them over many centuries to conquer oceans and capture lands and nations for their Motherland. And during occupation of foreign lands, colonials and imperialists ensured that their children are taught their historical ways of life, languages, religions, high science and culture, even when the ‘natives’ were denied that teaching.

The Jews, another people who have searched and waited for a ‘home land’ even when they were wealthy, living in other lands. Many members of the Jewish people created their own “Zionist ideologies” to ensure that the love for their Jewish homeland and traditions are re-calibrated in the minds of their off-spring, to ensure collective belonging.

It is therefore, not unusual for a people to want to look for meaning in their past.

Those who deny their past are rootless and unsure of ‘self’. Humans have always adapted to environmental surroundings for survival of purpose. .

African, Asian and other people who arrived and gave birth to their children in the UK, Europe and elsewhere, have fundamental human rights to look to the past for their inspirations when they may not be able to do that in their current time and location.

Fathers, mothers and grant parents of current children and young people in the UK have contributed to Britain through their labour and paying state dues – direct and indirect taxes.

They obeyed the laws and made their civic contributions. When they do no obey the laws, they paid the consequences. Their children, when they are of age, will also make their contributions, to the National Domestic Product (DNP), including serving in the Nation’s Arm Forces and security forces.

Given current disengagement by many black and ethic minority children and young people within British Society, in spite of over whelming affluences, it is crucial that a better and inclusive society is constructed, in order to provide a ‘One Nation’ solution, in the interest of all, including potentially lost generations.

The individual needs not go to Africa and Asia to literally seek cultural and historical inspirations. The issue of identity is not about birth place. It is about ancestry and belonging, being a part of an ‘historical family’. Some individuals have many historical families. Modern techniques of DNA testing help individuals to identify some of those family lines. Cultural identity is not essentially about economics or even wealth. It is about identity, whatever, the social and economic conditions.

There is a clear historical track record of Black people facing own realities, one of which is claiming reparations for past wrong doings. A practised that is recognised universally, which also extended to cosmic laws of opposites.

We fought slavery and repressions, colonisation and imperialism. We have taken responsibility for our lives then. And we would like to take more today, were the barriers to be removed by those who put them there.

Forgiveness is associated with wrong doings. What have the descendents of slavery; colonisation and imperialism have to be remorseful about? And while we are been remorseful, what will the real perpetrators of human sufferings doing?

We must not make excuses for historical and contemporary wrong doers. They who are raped should not be made to feel that the rape was their fault. Slavers, colonisers and imperialists were not invited to Africa, Asian, the Americas, etc. to enslave and colonise the traditional inhabitants. It is Racism that generates low ‘self-esteem’, in a predominately mono cultural society such as ours.

Truth Rules
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Ms CYPRAH said...

Thank you for your comment but I think you missed the main point I was making. Namely that we need to find out our roots and establish a historical connection for our own development and progress, as you rightly say. However, clinging to that memory for the sake of it, in a negative accusing way that robs us of a future, is what is helping to destroy our dreams and hopes, and is partly responsible for the state we're in. Believing that Africa has all our answers means we are stuck in two worlds without really giving anything to either, while our children become confused about their anchor.

Knowledge of ourselves is very important but using that knowledge to propel us towards realising our potential in the future is even more powerful still. Self-forgiveness is important too because we are forgiving ourselves for the 'thought' of being slaves. Being defined and judged from a White perspective, many Black people hate themselves, some prefering to be White, instead of who they are. They pass that self-hate to their children in a sad cycle of low self-esteem and worthlessness. That really needs to be addressed if we are to affect the cycle of underachievement and displacement.

Anonymous said...

REAL APOLOGY AND REPARATIONS FOR WRONG DOINGS ARE ESSENTIAL HEALING FOR THE INNOCENT AND THE PERPETRATOR.

I AM NOT LOOKING TO AFRICA FOR SOLUTION. WE MUST LOOK TO OURSELVES. AS THE SAYING GOES "DON'T ASK WHAT CAN AFRICA DO FOR US; BUT WHAT WE CAN DO FOR AFRICA. THE AFRICA WITHIN OURSELVES FIRST AND THE OTHERS NEXT - THE CONTINENT AND DIASPORA."

I SUPPORT THE STATEMENT RELEASED BY STABC ON 25 MARCH 2007, WHICH IS REPRODUCED BELOW.
________________________________________


Our Planetary Civilisations are based on the natural laws of opposites. These laws impact daily on individuals and nations. We speak of “Justice and Injustice”; “Freedom and Restriction” “Right and Wrong”; “Life and Death”; “Love and Hate”; “Man and Woman” and so on. Where these laws are absent, we experience imbalance, within the individuals and nations. Primitive men and women knew the truths of these basic tenets. In fact, some modern individuals still hold to the belief: “an eye for an eye; and a tooth for a tooth”.



We do not need great levels of sophistication to interpret and understand these basic truths. Simplicity and honesty are enough to get to the root of these practices. If there are grey areas here, the greyness are not sufficient to cloud the essential expectations implied and expressed in these essential basic opposites.



Africans are claiming reparations from those who are being identified today for their ancestors’ corporate and individual involvement in enslaving many millions of the traditional population of the Continent of Africa, exploited and kept them in subjugation for many years, as recorded history clearly demonstrate. That act of slavery brought great wealth and power to the individuals, their institutions and respective nations.



An apology and reparations must be forthcoming and that must be very soon. There can be no retreat on this issue. Wrong deeds are done, leaving substantive historical legacy and consequences to the enslaved posterity.



The Movement for African Reparations is as important and momentous as the Anti-slavery Movement, including plantations revolts by the captives; the Anti-Colonial and Anti-Imperialist Movements; the Civil Rights Movement; the Anti-Racist Movement; the Anti-Apartheid Movement; The Feminist Movement; and The Pan-African Movement.



There is no material difference separating the common principles which bind all these movements. The just fight for reparations, in whatever form, cannot and will not cease until the Movement’s objectives are achieved. What we got here is a fundamental test of the quality of our modern civilization, in Arabia, Europe, the Americas and key sectors of our commercial life.



The primary argument against doing the right thing - apologise and pay reparations, is that “slavery was ‘legal’ and those who were involved did not break any law and so there is no need to make an apology or pay reparations.”



European civilisation, at the time of the Transatlantic Chattel Slavery, was, and as of now is, based on laws which punished kidnappers, murderers and rapists, particularly acts perpetrated against civilians, who had not declare war against or threaten European or Arab security or their interests. As far as one is aware, there is no statute of limitation for kidnapping, murder and rape, and other general crimes against humanity.





Moreover, Arab, European and Jewish enslavers, financers and insurers of the same, had fundamental individual and collective theological beliefs and humanitarian principles based on Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As far as we are aware, given the Books of Moses, said have been written by the author of the same name, the Jewish Patriarch, in the Old Testament, Torah, Judaism strictly forbid slavery. Christianity, according to the Gospels based on Jesus Christ’s historical teachings, also forbid slavery, as applied to the African people. The Islamic Prophet Muhammad in his last ceremony made it quiet clear that ‘there was no difference between black and white, men and women, and slaves.’



The Islamic Prophet would not have allowed members of his budding “Ummah” to be kidnapped, murdered, raped, castrated and subjugated to inhumane treatments. A significant number of Muhammad early followers were Africans, like Bilal ibn Rabah (Arabic: بلال بن رباح) who was an Ethiopian born in Mecca in the late 6th century, sometime between 578 and 582.



Prophet Muhammad chose Bilal as his muezzin (a mosque official who calls Muslims to prayer from a minaret five times a day). Bilal was among the slaves freed by Abu Bakr, a high ranking Arab at the time.



Bilal was known for his “beautiful voice with which he called people to their prayers.” He played a pivotal role in the maintenance and development of early Islam, not as a slave but a freeman. Certainly, the Quran forbids the sort of inhumane treatment to which Africans were subjected under centuries of chattel slavery.



Judaism, Christianity and Islam, whose followers are generally known as the “People of the Book”, came from the same theological root, the origins of which are found in African mysteries systems.



Many of the Africans who colluded with foreign slavers, at the time, and contributed to the enslavement of other Africans, are not readily identified today. If they were, it is unlikely that they left great wealth as a result of their complicity. Whatever they might have gained, subsequent European and Arab colonisations of their lands and wealth would have removed all such legacy. Those Africans who can be identified, whose ancestors were complicit in slavery, should give apology on behalf of their ancestors. Africa’s long established principles of slavery borne no resemblance to that of European system of enslavement of Africans. For a start, racism was never present.

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The apparent spurious augment that the ‘great and good’ are refusing to apologise for slavery and pay reparations because they “have done nothing wrong” continues to undermine their own professed civilised code of conduct, here at the dawn of the Twenty First Century. It would seem that barbarity can be physical as well as intellectual. Slavery as imposed on the African people was never legal in Europe. European serfdom operated on different principles.



Putting German citizens and others into secure confinements was ‘legal’, in the German Third Reich, under the direction of the National Socialist (Nazi) government during 1933-1945, in search of a “Final Solution” by carrying out industrial murder.



Familiar names at which human barbarity were performed are now written in indelible ink in history: Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Flossenbürg , Mauthausen and Ravensbrück.



The two principal groups of prisoners in the camps, both numbering in the millions, were Jews and Soviet and Polish prisoners of war (POWs). Large numbers of Roma (or Gypsies), Communists, African People ( many of whom came from German colonies in Africa), homosexuals, as well as some Jehovah's Witnesses and others were also sent to the camps. In addition, a small number of Western Allied POWs were sent to concentration camps for various reasons. Western Allied POWs who were Jews, or whom the Nazis believed to be Jewish, were usually sent to ordinary POW camps; however, a small number were sent to concentration camps under anti-Semitic policies. These activities were ‘legal’ at the time.



The above atrocities were done within a well-established framework of bad practices. The world knew about it at the time and Germany was not challenged.



The same people who sanctioned or turn a ‘blind eye’ to the enslavement of African people were the same people, who perpetrated this terrible wrong on their own population. Islam was not involved in this human atrocity. Christians termed on those identified as “Jews and social misfits.”



Some would argue that it was not Christianity, but senior members of the National Socialist (Nazi) government misinterpretation and abuse of metaphysical and eugenic principles, and who got caught in occult practices that went wrong. The record showed, however, German soldiers were ‘blessed’ by Christian theologians as those of allied forces. Both forces claimed the support of God. And, where it was appropriate and possible, Jewish Rabbis gave their blessings to the followers of the Jewish faith, fighting with the allies.



The fundamental point here is, ethnic and social labels are not important. The core issue then and now is the ‘Human Issue’, which overrides ethnicity, colour, theologies, culture, gender, politics, nationality, social status and other considerations.



A page of modern history has now clearly shown that the call for reparations by those suffered crime against humanity in Europe, during the 1930s and 40s were given reparations and the flow of the same is real and current - rightly so.



Meanwhile, the African clarion call for reparation is being fudged at best and at worst being ignored, as was noted at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which took place in Duban, South Africa from August 31 to September 7, 2001.



Are the African people entitled to gain from Universal Natural Justice as others, like those who experienced Europe’s death camps? What can be more ‘killing’ than long, odious and destructive trips across several oceans and long hours of hard labour, working in tropical heat on Americas’ plantations, sometimes with ‘ the masters’ whips on their backs’, where Africans working life expectancy was less that the ‘life time’ of Europe’s concentration camps?



Is the delay of making the apology and pay reparations to Africans being caused by their melanin-rich skin colour, being different from those already gained reparations for their European concentration camps horrific ordeal? Or is it because Africans have not yet been elevated to ‘human status’, in the eyes of the slavers’ posterities - corporate and individuals, their financiers, insurers and government?



There is one Universal Law which overrides all laws and that is the law of Natural Justice. That is the Law on which all civilised jurisprudence, theologies, philosophies and metaphysics are based. The People of the Book, based on their adopted tenets and alleged practices, over many years before the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, cannot now present as their defense that they had “done nothing wrong” to humanity, simply because of their ancestors’ enslavement of Africans, ‘the Mother and Father of humankind’, as paleontologists reminded us, and the current generations’ failure so far to apologise and make amends.





The African Reparations Movement expects, real, active and meaningful support from the International Jewish Community. Because of the Jewish Community’s past sufferings, at the hands of unreasonable and cruel people, the Jews should be well placed to feel the pain and associated consequences being felt by many Africans, like Post Traumatic Enslavement Syndrome, affecting many of our young people today. In addition, members of the historical Jewish community had been part of the African problem. Today presents an opportunity for contemporaries to be part of the solution, as it were.





There can be no real healing until the apology is made and the process of reparations commences. An apology is straight forward. What and who must be compensated, are subject to negotiations, after the principle to make amends is agreed, and that must be soon. We, too, want to be able to say, “NEVER AGAIN”.



The Organising Committee

Slave Trade Abolition Bicentenary Commemoration Collective (STABC)

25 March 2007

E-mail: sabcc@ubol.com

Website: www.ubol.com