Monday, September 12, 2011

The Art of Hating Your Friends and Loving Your Enemies

Racial Superiority (Inferiority) is a Fraud

Basil Waine Kong

In response to the story: “Brownings Please” (Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011),reporting that when placing trainees from "HEART", some employers specifically request non-black employees, a reader who chose not to be identified wrote: "It really breaks my heart to see poor blacks damaging their health by bleaching. It breaks my heart to see that the content of a person's character and ability is judged by the colour of his skin. It breaks my heart to see that education, intelligence and ability have taken a back seat to the lightness of a person's skin colour."

We delight in pledging to become a united nation with the plethora of people who call themselves Jamaicans---"Out of many, one people." People from just about every corner of the world call Jamaica home. We run the gamut of personalities from those who love themselves, love their country and always work to make things a little better. Then there are those who hate themselves, bent on tearing down our country and always treat and value others better than themselves or others who look like them. Is this behavior an expression of self-hatred? Self hatred describe people of low self esteem who dislike themselves as well as the national, racial or ethnic group to which they belong. Who is the cockroach who must know their place in: "Cockroach have no business a fowl dance."

Buju Banton sings:"Mi love mi car, mi love mi bike, mi love mi money an ting/But most of all mi love mi browning."

”Di gyal dem love off mi brown cute face!
Di gyal dem love off mi bleach out face.” (Vybz Kartel and Tarik Russian)

While an enlightened Ms. Louise Bennett said in a television interview that when she was growing up, nearly everything black was bad: bad hair, that black people bad and patois bad, she nevertheless wrote:

“Donkey tink him cub a race-horse;
John Crow tink him pickney white."

A derogatory rhyme is repeated much too often by African Americans:

"Niggers and flies;
Niggers and flies;
The more I know Niggers,
The more I love flies"

Even more disrespectful in Jamaica is the phrase used to describe replacing the political party in power: "swapping black dog for monkey." or "Nutten black no good."

Because human beings generally strive to better themselves; improve their financial status and quality of life; as well as aspire to be respected and honoured; we sometimes become prey to a negative frame of reference. Often we look to others with power for affirmation, which if your are looking to people of European ancestry, requires that you submit and subjugate your values to coincide with those of white people. People of colour are bombarded with images of European values regarding beauty, intelligence and success.

We are forever strapped to the ball and chain the British stamped on us over the last three hundred years. While we are an independent country, it is impossible to declare our independence from our deeply entrenched colonial mentality. I am personally thankful to the British for cricket and golf, afternoon tea, the English language, the wonderful poetry and literature, a stiff upper lip and all that. My advocacy is not for the wholesale rejection of everything British but our continued dependence of things that obviously does not work for us. Jamaica no longer need to copy British traditions wholesale. We should take the good, reject what is senseless or even harmful and develop our own out of this mix. Good old Jamaican values of love and respect for each other should be paramount. Everything else emanate from this central value.

When a black person accomplishes something great there is a feeling among whites that this is not right. There must be something wrong as this level of success is reserved for whites. This is the basis for much of the attacks on President Obama in the United States. Lady Musgrave was so disturbed by the success of Jamaica’s first black millionaire (George Stiebel) and his opulent eleven acre house and gardens that she could not bear to see it as she traveled down Trafalgar Road so she insisted that the Governor of Jamaica (her husband) build an alternative route so she did not have to be reminded that there was a successful black man in Jamaica. The Governor complied and it is called “Lady Musgrave Road” to this day. Nothing Black people do is ever considered good enough to be accepted so blacks are constantly being called on to prove themselves. One slip and they are rejected. “I knew he was not worthy and is just a fraud.” It makes blacks feel insecure and increase their need for acceptance by whites so they act the way they believe will be acceptable to whites. You must be an Englishman to be accepted. This poison is then digested by the general population and become manifested as “You cannot depend on black people to do anything right. Only white people can do things professionally.”

Many Asians and Caribbeans carry umbrellas and wear long sleeve shirts and blouses, not as protection from the rain, but as a shield from the sunshine so they will not become darker. Advertising can at times be racially biased and instead of uplifting our spirits, they serve to tear down our concept of who we are. We then arrive at the preposterous conclusion that we are unworthy of love and become haters of ourselves, our neighbors and anyone who look like us. Self-hatred is destructive and does not serve us well. This is true badmindedness. So, let’s reject these corrupt values.

"This above all; to thine own self be true,
And it must follow as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, act 1, sc. 3

If you take the case of Michael Jackson, no amount of success could change his obsession with becoming white and having white children. Tiger Woods do not want to be regarded as black and calls himself caublasian, married a white woman and demonstrating some of the same traits as Michael. We recognize their self hatred, hope they will one day get over it but love them anyway. Or maybe we love them because we recognize ourselves in them.

As children, we adopted the traits and beliefs of our parents in the hope that we will enjoy the power and privilege that we perceive that they enjoy. Did we adopt the traits of our slave masters in the process?

Do you compulsively compare yourself with others and always conclude that you don’t measure up?
Do you respond negatively and aggressively to criticism?
Do you encourage abuse from others and rationalize that you don’t deserve any better?
Do you start fights you are sure to lose because you deserve to be battered?
Do you relish compliments and attention from whites but do not value kindness from people who look like you? (In fact, you don’t even pay them any mind.)
Do you automatically find yourself only hiring white people when you need a doctor, lawyer, accountant, builder or repairman?
When you do work for whites, do you go out of your way to do a good job but when working for a black owned company, you slack?
Do you believe that anything foreign is better than locally produced products and services?
Do you believe that ice being sold by whites is colder and is of a better quality than ice being sold by Blacks?
Do you believe that white politicians will do a better job than people who look like you?
Do Black people frustrate and make you angry because they can never do anything right?
Do you place unreasonable demands on yourself to be perfect because you believe this is the only way you can get respect and make yourself lovable?
Do you have the courage to be imperfect?
Do you hide Uncle Joe and dark complected family members from your uptown friends because you believe they will embarrass you because they talk bad and don’t know how to properly use their knife and fork?
Do you dread weddings and funerals when everyone will find out about your relatives?
When you look in the mirror do you only see your flaws?
Do you constantly criticize members of your family, belittling and ridiculing them?
Do you engage in reckless, self destructive suicidal behavior like over eating, consuming dangerous drugs, driving recklessly, and engaging in promiscuous behavior?
Do you make comments characterizing being black as ugly around your children and buy them white dolls?
Have you ever broken off a really great relationship in favor of being with a really bad person? (Do you go out for hot dogs when there is pea soup at home?)

A substantial effort continues to be made to brainwash our people into believing they are physically unattractive. Who came up with "The Black sheep of the family" to describe the family member who did not meet the family expectations? Why is there a market for hair weaves and bleaching creams? Some may arrive at self-hatred because everywhere they look, the people with dark skin are at the bottom of the economic ladder and want to identify with the winners. This process takes place for any child that feels the powerlessness of their diminished circumstances compared to the broader world. They consider themselves losers who lack resources (intelligence, personal connections, money, and influence).

When our police delight in giving white looking people and professionals a break and harass people who look like themselves, it is self hatred. When civil servants ask white people to step to the head of the line ahead of Black people, it is self hatred. When you vote for political candidates because they are white, it is self hatred. When teachers favor a white child, advance him or her and hold back a Black child, it is self hatred. When you only invite “respectable people” into your living room, that is self hatred. If you don’t have the courage to be imperfect and cannot accept the imperfections in your neighbours, that is also self hatred. Why do we continue to treat family and friends badly and save our best for guests and strangers? Why is it that the people we care about the most are the ones who hurt our feelings?

"When God looks at mankind, He doesn’t see us as different races. He doesn’t see different social standings. He doesn’t see color or creed. God looks past all the superficial things that our culture seems to magnify — what we wear, what we drive and what we look like — and He sees us all the same; not black or white, just His beautiful creation. Not upper class or lower class; just one big family." (Sharon Jefferson)

In genetic terms, all human beings, regardless of race, are more than 99.9 percent alike. What that means is that modern science has confirmed the common humanity that we first learned from the Bible and our skin tones are only skin deep. Over the centuries, we have intermarried so much so that Black Jamaicans are often more different than our ancestors in Africa. Regardless of how much black skin correlates with poverty and the opposite with whiteness, there is nothing inherently inferior or superior about skin colour and stigmatizing one group and glorifying the other is what makes it so. According to Dr. J. Craig Venter, Head of the Genome Project: "We all evolved in the last 100,000 years from the same number of tribes that migrated out of Africa and colonized the world."

If I am Black, why would I want to be white? I am Black and I am proud. I am Black and I am beautiful! As opposed to hating ourselves and our neighbours, we are admonished by God to love our neighbours as ourselves. But to do that, we must learn to love ourselves first---the greatest love of all. Let us shun self-hatred. It is counterproductive. You are a child of God, made in his image and embody the temple of the Holy Spirit. You are a valuable human being who was mysteriously and wonderfully made. Our self-worth is not based on what other people tell us about ourselves. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Your rights and privileges as a citizen of this great country are no more and no less than anyone else. In the words of Bob Marley: “Stand up for your rights” and learn to live comfortably in your own skin. Don't look at others reflections but look upon yourself. If you do so you are truly admirable. You are God’s valued and special possession. He knows everything about you and He gave you special gifts and abilities for a purpose. Whoever you may be, walk with pride and you will walk good!

Do not envy the oppressor; And choose none of his ways.
Proverbs 4:31

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Eight Near Death Experiences

Mi Hard Man Fi Dead
You can pick me up and lick me down
And I will bounce right back

While death will eventually have its day, I have had a number of near death experiences that has only strengthened my will to live well even as I tempt fate. The lesson I learned from sky diving is that if at first you don’t succeed, it’s not one of those times to try, try, try and try again. This is not for you.

Can you imagine strapping on a parachute, flying to 2 miles up and jumping out of a perfectly good airplane? The moment of terror that lived in my stomach for 7 days is just before the jump. My wife has died a thousand deaths over my decision to go skydiving. She does not complain, however, about the other passionate little deaths (la petite mort) I experience several times per week.

1. Hopping a truck
One of the pastimes in Jamaica is hoping flat bed trucks and getting a free ride. When this skill is perfected, a man can save a lot of time getting from point A to point B by waiting for a truck to come, run along until you are going the same speed preferably up a steep hill when it predictably slows down. They grab onto a side panel, pull themselves up and get a free ride. I grew up watching very skillful boys do this repeatedly without a problem. It actually looked like fun. The opportunity for me came when I was about eight years old on my way to school. As the truck slowed down on the hill next to Johnson's property, I went through the familiar routine and was feeling proud of myself that I got on without a problem and without the driver even knowing that I was on board. As the school is on a flat road, the truck picked up speed and was now way past my destination. As no one told me how to get down from the truck, in my panic, I just jumped off the truck that was now going about 30 miles per hour clearly expecting to land on my feet. Instead, the landing was a traumatic collision with the ground and I rolled around in the stone gravel. I was battered, bruised, bloody, crying and in severe pain. When I limped to school, Teacher Fargueson beat me and immediately sent me home. When I got home and told my loving, patient and forgiving Granny, she beat me as well before cleaning me up with an antiseptic (Detol) that turned the water white. She put iodine on the scrapes and scratches and crushed chick weed on the deeper cuts. I then went to bed and slept through the night. The bumps on my head (hematomas) that Jamaicans call "coco" went away after a week when Granny declared that I was as good as new. Did I stop hopping trucks? No. I just leaned that you have to hold on and run with the truck for a while before letting go. The trouble with learning from experience is that sometimes the exam comes before the lesson.

2. The Bees
I grew up loving to eat brains (fish, chicken, goat, and hog)hearing that it would make me smart. The other brain food was bananas. About a year after my road accident, I placed some green bananas in a secret hiding place and then went back a week later to gather my prize. As I stuck my hand in to retrieve the sweet bright yellow bananas, I instead disturbed a wasp nest. They immediately started to sting me about 100 times. Within an hour, my face arms and legs had swollen to four times their normal size. My grandmother merely crushed a cube of “blue” that she would ordinarily use to rinse and brighten white clothes and dabbed it on each bite. In a week, I was as good as new and brighter too. When it got dark one evening, I got my revenge. Because wasps cannot see at night, I poured kerosene on the nest and killed them all. The best part was that I got to eat my slightly over ripe bananas.

3. Running for my life(Usain Bolt was a boy to I-man).
When I was twelve years old, I got into an argument with a bigger boy who I accused of stealing the watch my mother sent for me. When he ran after me with a machete, I knew I was going to die. So, I did things I never thought was possible like jumping over walls, traversing a pond and outrunning someone who was the fastest runner on our Boys Brigade troop. I learned that day that Jamaicans are very sensitive to being called a “tief” and that I could outrun anyone. After that, whenever I wanted to run fast, I would get the adrenalin going by pretending that “Mad Ronnie” was chasing me with a machete. I subsequently became the sports champion on sports day at Springfield All Age School in 1958 as well as set a 400 meter track record at Madison high school in New Jersey which earned me a track scholarship to Simpson College in Iowa in 1963.

4. I was coming around the Mountain
I had just graduated from Simpson College in 1967 and while I was pursuing a master's degree at American University as well as got my first job working as a juvenile probation officer in Montgomery County, Maryland. I approached my new job with a great deal of optimism. Because I had met and studied Glasser’s “Reality Therapy”. I asked my supervisor to give me all the hard cases because I thought I could turn water into wine and delinquents into productive citizens. One of my innovations was to borrow the Paddy Wagon from the police department and take seven delinquents at a time to a friend’s cabin in the Allegheny Mountains. We would go on hikes, cook and ate together and at night as well as enjoy great fireside chats. One day, I was taking them down the mountain to buy some provisions when I suddenly came upon an unexpected sudden right turn that I was going too fast to maneuver around and the paddy wagon turned over three times before coming to rest against a tree. It all happened in slow motion. My nose was broken and cut, my ear was severed and there were several severe cuts on my neck and arms. I ran around trying to make sure the boys survived the ordeal. They turned away from me as if I was a hideous creature. It was a good thing that most of them were in the padded police wagon but these tough guys were all crying: “I want my mommy.” We were all bleeding and the problem that we were on a mountain with no telephone, no traffic and no access to help. Fortunately, in about an hour, another camper drove by and was able to go back and get ambulances. My daughter was only a week old and police called my wife and told her that her husband was in an accident. Not knowing whether I was alive or dead, she left Baby Jill with a neighbor and raced up to find me battered and bruised but alive to see another day. Isn’t plastic surgery wonderful?

5. Runaway Bay with Jillian
Jill was about five years old and we were vacationing in a villa in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. When I came back from playing golf, I quickly changed into my bathing suit and ran to the beach to get a quick dip in the ocean to cool off. As I swam out, I heard someone say “gulp” and realized that my precious daughter had followed me into the ocean without my realizing it. In the wide ocean, she was close enough to afford me the opportunity to rescue her. I call this one of my near death experiences because if I had lost her that day, I believe I would have just gone ahead and committed suicide.

6. Ocean City with Melanie
When my oldest daughter Jill was about fourteen years old and youngest daughter Melanie was about eleven, we were living in Columbia, Maryland and took our summer vacation in Ocean City, Maryland. We were very happy to be at the ocean. As soon as we got to the beach, Jill went with her mother to lie in the shade and read while Melanie (the tomboy) and I immediately ran and swam out into the ocean not paying any attention to the warning signs. We were having a glorious time but when I glanced back to shore, we must have been a mile out. A rip tide had carried us out to sea. We tried to swim back and were making no progress. I was exhausted and now convinced that the situation was hopeless, I told Melanie to swim for shore and not to look back. Just when I said my last prayers, I heard a voice yelling: “Grab the ring”. A lifeguard had appeared from nowhere and rescued both of us. He immediately told us to swim parallel to the shore to get out of the rip tide before swimming for shore. When I reached terra firma, I kissed the sand, thanked the lifeguard profusely for saving my daughter and me and went to join Jill and their mother. We decided not to even tell them what happened. About a year later, I got a panic attack as I recalled my daughter Melanie and I and this very close call.

7. The sleigh ride with Aleron
My youngest son, Aleron, was about 7 years old and we lived in York, Pennsylvania. After a lovely snow fall, we used an inflatable raft that we had used in the summer at the pool and went up and down the hill at the Water Commission Property behind our house. When we came home for lunch, I got inspired to tie “Judy Jet”, our huge husky/Labrador mix to the raft and visualized that the dog would just pull Aleron along at a nice pace like he would when we walked him twice per day . As soon as I uttered the word “mush”, the dog took off at about 90 miles per hour through the thick woods with me running behind in a panic yelling to Aleron to jump off. Aleron was holding on to the inflatable raft having a great time and Judy Jet kept running through the trees at speeds that made it impossible for Aleron to roll off the raft. My wife heard my yelling and running after our son and soon joined in the chase running after me with her apron and house slippers. Our older son Freddie, heard his mother and I yelling and he also joined in the conga line running after Judy Jet and the wayward raft. After what seemed like an eternity and the miraculously making it through the woods and going down a very steep hill, Aleron finally fell off the raft giggling and all of us thanking God he was safe. I on the other hand had my life flash before my eyes as I envisioned my son impaled on a tree limb which would have led to my own death-- this time at the hands of my wife Stephanie.

8. Upon the roof
After a severe storm that hit Atlanta in 2002, trees were down, the power was out and there were several limbs on our roof. I decided to be proactive and got my long ladder and went up to the roof to get rid of the debris. I did a great job but when I was climbing down, the ladder gave way and I fell to the stone patio in our back yard. My son Aleron heard the commotion and ran out of the house saying: “Talk to me Dad!” and don't move. I am calling 911. He went on to say that he had seen an episode of ER and when you fall from heights you are supposed to lay still. In my stunned state, I tested my limbs one at a time and everything worked as my son and I waited for the paramedics who rushed us to the hospital. They notified my wife, who left work probably driving faster than the paramedics. When she arrived at the hospital my Xrays showed that nothing was broken and my brain was in tact. I told them that jumping from a truck in Woodlands had prepared me for the fall.

When I walk through storms, I keep my head high and summon courage. There are a whole lot of angels guarding me. That’s why I continue to “walk good”. Don’t worry; I think I still have one life to live.