Author Archives: Malaka

Confession: I Have A Thing For Pale, Frail White Men

Interracial dating and marriage can be a very tricky thing, depending on your geographic location. My sister went to California a few years ago with her Black American boyfriend and came back to report that they were the oddest couple in whatever city she was in. (I forget.) NO ONE was dating anyone of the same race. In Ohio, every third person is of some sort of mixed heritage. With a few exceptions and further south, however, we all pretty much stick to our “own kind”. We still have yet to truly heal the wounds of slavery and Jim Crow, and up until just recently, one of the WORST things you could do was date outside of your race. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop a sistah from looking, does it?

Please, I beg you. I am very happily married to my husband and my eye is not wandering with the intention of picking up a side piece. I am merely here to confess to you that there are certain aesthetics in the opposite (and white) sex that I appreciate…those aesthetics being the appearance of needing a hot meal or six and a big bossomy hug. Yes folks: I find pale hungry looking white men attractive, and if I had been braver, I would have sought one to bring home to introduce to my parents. However after my mother go completely ape on my brother for taking the Russian girl as his date to his prom, I knew she would pull a full on Lady Galadriel if I showed up with a fiancé named Brad. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop a sistah from looking, does it?

galadriel

Black men got over the hurdle of interracial dating a long time ago and have gone full throttle in their pursuit of lighter/whiter skinned women. Popular culture made this shift easier for the brothers to navigate as well and 20 years or so ago, this was a cause for distress for Black women, myself being one of them. As time has passed though, Black women really couldn’t care less whom Black men date/marry. In the 1980s and 90s, watching a Black man open doors and dine white women felt like a slap in the face, but I assure you it doesn’t sting nearly as much now. It’s just one of those things that has become normalized within our culture, like gay marriage or nylon socks and Nike beach slippers. Weird at first, but meh in the long run. The other day I saw a (Black) dude walking with his (white) woman to Chipotle. I looked at me with terror in his eyes, like I was judging him or something. It took all my strength not to shout “Bruh! It’s all good! I’m just here to get a burrito…not monitor your love life!”

I digress.

Back to that whole bravery thing: I am always intrigued by comments people pass when Black women are brave enough to date not only outside their race – but to date white men in particular. These comments are often passed by Black men. Here’s a small sample:

“She must really hate herself to be with a white guy.”

“I bet he thinks he’s on safari.”

“I wonder if she calls him ‘Massa’ in bed…”

These were all the comments that were passed at a bar-b-que I attended here in Atlanta a few years ago when this FOINE Ivorian girl showed up with her geeky white boyfriend. I didn’t know either of them, and to my shame, I didn’t defend them. I suppose I was just amazed to hear the audible thoughts of Black men on this subject. I can’t help but wonder what people might say about me, given the type of white man I find attractive.

Chris Pine is a very good looking man, and so was Paul Walker (God rest him)….but I would pole vault over both of them to make my way to Benedict Cumberbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch? The frail looking chap with the crooked nose? Yes! That very same one. The one with the intense eyes and the soothing baritone voice. But should it behoove Benedict to beware of me, I would immediately turn my attentions to Alexander Vlahos, the skinny Welsh kid with those dreamy blue eyes. The way I would punish him, eh? He doesn’t know! Serve him up with a side of Buddy Holly and we have a proper pale-frail buffet!

Buddy_Holly

I can see your faces. You are aghast. What kind of self-respecting African woman likes a white man whom she can subjugate and conquer? But that’s just the point, isn’t it? It wasn’t tall, strong white men who orchestrated the takeover of the entire globe, was it? It was the little devious ones with the devilish eyes. They made you trust them, them BAM! They made off with all your artifacts and your cultural dignity. I suppose my desire cum attraction is some visceral need to avenge the wrongs done to people of color centuries ago. Of course, that’s not true at all. I know exactly where my appreciation stems from.

Source: mnn.com

Source: mnn.com

When I was in elementary school, there was a kid named Todd that was in my third grade class. Todd was tall, blonde and brilliant. Todd had a late birthday in December, which also made him one of the older – and therefore more mature – kids in our class. Once, we had a project to do. President Regan was visiting our school and we had to make signs to welcome him. None of the other kids would work with me because I was an “African booty scratcher”, but Todd came over to my table and gave ideas about what my sign could say to welcome the president. I crushed on Todd like no third grader had ever crushed on a boy before! I tried not to be all weird about it, so I showed by appreciation for his kindness by refusing to speak to him or moving away from the lunch table when he sat down next to me.

*Sigh*

People in general make a lot of assumptions about interracial couples, but there is usually one constant when one half of that couple is a Black woman. Folks usually assume – and remark with pity – that that woman is being “exoticised” by her white partner. That could be true. I met a white man who only dated women of color – any color – because he really did think he was on a dating safari. I don’t have a problem with this sort of thinking, except in the way that it treats women like objects. You don’t think we also exoticise people of other races? I used to work with this Serbian guy named Vladimir that was so washed out and pale, he made rice look tan and toasty; and I was taking him to lunch every chance I got. Took him outside and showed him off like he was my favorite Serbian accessory. We were both married and wore rings, and I reveled in the quizzical looks that people would give us when we sat in public laughing like the great friends we were. What would such a gawky looking white guy and a buxom Black woman with natural hair have in common? Plenty, it turns out.

Sisters! Sisters looking for a date! Sisters looking for a good husband! Do something for yourselves. Tomorrow is Saint Patrick’s Day and the Irish boys will be out en force. Don’t let them fool you: they like Black women and like them very well! (Except for the overtly racist ones, of course.) They are just afraid they will be rejected or worse, cussed out by a Black woman in public. Wink, flirt, wear a green wig and learn an Irish jig or two. Knowing the words to a Bob Dylan song or two never hurt either. You’ll be wed and making little leprechauns in no time.

Is President Mahama a Satanist?

goathead3

Now keep in mind I’m just asking a question: I’m not making any accusations– but what’s with the mysticism and animal references in Ghanaian politics? Well, specifically NDC politics, if I’m just going to be completely honest. Ghanaian politics is more like a circus than a serious venture focused on nation building, and every good circus has a zoo element to it. But the NDC has just taken it too far with this whole “I have dead goat syndrome” thing.

For those who don’t keep up with the news from back home *ahem* A-Dub *ahem*, YOUR de facto president and mine just went to Botswana and said:

“I have seen more demonstrations and strikes in my first two years; I don’t think it can get worse. It is said that when you kill a goat and you frighten it with a knife, it doesn’t fear the knife because it is dead already. I have a dead goat syndrome.”

Don’t you dare laugh. This niggro actually got up in front of his constituents in another African country and referred to himself as a hollow-horned ruminant zombie.

Less than a year ago, Anita De Souza was holding dwarfs culpable for the rapidly depreciating cedi, saying that they were slipping into banks, stealing the country’s currency and using it for all manner of nefarious activities. Fine. We all had a laugh about it.

Sprinkle in the Tweaa DCE incident and there was enough comic relief to keep tensions at a minimum. But NOW, President John Mahama has not only pushed the envelope, upped the ante and crossed the line, he has set our whole house on fire by intimating that he is not only ineffective as the country’s president, but the cries of the nation fall on DEAD ears. Not deaf that can be restored by the power of Christ or Shiva ooo.

DEAD.

goats_head_soupBut why a goat? Isn’t that the symbol of Satan? Is President Mahama into demonic worship? Nah dude! I’m serious! I made a joke about Ghana and its leadership being covered in the blood of Satan and under his power…but it was a JOKE. Mahama n dem done took it too far this time. It was all fun and games until he busted out with the Baphomet idioms and that half-crazed look in his eye. Did you SEE his face when he made the announcement that we can shake a blade at him and he would be unmoved? He can’t feel what the ordinary citizens are going through because mentally, he’s not even on this planet y’all!!! Dude is saying there is NOTHING we can do to make him work any harder to ease the suffering of the people ‘cause he’s a spirit. A phantom. A specter. A deceased freaking GOAT.

That’s not okay.

Mmmmm. Discuss. ↓

 

In Desperate Search of Black Leather Luxury

My friend Toyah dropped by the house the other night while I was hiding from my children in my room. We struck up a conversation about life – Black life in particular – in America. This is important to tell you, because the discourse Toyah and I typically engage can be described as anything but “deep”. In fact, it’s usually pretty juvenile, which is just the way I like it. But last Friday was different, and it signaled a turning point in my shopping habits as an adult African/African-American consumer.

“Did you know that the Black dollar only circulates once in the Black community?” she mulled.

“Yeah. I know.”

It was a statistic I had grown up hearing: how the Jewish dollar circulates 83 times within its own community and juxtaposing that with the rate at which the Black dollar flees the community. Here’s another way of looking at it from the NAACP:

“Currently, a dollar circulates in Asian communities for a month, in Jewish communities approximately 20 days and white communities 17 days. How long does a dollar circulate in the black community? 6 hours!!! African American buying power is at 1.1 Trillion; and yet only 2 cents of every dollar an African American spends in this country goes to black owned businesses.”

We talked about how the dollars we earn are immediately spent on enterprises we don’t own in part or en masse: utilities, housing/rent, clothing, food, public transportation. If it weren’t for Black barbers and hairdressers, the African American dollar might spend even less time in the cycle than it does now! I thought about my spending habits when I cast my eyes towards my closet where I house dozens (my husband would say hundreds) of shoes and a brand new Michael Kors purse I had been craving and coveting for nearly a year. When I had saved up $300 in disposable income (something that’s hard to do when you have this many people outgrowing shoes and clothes weekly), I went online and gleefully gave Mr. Kors the expendable fruit of my labor. As Toyah and I talked, the less I began to like my red saffiano tote.

“I’m going to return it,” I declared.

She laughed, but I was dead serious.

“No, really. It’s way too big and at $300, I need to LOVE it…not be looking for ways to make it work.”

I sat on my decision for another 24 hours and early Saturday morning, I returned my MK bag to Macy’s. I was further encouraged to return the item when I stumbled across a rather provocative article that intimated that luxury brands like Michael Kors and Coach were losing their value as price points for particular items fell to where they were accessible to middle income and minority shoppers . If you recall, this is the same phenomenon that struck other “iconic” American designers, and we were the segment of society that was blamed for the demise of labels such as Tommy Hilfiger. Humph!

I didn’t expect to feel as much satisfaction as I did when I returned the bag, but that still left me money to spend and a desire to spend it; so I began an online search for Black owned businesses that carried luxury leather items. I would wear them with as much pride as I would any other mainstream label. Have you heard of any Black owned luxury labels? Neither have I – and I didn’t expect it would be so difficult to find one!

After 3 days of fruitless Google searches and inquiries on Twitter, I finally happened on three websites which I held on to for dear life! I felt like a Backyardigan on an imaginary chase. Did these items actually exist, or were they a figment of my imagination? They are real, guys! And I’m pleased to be able to share them with you:

Deondra Jeree – USA

dejereeBorn in a small town just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana, designer Deondra Jeree Morris fuses her southern roots with her big city savvy to create effortlessly stylish handbags.  Already Featured in fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines such as Lucky and Ebony, 22 year old Deondra Morris is the designer and creative director of the Deondra Jeree collection.  At age 19, Deondra worked for the Independent Handbag Awards located in New York City, where she was inspired to launch her own handbag collection in late 2013.

I love Deondra’s simplistic approach to design. The frames and shapes she’s chosen are timeless and translate easily from one function to another. I would never use a $700 bag as a sleek “Mommy purse” to carry around juice boxes and graham crackers…but it’s a nice idea to think that I COULD.

Price range: $100 – $700

www.deondrajeree.com

Minku – Lagos

Minku-Autumn-Winter-Minku is a Nigerian maker of quality goods established in 2011 and specializing in leather bags for men and women. The brand defines a fresh sub-Saharan aesthetic through its subtle use of cultural elements and artisan approach to contemporary bag-making.

What I love about this brand is the distressed look of the leather and the details the designer incorporates. Those details include the cross-knot stitch that runs along the seams of several of the duffel bags and hobos.

Price range: $60 – $1,000

www.minku.com

Gregory Sylvia – USA

gregCo-founded by husband and wife Gregory Pope and Terri “Sylvia” Pope, Gregory Sylvia is a fast growing luxury leather goods and lifestyle brand.

I got a chance to speak with Gregory, the husband half of this duo and explained what brought me to his website. He was surprised it took me three days to find them. I chalked it up poor search terms and asked him about his business.

“We saw the same thing in the marketplace that you described,” he confirmed. “African Americans with disposable income and a desire for quality, luxury brands, but there were no owners of those brands who looked like us.”

Gregory and his wife, Sylvia, sought out to create a brand that African Americans – and anyone eventually else – could wear. The company was started with the Greek Collection, which offers classic crossbodies and totes in the colors of four African American sororities.

This is where it gets sad for me: red is my favorite color, and the only bag that have in red is under the Delta Sigma Theta collection. These bags are only available to members of those particular sororities, not to rabble such as myself. It took everything in me not to weep! Nevertheless, there is a very elegant bag called the “Ellington” that I have my sights on. I think I will be okay without the Crimson Crave…eventually.

Price range: $110 – $370

www. gregorysylvia.com

 

Are there other Black/minority owned luxury brands that you are aware of? If so, I think you should share in the comments section below! And when you do comment, make sure to leave out the words “Made in China”, “unnecessary obsession” and “first world problems”. We only want positive contributions here. :)

I Want to Go on a Safari Adventure…in Detroit.

poor africans

I was minding my own business on Twiraa early this morning when this image floated down my time line. Ah. What was this poverty I was seeing? And why had it been retweeted so many thousands of times? Oh. My. GAWD. What were these sanctimonious responses to the image?

“Don’t ever complain about the cost of water! Just be happy you can afford to pay it!”

“The poor, poor African kids. Makes me appreciate what I have more.”

Saa? You needed images of African children drinking from a river of slurry mud to make you grateful for what you have? Don’t you live in the United States of America? Do you know how many people living in third world conditions right in your own back yard? You pass them every day! One of them may have even served you coffee or flipped your burger this afternoon. They are America’s working poor, my friend, and there are 10.4 million of them.

Well, just who are the working poor? Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • 7% of the total work force
  • 14% of Blacks; 14% of Hispanics; 6% of Whites; 5% of  Asians
  • 8% of women; 6% of men
  • 21% of the labor force with less than a high school diploma; 9% of high school graduates with no college education;  5% for those with an associate’s degree and 2% for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Most likely young: rates were highest for 16 to 19 year olds (13%) and 20 to 24 year olds (14%) and lowest for those over 65 (2%)
  • 16% of part-time workers; 4% for those employed full-time

Now, that’s a LOT of people and chances are, you and I encounter these folks regularly and don’t even know it. After all, the working poor do work, which means they interface with the public at large. My question is: Why is American poverty so much easier to hide than African poverty? I’ll tell you why. It’s because African poverty is sexy…and just like all things sexy, it’s out on display for everyone to see. Like GG breasts – just hanging out there BOLD for anyone to get an eyeful of. American poverty employs a lot less temerity. It is shy, and tries to remain hidden. Or perhaps it is America itself that tries to keep it from the view of the rest of the world. But if you know where to look for it, you’ll find it; and its reality will shock and awe you just as much as African poverty will.

That’s not true. American poverty will render you more awestruck because it’s AMERICAN, and therefore bigger and better.

Sometimes when I go home to Ghana, I encounter a cabal of foreigners who approach children playing by the roadside and briskly begin snapping pictures of them. These kids are often muddy and barefoot because it’s easier to play ampe or football without your flip flops on. 3 times out of 10, one of these kids will end up on a Feed the Children poster in the UK. You want to know why those kids in those posters are smiling “despite the fact that they are poor”? Because the photographer caught them in the midst of play! Poverty doesn’t look like that. Really, really poor people don’t have rosy cheeks and a shine in their eye. Really, really poor people look like those rascals in Detroit.

They are mean muggin’, tobacco chewing, liquor drinking, hopeless souls muttering to themselves and praying for Spring to come. Honestly, I don’t know why so many Americans travel to Africa to see how the poor survive and to “do some good for the less fortunate” when they could save time and money and just do to Detroit.

It’s abysmal.

Did you know that there is a water crisis in Detroit? The city has shut of access to water to hundreds of its citizens. Yet the face of every water program I’ve EVER seen is an 8 year old African boy, just a-cheesin’ at the sight of gushing water coming out of a pipe.

Did you know that the unemployment rate in Detroit is 23%? Twenty-three percent! This rivals any African nation. At least we have a burgeoning informal sector. We will sell tomatoes and dog chains. Detroit just has 23% of its population that is unable to access work that they are qualified for…period.

Let’s not even discuss housing in Detroit. Okay, yes…let’s discuss it. Here’s a picture.

Not quite a shack in a Township, but has just as much "character".

Not quite a shack in a Township, but has just as much “character”.

What kind of person do you think lives in a house like this? The kind of person you’d like to take a picture of, eh? The kind of person you’d expect to encounter whilst on safari in Africa, right? Just wild and brooding and speaking unintelligibly. If you’re nice, he/she might even let you snap a photo of them with your kids.

So folks, this summer when you’re thinking about where to spend your dollars on some expedition or adventure, think about Detroit. There’s plenty of gunfire. There are people warming themselves with open flames in barrels. The infrastructure is crumbling ALL around you. You don’t have to go all the way to Africa to do your well-meaning liberal work! You can just go to Detroit.

The husband doesn’t know it yet, but that’s where we’re going for our 10 year anniversary. He said Zanzibar or Ibiza, but who needs blue ocean water and sandy beaches? That’s so played out. I’ve been wanting to do something exciting and out of the ordinary. What can be more thrilling than running for your life in a decomposing city? Shhhh….don’t tell him. It’s a surprise!

Happy International Women’s Day to Ewuraffe Orleans Thompson

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International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900’s, and began as a celebration of the strides women were making during the Suffragette Movement. Women were demanding better pay, improved working conditions and the right to vote. It started in New York and fanned out from there. Today, International Women’s Month spends 31 days in March to address all the ills, injustices and scourges that come hand in glove with gender inequality while celebrating those women (and men) who are the champions of those causes. There are dozens of iconic women and girls that come to mind when Women’s Day/Month come to mind, none of whom does not come without a whiff of controversy at the mention of their names: Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem, Malala Yousafzai, Chimamanda Adichie, the list goes on. You get a feel for the ilk of women who are celebrated the world over.

Some of these women set out to plot a course of recognition for both themselves and/or whatever faction of the feminist movement they fall under. Some became reluctant icons and symbols of the global plight of women. Hundreds of thousands of women still who fight for gender equality the world over will never have their names or deeds recorded in history. The acts of resistance against cultures and policies that serve chauvinism – rather than humanity – may seem small in their eyes, but they are part of an eternal chisel that chips away at the petrified cocoon that protects the patriarchy and shuts out the basic rights of women as humans.

For me, Ewuraffe Orleans Thompson represents one of such reluctant symbols of the African woman’s fight for justice and dignity.

But for a chance encounter with another Ghanaian “icon” (and the word is used a bit too liberally in Ghanaian culture), Ewuraffe Thompson could have gone on to live a normal middle class Ghanaian life, graduated university and become someone’s wife/mother or a businesswoman. I don’t know her personally, and in all the media reports that were churned out for 24 hours and three successive months, no journalist ever bothered to find out what her aspirations were as a young woman first. The goal of the Ghanaian media was to paint her as a loose girl who had no one to blame for her assault and victimization but herself. Ms. Thompson was (allegedly) violently raped by KKD – a reported child predator and rapist – late last year.

For the benefit of full disclosure, I also had a run in with KKD when I was a 12 year old girl. I’ve written about how my parents probably saved me from becoming a victim of molestation at his hands. There are some who would say I am biased/uncharitable/lying when I discuss KKD and some of those accusations may be true. I have no words for these people…just a huge, swollen middle finger, brought on by the rigors of my premenstrual flow. I have zero tolerance for folks who support rapists in the name of playing “the devil’s advocate”. Now that my position has been made clear, let’s carry on.

After her attack, Ms. Thompson took the brave step to report the incident immediately to the police. I say she was “brave” for a few reasons. 1) 95% of rapes that are committed in Ghana go unreported. 2) Victims who DO report are often re-victimized by untrained and judgmental police officers (depending on the precinct) who question a girl/woman’s morals by asking her what she did to provoke the attack. 3) KKD is a powerful man in Ghana, with many influential friends in entertainment, the media, the judiciary and business. Plus, as a man, he automatically has the benefit of Ghanaian chauvinist culture to shield him from the perception of wrong-doing. Virtue – as we know in most of Africa – is the province of women…and it is on our shoulders and between our thighs that virtue lives or dies. The morals regarding sex become our burden to bear and protect. It’s nonsense; but as a 19 year old girl, Ewuraffe Thompson forged ahead, lodged her complaint and put her trust in the Ghanaian criminal justice system. And because of that, she has become one of the most polarizing figures of our time.

Battle lines were immediately drawn in the sand once news of KKD’s lurid action became public. It was impossible not to choose a side. The incident made many men and women check their beliefs about gender equality, classism, ageism and views about women. Lawyer Maurice Ampaw even went as far as to say that “there is no need to rape a Ghanaian woman” because we are “easy to get into bed, submissive and give sex freely”. As disgusting and incredulous as this sounds, these are the ideals that too many men operate on in the country. They believe that not only do they have a right to access women’s bodies, but it is for women to make themselves easily and quickly available to service the sexual desires of men. When Ms. Thompson filed this report and refused to go quietly away – as so many other women who had been victimized by KKD and other powerful men have done in the past – it challenged the status quo and people were shaken.

Ms. Thompson would eventually go on to withdraw her complaint after the pressure and the media scrutiny became too much to bear, but in a stunning move that shocked the culture, State prosecutors chose to pursue the case on her behalf. Very few people – myself included – expected this to happen. KKD and his legal team were certainly shocked. In a country where an Member of Parliament can go unchallenged and unchecked by his colleagues or superiors after calling for women to be stoned or hanged to death, hardly anyone could dare to hope that the State would take up the cause of ONE girl who had been violated in the most degrading of ways. For those of us who truly believe that women deserve to exist as whole human beings, it gave us hope and made us proud of our country.

This is why I want to publicly wish Ewuraffe Orleans Thompson happy International Women’s Day. She may not see herself as a champion, but her sacrifice has not gone unnoticed. Her anguish was not for nothing. Though sexist sections of our society tried to (and still do) shut her and other victims down, they have to see now that they will not be met with timidity or with no opposition. We will continue to fight for and celebrate those women who only want the one thing that all living beings want: the right to live with dignity in their own skin.

Ghana at 58: Neither Independent Nor Free

There is a general sourness in the mouths of Ghanaians this year at the mention of Independence on this 6th March. Save for the few individuals who have committed to celebrating the beauty of Ghana – since her successes have been so few in most recent memory – there is not much hope in the country. The sentiments are a far cry from the emotions that governed Ghanaians during the first night independence was declared 58 years ago. If you were in Accra at the Black Star Square, you couldn’t help but celebrate. Today, Ghanaians are indifferent to if not in mourning over the trajectory the country has taken. We are indeed a failed state.

But why is that? Every country has its challenges. Even the leviathan that is the United States went through a decade of recession and eventually pulled through, so what is it that has Ghanaians in general feeling so hopeless? From what I have gathered in conversation, it is a subliminal realization – though not yet accepted – that Ghana is still under colonial rule. We are still a repressed people, burdened by the yoke of an obdurate master… and our colonizers look just like us. Now that the British Empire is no longer our task master, we have replaced their role with something far worse: Ghana and Ghanaians are groaning under the affliction of internal colonialism.

Internal colonialism is a term used to describe the distinct separation of the dominant core, from the periphery in an empire. This term derives from Colonialism which is “the subjugation by physical and psychological force of one culture by another… through military conquest of territory” . The term was created to describe the “blurred” lines between geographically close locations that are clearly different in terms of culture. Some other factors that separate the core from the periphery are: language, religion, physical appearance, types and levels of technology, and sexual behavior.

‘Internal colonialism’ is a notion of structural political and economic inequalities between regions within a nation state. The term is used to describe the uneven effects of economic development on a regional basis, otherwise known as “uneven development”, and to describe the exploitation of minority groups within a wider society.

 

Flag of Gold Coast

Flag of Gold Coast

I believe that since our president (past and present), parliament, judiciary and clergy have no inkling on how to rule or run a country, they have fallen back on the tactics of our old oppressors i) because those are effective, and ii) because our leadership is lazy and governed by the same motivation that brought the Europeans to Africa’s shores in the first. That motivation is greed. It is an insatiable greed and lust to pleasure self that has led Ghana to the pathetic state she is in now. At 58, she should have been crowned in glory…but the country is literally a filthy pauper – mired in her own human filth and pleading with the IMF for loans in exchange for her body and soul.

What were these tactics that the Europeans employed that our current government (not just at the executive level, mind you) is using to their advantage? I have identified 5. Scholars of history may be able to provide more, and I hope they will in the comments.

  1. Divide and Conquer

This is not the oldest tactic the Europeans used, but it is definitely the most effective. Once they saw how easy it was to destabilize Africans and their power bases by aggravating their differences, the method was replicated all over the continent. Those in power do the same thing today, with the most recent example being the kerfuffle over the practice of differing religions in schools across the country. We have to ask ourselves: who benefits from this sort of unrest?

Examples in other areas abound, including ageism, tribalism, gender inequity, and abrochifor and omanfor (those who live abroad and those who choose to stay in country). In my view, the lattermost division may be the most dangerous phenomenon in today’s global economy. When South Africans were in the struggle for an end to apartheid and for Mandela’s release, students and activists helped the needle turn tremendously when they pushed for divestment in South Africa. Suddenly, the Apartheid government sat up when the economy was at stake. Similarly, Ghanaians on the ground and abroad need each other as allies. I need you to show up for protests, and you need me to show up at my American senators office to press him not to invest funds into the pockets of corrupt officials.

  1. The use of violence to quell descent

One of the most effective ways to keep a population in fear and in a box is the use of violence. Sir Gerald Hallen Creasy was a British colonial administrator with a bloodlust who oversaw the public murder of 63 WWII vets when they demonstrated against the termination of their war benefits. In similar learned behavior, Kwame Nkrumah had suspected enemies of the state jailed without trial, and President Rawlings sanctioned the murders of numerous public figures he considered enemies of the regime.

Recently, when the Occupy Ghana demonstrations took place in 2014, the world was shocked by pictures of police in tanks, heavy riot gear and fire arms to meet the protestors who were mostly businessmen and women, artists and geeks. Thankfully, there was no bloodshed, but it was enough to remind the citizens that the government is never above that option.

  1. Control of the food supply

Ghana is a cocoa producing country because that’s what the British needed to fill their coffers: cocoa. The Crown decided which cash crop was to be mass produced for export and pecuniary gain. Palm kernels, coco yam and cassava grow equally well in Ghana, but they held little value for the British. Today, our government still decides where resources for agriculture should be invested, and it often has little to do with the benefit of the Ghanaian people. With gari prices soaring, there is still little concentrated effort being put into cassava production and processing. What’s worse, a GMO agenda is being rapidly and violently pushed through parliament without ANY input from the citizens that will eventually ingest these foods. If not halted, companies like Monsanto will gain control to Ghana’s food chain from farm to table, and the country will find itself in the vice grip of yet another international conglomerate.

Control the food supply, control the people.

 

  1. Economic dependence on a ‘Master’ figure

This one is pretty self-explanatory. The world – and a fair number of Ghanaians – did not think that an Independent Ghana could survive if it cut itself from the Queen’s purse strings, but not only did the new nation wean itself from foreign “aid” (aid that was generated from raw materials stripped from its soil), it went on the become one of the fastest growing economies in that era. What we have today is a return to that same pre-colonial mindset. Not only can we not imagine ourselves living independent of foreign aid, our Black neo colonizers have placed us deeper and deeper into the debt of our rivals like India and China…and this after we had our HPIC status wiped clean just a decade ago.

  1. Invoking a deity to prey upon the suspicions of the people

‘When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.’ –Desmond Tutu

Religion has always been an effective tool for suppression. Human beings are not just made of flesh and bone; we are also part spirit and soul. The use of mind tricks and the threat of spiritual torment if one does not conform to the status quo is how slaves were made to pick more cotton and how the Irish were made more docile. Abolishing and destroying the memory of any other religion besides the one the oppressor sanctions guarantees this. And there’s a benefit: when the oppressed soul does well, it is blessed; but when it does not, it is punished. (Spoiler alert: Even in the Bible we know that’s not true, because God allowed Job to be tested and abused, and he was considered the most devout soul in his generation.)

This is what the British did to us, and this is precisely what our government still practices today. Ghanaians are goaded by presidents and MPs into praying for God’s blessings and told that promises and policy will come to pass “by the grace of God.”

False! Charlatans! Steady, consistent work and actionable plans will make your policies and agenda come to fruition, not this hocus-pocus Christianity/Islam you practice as a group! I spit on your false piety! You have the money and the power, and the people have only their Bibles!

So as you see, Ghanaians have little to be joyous about on this Independence Day. That’s not to say there aren’t good memories and that there isn’t hope that lies ahead…but when the electricity is only on long enough in the country’s capital to allow one to see/hear the president’s Independence Address, it puts a damp cloth on the spirit of rejoice.

Maybe one day, we will truly be free.

 

 

 

 

 

Colorism: Eku Edewor’s ‘Heritage’ Photo Shoot Conundrum

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Glance at this photo. What are your immediate thoughts? Does it offend you? Why, or why not? Think about it for a second. Why are you or why aren’t you offended by this picture? Sure, it looks innocuous, but this harmlessly snapped image has had the Nigerian Twirraverse in an uproar for almost two days now, and the reasons aren’t so simple.

Eku Edewor is a British-Nigerian actress, model and television presenter. It is her façade that is front and center of two controversial images that have rocked African social media this week. Her photo shoot for the cover of ThisDay Style magazine and an accompanying spread depict her leading a procession to meet her betrothed on a beach somewhere in what we presume is Nigeria. For some, these images are painful reminders of the class and color issues that Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora – not just Nigeria – grapple with even today. Elnathan John, Nigerian satirist and author took to twitter to explain the psychology of the uproar from his experience and perspective. The diatribe in its entirety is worth a read. Elnathan is very fair (no pun intended) to those who feel that they have to resort to skin bleaching. He rejects the notion that self-hate leads 77% of Nigerian women to bleach/lighten their skin, and rather pins the trend on a need for survival.

I call these images Eku’s Ink Blots. People see different things in these picture based on their own lived experiences or witnessing colorism as it is experienced by others. If you are one of those people who say that this picture is absolutely offensive and smacks of intra-racism: you’re right. It does. And if you’re one of those folks who see nothing wrong with this image or the arrangement of the cast of characters here: you’re right as well. These pictures are a real (and in some cases, painful) reality of the world we exist in today as Black people.

Part of the reason we are so mad at these pictures, is because we are mad at ourselves. We are angry that we are still mentally chained to the color/caste system that was thrust upon us by our European enslavers. Once upon a time, there were 245 delineations to assign or describe Blackness in America based on a matrix of hair grade, skin tone, bone structure and racial mixture. South Africa implemented something similar during Apartheid, assigning citizens their races based on similar patterns. The result was the fracturing of a people group, with “coloreds” and “blacks” existing in one nuclear family unit – for example – but with each of those individuals afforded certain rights and privileges based on their racial designation – and usually with lighter skinned folks being easily accepted and favored by the oppressor. Fairer skinned blacks were given better clothes, better jobs and treated with a modicum more respect. This system has been replicated all over Africa and the Diaspora, and we still have yet to heal from it. So when we see pictures of a light-skinned woman being ushered to her prince by a bevy a dark skinned boys with her Luis Vuitton luggage balanced precariously on their heads, it causes a visceral, ancestral reaction within us.

For her part, Ms. Edewor has had to defend the images and explain them as best she can. She says the purpose was to celebrate her Nigerian heritage and that the children in the picture were there as family members to greet and help her through her procession. Okay, fair enough…but as anyone from a mixed race family will tell you, it’s impossible that eeeeeveryone in your family is going to be blue berry black while you turn out lily white. Don’t spit in our eyes and call it rain, Ms. Edewor! A more ‘realistic’ representation of the bride’s “family” would have been to have some diversity in skin tone amongst her helpers. Unfortunately, a part of our collective Nigerian/African heritage is that this picture smacks of classism and racism. It is eerily colonial mistress-esque.

For me, what has been most unfortunate is that Eku Edewor has been denied her Nigerianess because of her complexion. I don’t know how hard Eku rides or reps for Nigeria, but as a hybrid myself, I can identify with whatever internal crisis she may have experienced in the past/present by being rejected by a culture and people you call your own. This denial has only been compounded by her foray into the entertainment industry, where many assume she has only gotten to the heights she’s achieved by virtue of her skin tone. While I don’t know her and have never seen any of her work, but I doubt this is true. I’m sure that her skin color likely opened some doors for her, but it is her performance that keeps her in the game. That her skin color that she was born with affords her privilege is not her fault; it’s a system wide disease that plagues us all. It is the same illness of colorstrickeness that keeps darker skinned women from gracing the covers of magazines (unless they are high fashion editorials and exotic in nature) or in music videos. It is the colorstricken gatekeepers at the helm of banking, fashion, advertising and entertain that promote these attitudes and trends…and they largely affect women. As Elnathan John noted, you adapt to survive – even if that adaptation means risking skin cancer and liver failure. Once you are born in dark black skin in this world, society is quick to offer you a prescription for that existence.

Speak ‘whiter’.

Dress in muted colors.

Straighten your hair.

Bleach your skin.

Marry outside your race so your kids won’t be so ****ing black.

Anyway, in a week we will have forgotten all about Eku and her Ink Blot and moved on to something else for which to be outraged. I have a suggestion: Why don’t we talk about child labor? Why were pre-pubescent boys responsible for carrying her luggage? What, there were no big men around? Mmmm, see? Nobody ever thinks about the kids!

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