There was a well-hidden article on cnn.com today that, IMHO, is not getting the attention it deserves. It’s good to get a look at America from the outside every once in a while, and to learn that stereotypes work both ways is an eye-opening thing indeed. For those who are too engrossed by my erudite opining to click upon the link, the summary is that African immigrants to the US and African-Americans seem to have little in common. Their perceptions of each other are tainted by stereotypes proliferated by the media and Hollywood.
Even more fascinating to me than the mention of my high school is the revelation that African immigrants said that they identify more with the mores of middle class America than the individuals who have been in this nation for generations, yet claim sub-Saharan Africa as their “homeland.” Most striking of all was the admonition of Nigerian emigré Vera Ezimora, 24. Ezimora, on the subject of slavery and racism in America gave the following sage advice:
“We have all been tortured. Now that we are free, holding on to the sins of white men who have long died and gone to meet their maker is more torture than anything we have suffered.”
It seems to me that she is saying that to hold on to the outrage from the enslavement of one’s ancestors (who were all dead before most people living today were even born) merely perpetuates that enslavement by trapping a large segment of the population in a cycle of hate that gets passed from generation to generation because we don’t look beyond it to what can be if we keep our focus on the inside of a person rather than the outside.
I was fortunate enough to be exposed to all kinds of people from before I can remember. The town I grew up in was the home of the major university in the state. The property catty-cornered to ours belonged to a Filipino family (the head of which was also our family doctor) and that to our rear belonged to a black family who had held onto it for a hundred years before suburbia encroached (it had been a gift from the plantation owner who had held all that acreage where our little white-collar subdivision now stands). One thing my dad is proudest of was the fact that his mother was so far ahead of her time when it came to equal opportunity. In 1930’s Moultrie, GA, my grandmother, Mattie Lou Hall, ran the kitchens for the Moultrie schools. She was the one person in town (according to my father) for whom the black denizens wanted to work most. Their reasons were two-fold: one, she offered jobs that allowed weekends off and two, she treated everyone equally.
I had the pleasure last night of meeting a middle-aged African-American woman who is the wife of a soon-to-be-retired Marine (as soon as he gets back from Iraq). Like me, she is in a mixed-race marriage and we shared stories of our experiences in seeing the prejudices committed by our own “kind” toward those we love. I related my tale of how, when Hubby was teaching Spanish in a tiny rural district that was fairly balanced among whites, blacks, and Hispanics, he had been accused in a 2- to 3-week period of discrimination against all three groups. My response was to tell him “Congratulations: you’re now an equal-opportunity racist!”
Her tale revolved around a young black Marine who had made allegations against her husband of bias against his race. In truth the issue was that the younger Marine was unwilling to perform his duty. Over her husband’s protests that the proceedings were closed to the public, my new acquaintance received special permission to attend the hearing. When her husband’s name was called, she stood up with him. When the judge told her that these were closed-door proceedings and she would have to leave, this brave lady respectfully but firmly stated from whom she had received permission to attend and that she was going to stand by her husband no matter what. At the revelation that the Marine accused of racism had a spouse of the same race as the accuser, the allegations withered as fast as the confident faces of the accuser–and his counsel.
Semper Fi, sister.