I just received the below blog post in my email inbox this morning and thought “wow, I could have written this!” In fact, this very thing happened to me just yesterday – excerpt there was no driving or hand holding or thigh touching…but, the conversation – inward and outward – was exactly the same. Anyway, made me laugh a bit… Enjoy.
Our first road trip.
He’s driving and talking and talking and talking. I’m listening while carrying on a separate conversation in my head.
Thinking about the gravelly sound of his voice. The way he strokes his beard. How comfortable and safe I feel.
Suddenly he says, “Wow. You really just don’t talk, do you?” He might as well have said, “Wow, you’re boring as hell”, or “Wow, you suck.” His words startle me to attention like when you’re dozing in class and a loud noise wakes you up.
I open my mouth to respond but I don’t know what to say. I can’t find the words. The truth is, constant talking exhausts me and I have nothing to add to what he’s saying. But how do I say that without hurting his feelings?
I question myself. Am I selfish? Self-absorbed? Should I try to talk more?
I go deeper into my thoughts and still say nothing. I could tell him that I just want to be in his presence, sitting next to him, listening but not listening. That I’m charmed by how animated he is talking about his coworkers and motorcycles and power tools. And that I’m preoccupied by the energy between us, how his voice vibrates through me, how he looks at me. But will he get that?
I open my mouth to speak. I close it.
I’m sure I’ve already convinced him that I’m a complete weirdo. A mute weirdo. Then suddenly, he starts again as if nothing happened. He reaches over and holds my hand. His arm feels warm on my thigh. He drives and talks and talks and talks. I listen and I stroke his hand.
On the first day of big school
when the teacher lowers her glasses
the old couple held together by
a weary frame, the unsympathetic ally
to her face before it started leaning
her shaky hands rocking the glasses along her crooked nose
to sit their heels into the trench of skin dug for the times
she needed to stand her eyes taller over them
so she could squint a scowl
at the naughty boy with a hot dog on his shirt
when her misty glasses are lowered for a scowl at you as she says “what’s your name?”
her voice passes through the the folds of cake and tea in her neck to you
you’ve practiced saying your name on a playground with friends
know the mermaid’s skin it was sown from
could pick out the sound of each vowel
dropping on top of a zinc roof in a rainstorm
your name can play a game of hide and seek
and you who know it as well as your mother
will hear it giggle under the sofa
spy the small body hold it’s breath between
the mist of leaves in your neighbor’s backyard
and since you don’t know how to hate your name
don’t know how to want it to be easy, a stripper’s nickname
like Stacy or Jess or Vee
You answer proudly
- langa/tsholofelo/nosipho/nozimanga/moeketsi/tsakani/andisiwe/lerato/ vuyelwa/thloki/boitumelo/kensani
answer through custard cheeks with your parents promise to you
when they ask for something easier
remember that promises worth making should dry your mouth
and that you are a language without acronyms
to the child sitting in the middle of a classroom with tables that swallow you
when she asks “don’t you have a Christian name?”
you will learn later that there are 6,800 languages in the world and each of them knows how to pray
so when she twists her eyes at your name
looks at the name list for something her tongue can lift and reluctantly chokes. you. out. in. syllables
like a smelly meal eaten on a sweltering summer day
in front of a garden boy she named Alex
this will be your first injury in big school
but all your mother will remember of this day
are your brave fingers and how they eventually found friends and let go
your polished feet, the shiny pinch that made you beam
she couldn’t tell if your smile was nervous or in pain
but she will remember it as a beginning
for you it will not be the last time
you repeat your name to call it off a ledge
built by a language that only lets you rent it
for public appearances and university applications
and poems like this, but it will never be yours
so for my children I will say
every lump in your name
is my demand on the world for you
let those who can’t fulfill each letter choke on it
for as long as your name holds a place
of your parent’s tribe in it, it will be too big for some mouths
still make them say it!
because only the people who can say it can see you
and baby, your soul is a face worth seeing
– Vuyelwa Maluleke
When I wrote about unity in diversity yesterday, this is kinda what I was trying to get to. That differences are good. Differences have intrinsic value. We need only to honor/celebrate that value… Whatever. This piece is taken from Teju Cole’s Open City – which is a legit awesome book.
Farouq: “He knew then that difference is never accepted. You are different, okay, but that difference is never seen as containing it’s own value. Difference as Orientalist entertainment is allowed, but difference with its own intrinsic value, no. You can wait forever and no one will ever give you that value. Let me tell you something that happened to me in class. A question was asked during a discussion of political philosophy. We were supposed to choose between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and I was the only person who chose Malcolm X. Everyone in class was in disagreement with me, and they said, Oh, you chose him because he is a Muslim and you are a Muslim. Yes, fine, I am a Muslim, but that is not why. I chose him because I agree with him, philosophically, and I disagree with Martin Luther King. Malcolm X recognized that difference contains its own value, and that the struggle must be to advance that value. Martin Luther King is admired by everyone, he wants everyone to join together, but this idea that you should let them hit you on the other side of your face, this makes no sense to me. This is not an idea I can accept. There’s always the expectation that the victimized Other is the one that covers the distance, that has the noble ideas; I disagree with this expectation.”
Julian: “It is an expectation that works sometimes, but only if your enemy is not a psychopath. You need an enemy with a capacity for shame. I wonder sometimes how far Gandhi would have gotten if the British had been more brutal. If they had been willing to kill masses of protesters. Dignified refusal can only take you so far. Ask the Congolese.”
In the following chapter he goes on to touch on representation in media…a topic that has been big in the US, not so much in South Africa…I feel the circumstances are different on our local media, but worldwide media wise, it is very much relevant to us well.
Farouq: “The American Blacks, are they really as they are shown on MTV: the rapping, the hip-hop dance, the women? Because that’s all we see here. Is it like this?”
Julian: “Well, let me respond this way: many Americans assume that European Muslims are covered from head to toe if they are women, or that they wear a full beard if they are men, and that they are only interested in protesting perceived insults to Islam. The man on the street – the ordinary American – probably does not imagine that Muslims in Europe sit in cafes drinking beer, smoking Marlboros, and discussing political philosophy. In the same way, American Blacks are like any other Americans; they are like any other people. They hold the same kinds of jobs, they live in normal houses, they send their children to school. Many of them are poor, that is true, for reasons of history, and many of them do like hip-hop and devote their lives to it. But it’s also true that some of them are engineers, university professors, lawyers, and generals. “
Farouq: “They are victims of the same portrayals as we are.”
Julian: “But that’s how power is, the one who has the power controls the portrayal.”
THEN…THEN…he gets political…
Farouq: “If we talk of portrayal, Saddam is the least of the dictators in the Middle East. The least – the most moderate. They killed him only because he defied the Americans. But in my opinion he should be admired because he stood up for the right of his country against imperialism. How many thousands more have died under the Americans now that under Saddam? Saddam was convicted of killing only 148. The king of Morocco is worse, I can tell you this: Gaddafi in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt, you can go all the way across like that – the whole region is full of dictators, and not only dictators but terrible ones. And they remain in power because they sell the national interests of their countries to the Americans. We hate the king in Morocco, some of us really hate him. This man, when the communists were ascendant in the seventies, he appealed to Islamism, but when the Islamists started gaining political strength, he catered to capitalist and secularist factions. Thousands of people died under his rule and thousands disappeared. How is this different from Saddam? But one thing I can tell you: I support Hamas. They are doing the work of resistance. (And Al-Qaeda), it was a terrible day, the twin towers. Terrible. What they did was very bad. But I understand why they did it…
“Let me tell you a story from our tradition. A story amount King Solomon. King Solomon gave a teaching once about the snake and the bee. The snake, King Solomon said, defends itself by killing, but the bee defends itself by dying. You know how a bee dies after a sting? Like that. It dies to defend. So each creature has a method that is suitable to its strength. I don’t agree with what Al-Qaeda did, they use a method I would not use, so I cannot say the word support. But I don’t cast judgement on them.”
DEEP! All this from a work of fiction…and that’s just parts of two chapters…there’s a whole lot other shit he deals with in this book. Highly recommended.
I read J’Something post yesterday on race (Black. White. Human.), and it got me thinking about some things.
I agree with him – racism is bad. It makes me sad. It utterly breaks my heart every time I hear of another racial attack. It breaks my heart that in 2015 we are still facing the same issues, fighting the same fight…still dealing with the same problems that we’ve BEEN trying to get rid off.
I disagree with him, however, on the colorblindness and human race being the only race that matters… hear me out…
I am a human, yes. But I am a black human. My race is not the problem. Being black is not the problem. Being white is not the problem. Noticing someone’s race is not the problem. The problem is when we try to derive someone’s worth/intelligence/success based on their race. The problem comes when we think we can know a person – their entirety as a human being – based on their skin tone. The problem is when you put races on some kind of hierarchy – making some races superior to others…
In short, race is not the problem, racism is. Discrimination based on race is.
“Reformation needs to occur. Projects and systems that are focused on achieving a balancing act around our country need to do their thing.” Very true. Oh so very true. But this is not the solution to racism…the solution to inequality maybe…at the very least the solution to race-based inequality…but not to racism.
I saw someone commenting on twitter about filling the world with bi/multi-racial babies as the solution to racism. I feel like that solves nothing. I am in no way against multi-racial couples creating multi-racial babies, I am however against the erasure of races…the creation of a mono-race world…because truthfully, unless we get to the root of the problem – the heart problem – it’s not gonna solve anything… I see an attempt at a mono-race society ending in a fight between the “pure breeds” and the “mixed breeds” (I realize how problematic those labels are, better phrasing anyone?)…same problem we’ve always had… And within this new multi-racial society, you’d still have different features – like today, bi-racial people have different skin tones, they have different facial features depending on the parental pairing (Black + White vs Black + Asian vs White + Hispanic, etc)…unless you tend to the root of the problem, it will never go away…it might look a little different, but it will be the same problem…
Diversity is a good thing…a great thing even. God created diversity…it’s all around us in nature. How many different species of flowers are there? And within that, how many subspecies? And then within that there are also different colors… The diversity adds to the beauty.
We tried the whole rainbow-nation-we-are-all-one-we-are-colorblind-simunye business, and yet the problem persists. Because we didn’t address the root of apartheid…at the end of the day, racism might not be sanctioned by the government anymore, but we didn’t get rid of racism…the same people who were racist then, who believed in the superiority of one race over another, still feel the same way today.
My solution for racism: unity in diversity*. (Ok fine, it’s not my solution, I kinda jacked it off our coat of arms…just rephrased it a bit…))
Unity in diversity (also commonly rendered asunited in diversity) is a concept of “unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation” that shifts focus from unity based on a mere tolerance of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, ideological and/or psychological differences towards a more complex unity based on an understanding that difference enriches human interactions. – Wikipedia
Learn about, acknowledge, respect, and appreciate our differences within races, cultures, and even down to individuals. Stop thinking you can know a person simply by their outward appearance…get to know them on an individual basis…get to know their likes, dislikes, background, culture, the environment that has made them who they are…grow an appreciation for diversity…for the great big colorful, wild, mishmash’d tapestry that makes up this human race…different, yet intertwined and interwoven – creating a whole new thing… Only then, I believe, will we see the end of racism.
I’ll just end this off by saying that I also realize that I’m not a saint. I mess up all the time. I judge people by their appearance. I’m trying to rectify this. So I join the movement with reservations, not in the erasure of races or being colorblind, but in the races working together to end racism and move forward together with true humanity.
*sidenote: found this little bit of info kinda interesting: “When the Apartheid of Republic of South Africa celebrated 20 years of independence on 31 May 1981, the theme of the celebrations was “unity in diversity” as a cynical attempt to explain away the inequalities in South African life.” So maybe I haven’t found the solution after all…
Our next stop was Serowe. Our first day in Serowe we decided to go to Khama Rhino Sanctuary – a game reserve nearby. We were given two choices – 1. Take our own car, no guide, just be back here by 5 pm; 2. A guided tour,with a guide who knows the area, and you go in a 4 x 4, but it’s only 2 hours. I picked 2 cos I figure the guide knows where all the animals are so two hours should be fine. Mom decided using our own car is so much cheaper so we should do that. Dad knows better than to argue with mom, so mom wins…anyway…the pictures below tell the rest of the story…
I think we’re all guilty of it to a degree…I think. The reason we are having such a hard time believing the allegations against Bill Cosby is because we can’t reconcile what we’re hearing from these women with Dr Huxtable. He was such a great TV dad…he can’t be a molester. It doesn’t make sense.
I also think I do it more than the average person. I think. Putting people on pedestals, that is…
Thing is, if you’re someone I like – like just a platonic like – I tend to only see your good side. I concentrate so hard on people’s good sides that even their bad becomes good.
If you’re vain, I admire your ability to love yourself.
If you’re a serial dater, I admire your ability to let go and allow new love.
If you can’t be by yourself, I admire your people-person-ness…your ability to be with people.
If you’re selfish, I admire your ability to be able to say no.
If you can’t say no, I admire your selflessness.
A friend asked me to be honest with her about what I think are her flaws/weaknesses…24 hours later I still haven’t come up with anything. Ask me what I admire in her and I could write a whole essay, but the negatives… *tumbleweed rolls by*
This causes two problems:
1. I’m so busy concentrating on other’s positive traits that I forget to look for positives in myself. I am so busy looking at what I admire in them and lack in myself that I can’t possibly see what I could offer them…what value I add in their lives…and I believe it’s why I have such a difficult time trying to figure why anyone would want to be my friend (and why I feel the need to try to figure it out in the first place).
2. People are flawed. You put people on a pedestal, they are bound to let you down. People have weaknesses and there is no script, so at some point or another they will do something that you don’t like – something that goes against the perfect script you’ve written in your head…and when they do – instead of just accepting it as a mistake – it wrecks your whole view of them…because you expect only good from them, one mistake mars the perfection, and they become the mistake.
This is the Bill Cosby dilemma. He was a great actor. He was a brilliant Dr Huxtable. The Huxtables represented the black people you don’t often see on tv…the father who stays, the kids who aren’t joining gangs, the blacks who don’t speak Ebonics, the carefree black kids, the family that attained “black excellence”…the opposite of most black characters you see on TV who make it seem as if black skin is certainty of brokenness.
So we put him on a pedestal…not the character Dr Huxtable, mind you, but the person that depicted Dr Huxtable. And when his imperfection showed, it was all we could see.
Don’t get me wrong, molestation is a serious crime. It is horrible, and in cases where the victim has to live with it in silence knowing they would never be believed over the perpetrator, I would assume it feels even worse.
Having said that, as of writing this, Bill Cosby has not been found guilty. There has, as far as I am aware, been no proof of the molestation. But even so, everything I’ve ever known about him is now viewed in light of these accusations. In as much as I find it hard to reconcile Dr Huxtable with a man capable of such, I can’t ignore the 15 women who came forward with their pain…
Also, I haven’t been following all this closely at all…I’m just picking picking up stuff from tweets and headlines…so I really shouldn’t have an opinion…
And yet here I am looking at Bill Cosby like “You were supposed to be the perfect father figure, how could you let me down so badly?”
Meanwhile, Bill Cosby never owed me anything. And he never asked me to pedestalize him. He has always been human/flawed. I created perfection where there wasn’t perfection to be found. I did that.
I so badly wanna end off with some cheesy line like, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our (Hollywood) stars, but in ourselves, that we are (/perceive ourselves to be) underlings.” but that’s too cheesy, so I won’t…I’ll end with this instead:
Convictions stick on paper. Accusations stick in the mind. And nothing is ever seen the same. – Tats Nkonzo
Our first stop in Botswana was in Gaborone. We spent two nights in Gaborone at some house. Not the greatest of accommodation, but it was clean and all the amenities were available and everything worked. The gates and burglar bars on the windows had me thinking something might go down but I sat outside till quite late and it was uber quiet…only reason I went back in doors were mosquitoes (dang mosquitoes)…
Our one day in Gabs we spent a lot of time at the Main Mall, and then we went to the 3 Dikgosi Monument which was pretty awesome…then we just spent the rest of the day driving around looking at all the buildings and stuff…
We ended off the day with dinner at Mugg n Bean at Game City Mall. We left Gaborone the next morning.