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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Politics of Pigmentation

Background

Contribution made to "Consultation" event organized by fellow people of Africans descent, for a Scotland Census 2011. This submission was not tabled by the organizer as was submitted rather reportedly "late", though advised views were "noted".

However, here are some of my views, republished for a wider audience as I believe these are important historical unjust and socially harmful connotations of the past, that we try and accommodate and even promote a number of times, most than not, unknowingly.

Have you come across those Equal Opportunity questionnaires where you find some boxes to tick, whether you are "White", "White" Others, "Black" African, "Other" African, Indian etc. The points I am making below is that these classifications are detriment to the very causes and purpose they are reported to have been established for. Please read below my submission.

Scotland Census 2011 – 21st Century Politics of Pigmentation

What are we really looking for within these global pigmentations?
Does it really matter?
Why?
I say, simply don’t promote it!
Is it or is it not, the chance to remedy the historical wrongs?
As the famous say goes: the devil is in the detail !

Many thanks to all who have taken time to write some of the circulated articles which I believe will be tabled in the event, as contribution to the debate.

I strongly feel about this debate, hence I have quickly put together my comments and views. These are, as perhaps with many contributors, own personal views, and do not represent any entity or organization that I may have links with or any affiliation whatsoever.

To this end, I will simply send some notes, just adding to more thoughts out there.

I had to go back to simple basics! What do these words really mean? We all know their meanings. Worth to have a quick glimpse and remind ourselves using the common worldwide language: English.

Last time I checked a few definitions, using the same English language we are all now using here, it read as follows:

eth·nic / Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation [eth-nik]
–adjective
1.pertaining to or characteristic of a people, esp. a group (ethnic group) sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.
2.referring to the origin, classification, characteristics, etc., of such groups.
3.being a member of an ethnic group, esp. of a group that is a minority within a larger society: ethnic Chinese in San Francisco.
4.of, pertaining to, or characteristic of members of such a group.
5.belonging to or deriving from the cultural, racial, religious, or linguistic traditions of a people or country: ethnic dances.
.......etc

skin /skɪn/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[skin] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation noun, verb, skinned, skin·ning, adjective
–noun
1.the external covering or integument of an animal body, esp. when soft and flexible.
2.such an integument stripped from the body of an animal, esp. a small animal; pelt: a beaver skin.
3.the tanned or treated pelt or hide of an animal, esp. when used in apparel and accessories; leather (usually used in combination): pigskin; calfskin.

colour - this had at least 29 different definitions or usage... in the context, I have picked this : skin complexion of a particular people or race, esp. when other than white: a man of colour.

The above are all not my own words. These are words from an English dictionary. But how do we use them in the current discussion? It is rather, how we use them where issues start to stem out!

My point being, it is plain clear what each word stands for. I am sure we all agree here.

What I challenge is the context in which the words are used in the politics of race or rather pigmentation. In the racial context, the heroes and heroines of our times and of the past, we all so much respect and admire, used the word "B(b)lack" with a capital or not, to garner political support during the struggles of their times, they didn't intend and did not use the word in any derogatory terms. To the contrary! In my view, they were and are part of unfolding history, which they found themselves in and adapted the best they could under the prevailing circumstances.

You have to remember, in those days, the word black when used in relation to people/race was commonly used by many in derogatory terms. I would imagine, the revolutionaries of the time embraced it almost as mocking their oppressors who felt that they were their "masters". The people used their masters’ own game to either attempting to ridicule or defeat them. This didn't and doesn’t mean they endorsed the derogatory message or as one of the instruments of oppression. They did their best. They worked within the then existing means.

The notion of superiority and hierarchical structures in many cultures where they would appear to promote the colour politics, the lighter and darker perceptions plays similar derogatory schemes. This is even true within many cultures where the lighter skinned may be placed in a privileged societal rank with an allowance to make mockery of the darker counterparts – within the same culture and the same ethnic group! I challenge you to all revisit your own home dialects and local languages and find out about this, especially if you are from a "non - white" ethnic group. You go to Asia like in the sub continent India, they will have some form of derogatory name-calling; you go to any African country, and you will find this. Now I ask myself, why should people of 21st century keep promoting these clearly societal anomalies?

Now take a bigger picture and go to the wider world, you will find this – with a number of evolving connotations such a “Negro”, “Darkie” and“Caffer”

When you check on the English dictionary, you will find some of the meanings of these words:

Ne·gro /ˈnigroʊ/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[nee-groh] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation noun, plural -groes, adjective
–noun
1.Anthropology. a member of the peoples traditionally classified as the Negro race, esp. those who originate in sub-Saharan Africa: no longer in technical use. ASK YOURSELF WHY?
–adjective
2.of, pertaining to, or characteristic of one of the traditional racial divisions of humankind, generally marked by brown to black skin pigmentation, dark eyes, and woolly or crisp hair and including esp. the indigenous peoples of Africa south of the Sahara.
3.being a member of the black peoples of humankind, esp. those who originate in sub-Saharan Africa.
[Origin: 1545–55]

See how the word black is used above with the definitions. Language is a vehicle for any culture. The words are as important as the message they convey and represents the thoughts of those uttering them. They represent what is inside.

I can’t stop asking, what does pigmentation have to do with services planned? If the census is for numbers, then why not simply Africans? Isn’t that enough? Or will Africans hide a lot?

You perhaps can see my reasoning. I will not shy for a second to categorically state that – Yes Indeed, I do strongly support the use of African as a grouping of people from the continent of Africa and or with African descent. There could be an argument to take it further to countries, but that becomes nationalities – which perhaps may bring a different debate to perhaps suggest we simply use nationality – period! I have no qualms with that either, as the numbers can be served with that model as well. Unless the motives are different!

Personally, I would like to see the use of word black in the above context confined to history, just as much as the other similar words in similar context have. Promoting the status quo or anything resembling is something personally do not and will not endorse and frankly I see it as creating a sense of own-betrayal.

For reasons stated, I for one will not fill in such forms as they represent continuation of the wrong intentions. I perceive them as furthering the promotion of the historical wrongs. Our generation has an opportunity to change the trend, and that change is a small step in the right direction. If I were to borrow the phrase: confine the context and words to a place where our future generation will one day refer to the English dictionary or own language and discover something just as much as “ no longer in technical use”

Apollo BS Temu
Edinburgh, Scotland
October 23rd, 2007

2 comments:

Temu, A.B.S October 16, 2010 at 3:55 PM  

Did you know that:

The "Black Death" was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. It is widely thought to have been an outbreak of bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, although this view has been challenged by a number of scholars. Usually thought to have started in Central Asia, it had reached the Crimea by 1346. From there, probably carried by fleas residing on the black rats that were regular passengers on merchant ships, it spread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. The Black Death caused large black swellings on the body.

The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% - 60% of Europe's population, reducing the world's population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in 1400. This has been seen as creating a series of religious, social and economic upheavals which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe's population to recover. The plague returned at various times, killing more people, until it left Europe in the 19th century. Because the plague killed so many of the poor population, wealthy land owners were forced to pay the remaining workers what they asked, in terms of wages. Because there was now a surplus in consumer goods, luxury crops could now be grown. This meant that for the first time in history, many, formerly of the peasant population, now had a chance to live a better life. Most historians now feel that this was the start of the middle class in Europe and England.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Death

Why would anyone want to embrace such "labeling", this is something I struggle to reconcile.

Apollo TEMU June 2, 2015 at 1:18 PM  

Indeed ....

and Jonathan approves this message indeed ....

https://www.facebook.com/ajax/sharer/?s=11&appid=2392950137&id=10152043147985539&p%5B0%5D=10152043147985539&sharer_type=all_modes

We as the people, will get there! There ain't a thing like Black and or White ! I have said it before and will say it again and again.

There shall come a time when these words and or expressions will be confined to History!

Listen to Young African American Jonathan carefully, and this is the future - and you better believe it! Wake Up Brothers and Sisters ! Just Drop IT!

Karibu kwenye ulingo wa kutafakari kuhusu tunapotoka,tulipo,tuendako na namna ambavyo tutafika huko tuendako/Welcome to a platform for reflecting on where we are coming from, where we are, where we are going and how we will get there

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