12 September 2008

only in america

so my friend fly-brother has, in his 9/11 post, written about the growth of the passive nationalism that he has been feeling since moving to colombia.

in his post, he lists the best things about america. i can see some of them, and others... i'm a bit nonplussed. i'm almost certain that it's almost entirely due to having been raised differently than him. [this isn't any kind of value judgment, but we come from very different places and have much different experiences -- some of which, of course, could only have happened in america.]

i think, however, my parents, in particular my father, (and to a lesser extent the guy my mother *should* have married afterwards, but didn't) would have more in common with what he wrote than i would. i don't know. what i do know is that there are some things that i'm just not feeling that he's really into. southern culture is at the top of the list. i love grits, but that's about as southern as i get, and am completely unapologetic about it. people who know my paternal family history might find this really strange, as henry harris -- the first black basketball player at both auburn and the sec -- is related to me via my father's side. my american bits are *really* yankee, or more correctly, midwest. [i'm one of those people who put the midwest as starting at the susquehanna river and not the ohio state line.] i spoke dutchified english long before i spoke afrikaans on a regular basis. in fact, having dutchified english as, essentially, a language of instruction high school made afrikaans so easy to learn. [but then again, i did go to a dutch-speaking crèche and école maternelle as well.]

but, again, his post. let me think about all of this.

i don't even know what my top 10 things i appreciate about the states would be... that would require some more thought. but let's see how i fare with his top ten:

10) we're in agreement. but i've lived in europe, so i've gotten used to all of these things. that said, while living there, it's hard to find black magazines with a long lifespan, and they are more plentiful in britain than in france. everywhere else in europe [and most of latin america] they're conspicuously absent.

9) healthy lifestyle trumps healthy foods any day of the week, which a big reason why the dutch are taller than the americans. it's not the diet, that's for damn sure. it's also a reason that south africans are so short; collectively speaking, they don't eat healthily nor do they live healthily. if i'm the paragon of health in my community, something is really, really wrong.

8) see, again. london. paris. amsterdam. been there, done that. i'm really jaded about a lot of cultural stuff because, well, i've seen it everywhere. it's like working two blocks away from the white house for five years and only going to have lunch in the park outside of it when your parents are in town. [guilty of that, too.]

7) i'll concede this point, even though they do not have enough of the kinds of movies i like. love jones [points for mentioning it, ernest], the best man, brown sugar, waiting to exhale, soul food.... i was raised force-fed the "american" [read: whitewashed movies with mainly white casts that really don't speak to me] movie lines. and you know, they are generally well made. but give me movies that speak to a black boy from a established and accomplished family. [disclaimer: i didn't get to know my father's people until fairly late in life due to a really messy split up. generally, in my blog, when i say "my family" i mean my mother's people unless i explicitly state otherwise] but it's true -- rarely have i seen a movie with accomplished black people not doing some tragic mess that was not made in america. the "not-tragic mess" rules out nollywood. i know nollywood so well that all i need to do is see the director's name, and i know exactly how the movie is going to go, without even having read a review. sometimes it'll be english. other very rarely from either france or francophone africa. south africa is starting to step up to the plate, but like i say, i'll concede this point.

6) to have all of this in one country, yes, i'll concede this as well. but brazil does it as well, and for many of the same reasons. south africa is a world in one country and much of what i have seen is just awe-inspiring. but america gets the nudge because of its sheer enormity and for no other reason.

5) this is where i lose because, well, while there's some southern culture that i've done, most of which relates to food -- i'll take my knockwurst/boerewors/mofongo eatin ass... elsewhere. throughout much of my adolescence, i was constantly mocked for not being an "american" black, but i love my multi-culti caribbean/african/european upbringing that just *happened* to occur somewhere in pennsylvania. that said, these are still my people -- but for reasons beyond my control, and which i'll name later, i didn't have those experiences. unlike many black americans who weren't raised "black" because they had assimilationist parents, i don't feel that i've missed that much. [of course, it's because my parents were not assimilationist. they were pro-black in places where being pro-black was just Not Done, and that is a different kettle of fish.]

4) this really is splitting hairs, as only two countries have more people than the united states [that would be china and india]. put the european union [or even schengenland] together as whole, and you have a landmass of roughly the same size with the same number of "truly international cities" ditto for the not-amazon parts of south america. i gotta only give him 5 marks out of ten on that one.

3) this is where we agree 100%. but that success is up and down and just eww. my family tree got burned down in a few spots because of people's jealousy, which can best be summed up like this [apologies to those who have heard this one before]. i'm a dark-skinned, fourth-generation unversity graduate. worldwide, this is definitely an only in america thing. in america, it's really pretty rare, especially since my neither generations two nor three needed the g.i. bill for their university educations [which was good, because the federal government generally refused to let eligible veterans go to school on the g.i. bill. but even in "black america" this is... astounding. look at the halls of "black" unversities before the 1960s, and people who look like me are the exception, not the rule. it's no accident that the first "black" people at the flagship southern universities were uniformly dark. [or they passed, and therefore don't count.]

something ernest also touches on is just the sad state of black folks in latin america. ugh. i mean, it's depressing. there is no way in hell i could raise children there. just... none. i've had more than my share of trouble being in neighborhoods and schools throughout latin america which matched my wallet, but not my skin color.

that said, one of the main reason that i'm as multi-culti as i am is because the period from 1850 to 1950 was really hard for my family not just from white folks, but from people who are, in semi-polite conversation, referred to as "light-skinndedededed". hell, even longer than 1950, but going into it would shine an unsavory light into the reputations of more than a few shiny organizations which glorify "black" america. [psst, links members out there: when you're debating offering membership to someone, make sure the maid can't hear you. maids tend to talk amongst each other, you know?]

the white man had more than a little bit of help of running various ancestors of mine out of a certain major northern city as well as a few minor southern ones. and i'll leave it at that.

but the underlying characteristic is that they were able to do all of this in the first place and that's pretty much an only in america thing. so there you go.

2) agreed. but it's rapidly depending on where you are that you can have blatantly anti-american sentiment. if there's anything saying "osama rocks" along with the "buck fush" then you're going to cuba. and i don't mean for a leisurely stroll along the malecon.

1) i'm of two minds about this. i grew up in a stubbornly non-anglophone household, which were non-anglophone for the very reason why you have english at the top of the list. [my parents went to university in the states. they spoke english.] it was either univision or tv5 or radio-canada in the house, all the time, because the outside world was all english, in many of the places we lived; most of my education was, in fact, in english.

but when your favorite person in the world doesn't speak the language and is proud of you but doesn't really understand the big words on the fancy paper... it tends not to matter. titi's happiest 100th birthday present was a videotape of a fat, pimply, 13 year old boy with big glasses getting 6th place in the regional spelling bee [i'm not mad at having gotten sixth place, since our regional winner won the national spelling bee that year], she was so happy that her betinho was on television that she watched it over, and over and over again before she died -- even though she barely understood any of it.

but this is also the very reason i'm keeping the boy that i'll soon be raising again in afrikaans-language schools. so that his grandmother will be able to read and see, and most importantly, UNDERSTAND all of his achievements. one of the reasons that my afrikaans is as good as it is is because i want to be able to talk to her. i want to be able to let her know from my own mouth that i'm looking after him as if he was my own, just as her husband did for her daughter [the boy's mother].

but the very fact i ended up growing up so multi-culti was the shit that happened to us during jim crow.

and the particular shit, and the level of shit... could only happen in america.

i guess i need to just shut up and concede this point, too. i mean, for the past 20 years, just the way shit just keeps happening to me, people keep saying i could write a book. if i wanted the main character to be black, and have a life close to mine, what would be the most credible language to do it in? i mean, even though i grew up speaking french and spanish and portuguese [and one of the turning moments in the life of not only me, but of 20 other black boys and girls happened in a school in puerto rico, not the united states] -- it would only make sense if the following sentence started the whole thing:

"tropical storm agnes not only brought flooding throughout much of the eastern seaboard; it was also the stork that helped usher in the arrival of a bouncing baby boy."

[that said, i think my novel might have him being born during camille. we wouldn't want it *too* autobiographical, would we?]

1 comment:

Andrea Muhhrteyn said...

Copy of Comment to:
Thoughtleader: Ryland Fisher: White People Can be Among the Most Racist

You are like a bunch of doctors arguing about what kind of aspirin to administer to a patient with a massive brain tumour.

Racism is one of politicians most EFFECTIVE DIVIDE AND CONQUER WEAPONS; to enable the distraction from the reality of the DEMOCKERY: religious, corporate and national slave and cannon fodder breeding rule by a small group of oligarchs, with the mass media as their favourite Orwellian doublethink crimethought, tools of oppression and tyranny...

Perhaps the doctors themselves too have braintumours, or else where did they get their degrees in stupidity?

"Who made you so stupid?"
~ Malcolm X ~

Nathaniel "Nat" Turner