Accra is Gotham. Can it be Saved?

In the Gotham allegory, Batman is the symbol of hope in a city that is so depraved and corrupt that the only way to root out that corruption is through violence. Batman doesn’t hold symposiums and forums encouraging city corrupt leaders and crime bosses to stop ruining the city by appealing to their more delicate sensibilities. He merely kicks ass, disappears and waits for the police to pick up the trash. There is no discussion.

Accra is really no different from Gotham. All of the elements that comprise of the fictional city exist in the metropolis that sits on the coast of the Atlantic. The same extremes in wealth and poverty, corruption, looting of government coffers, shady deals with nefarious characters, stabbings, raping, arson…they are engrained in this African city. The debauchery is so rife that you can smell it in the very air. Accra’s air is thick with smog, filth, human waste and unending suffering. It chokes you when you land at Kotoka or as you snake your way through traffic to face a day at work, hoping that today will be the day your boss decides to pay you a fair wage.

And just like Gotham, our municipal leaders’ solution to these problems is to infrequently build a new high rise or two to disguise their failures so that they can point to something and call it “progress”. It does not go unnoticed that the average Ghanaian could never afford to live in (or around) these beacons of national development. That pleasure is reserved for expats, diplomats and sold out government cronies. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the state of Accra gives me nightmares.

You wonder how we got here. How did the Star of Africa get to this point? The simplest explanation is that we have been – and are – complacent. Worse than that, we’ve been arrogant. Ghanaians like to believe that certain things can “never happen” in Ghana, because we’re too civilized for whatever the unthinkable idea may be. And yet here we are, with someone like Nelson Baani in parliament.

Oh yes, the Sharia MP as he has been dubbed, has kept me up for four nights now. But it is not he alone who has occupied the darkest corners of my dreams.

I have nightmares about Accra Mayor Alfred Oko Vanderpuije who started the summer by burning down the makeshift homes of artisans behind the Accra Arts Center and then arresting journalists who came to report on the story, charging them with trying to embarrass the government.

Just over a month later, this same bearded fellow was captured on video arresting a trotro drive for honking his horn. The driver’s crime? He failed to recognize that Mayor Vanderpujie was in the road for a photo op, desperately attempting to appear as though he was really doing something to impact Accra’s sanitation problems. There were no cones, no barricades, no cordons – nothing to indicate that this was an official clean up exercise: Just a dude in the street with his massive beard and even bigger ego roughly handling a citizen, violating civil rights and vowing to show him where the power lies.

Oh! But it’s okay! Alfed Vanderpujie is just one foolish man! He can’t rule as mayor for ever. Ghanaians give it over to God and bury our faces in our imported rice.

Dr. Joshua Dra is another demon who refuses to offer me peace. For two years, the memory of what this man did to hundreds of Ghanaian women has haunted me. In 2012, an investigative team covertly video this “doctor” pressuring vulnerable patients to have unprotected sex with him before he could perform abortions. His explanation was that it was medically necessary for him to use his penis to open up their uterine lining so that he could extract their fetuses for disposal. This man raped and violated hundreds of women. And do you know what our justice system did after they arrested him for the cameras? They let him go! A rapist and quack has been released back into society with a slap on the wrist and is probably planning his next attack.

But oh! He’s just a foolish man. We’ll give to God. This behavior is not Ghanaian.

The list of things that are not Ghanaian and yet are fast defining what it means to be a Ghanaian – like defecating on beaches, selling children to settle debt, raping teenaged boys, using the word of God/the Bible to subjugate entire groups and selling expired (and potentially poisonous) food in grocery stores for profit – is ever growing and shows no sign of shortening.

But it’s ok! Why? Because these things are not what Africans do. It’s some few foolish people who are ruining the system. We shall give it to God.

And that has been the catch: we’ve turned blind eyes and deaf ears to all these “one off” incidences so consistently that the incidences have become our culture. This is why someone like MP Nelson Baani can get on the floor of Parliament – the body responsible for making laws in our land – and unflinchingly suggest violent, barbaric punishment for behavior that is immoral and not criminal. In addition to that, the self-same MP felt emboldened to not only venture onto national radio to re-assert his remarks, but to also call on his fellow male MPs to support him in this proposal. We’ve been waiting 4 days now for reaction from Parliament and all the citizens of this once great country we call Ghana have gotten in return is silence. Why?

Say it with me:

Oh! Because this is just one foolish man. We shouldn’t mind him. After all, he is from the North, and you know they are not very educated up there. Stoning adulterous women? How. This can never happen in Ghana.

Really? And yet this week in Kenya, another “civilized country”, my sisters are forced to march to the walls of the judiciary to force their government to protect them from savage, beastly men who strip, assault and violate in public at noon them on a near daily basis because NO ONE sat up from the beginning and said this far and no further!

Huh? Baani said WHAT??

Huh? Baani said WHAT??

What we have gotten instead is a ‘wait and see’ response. The ruling party and its opposition (save Ursula Owusu who is the only MP to come out publicly in condemnation of these ludicrous statements) are hoping and expecting that this incident will just be added to the laundry list of things that have shocked Ghanaians and gone forgotten. To help spur the forgetting process, the Chairman of the Parliament Finance Committee just recently released a statement warning that “Ghanaians should brace themselves for some tough times next year.” It’s a deflection tactic. Seriously, how much tougher can it get in Ghana? There are whole swathes of people who literally cannot afford to eat right now and who don’t have access to toilets. Is government going to sprinkle some extra starving fairy dust in the air to add to the misery? Is shit in the city about to get stinkier? The only thing that can be worse than the current economic crisis is if Lucifer himself took over the seat of the presidency!

Is Accra a lost cause? Batman has been fighting Penguin, the Joker and co for half a century and the city still hasn’t been saved. Is this just the way it’s going to be? Are you and I foolish for hoping, believing, fighting for a better future? I had a conversation with a woman I highly respect last night, and she led me to believe I was a fool for expending this much energy (which isn’t very much) on the likes of Nelson Baani.

“I just worry that focusing so much energy one this one stupid utterance, we may be losing touch with the bigger issue/picture,” she said.

But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? The bigger picture is made up of thousands of singular stupid utterances that no one tackled at birth…and now it’s too late to go back and abort them.

Ah well. If Batman doesn’t come, we can always give it to God.

The Curious Case of Nelson Baani: How Many Other Murderous MPs Infest Ghana’s Parliament?

One thing I’ve always been proud of as a Ghanaian is our ability to make a joke out of anything, no matter how shocking, grotesque or frightening. When the AIDS epidemic struck in the late 80’s, we made an ampe song in which the disease served as the protagonist. When war broke out in Liberia and our troops were sent to fight, we choreographed a danced called ECOMOG. When the likes of Duncan Williams and Dag Heward Mills feel compelled to flaunt their misogynist views and insult the worth and intelligence of Ghanaian women, they do so in song. And guess what? There are vapid Ghanaian women in their congregations who dance and sing right along with them.

It’s always a circus in Ghana! Nothing is ever serious. Even when people are dying from cholera, starvation and preventable disease, it’s all fun and games, all the time. That’s why even as a woman, and therefore a second class citizen, I have always felt safe in Ghana. No matter what calamity may befall me because of my gender, I knew at some point, we’d have a good laugh about it later. As Swaye Kidd once said “We’re a nation of jokers!”.

That all changed on Friday, November 14th, 2014.

When you’re a woman living in Ghana, there are certain realities that you become accustomed to. Age and gender can either give you access or serve as barriers to certain privileges, and in Ghana, there is no one more barred from basic privileges (like the right to dress her body as she chooses, and not to have that body touched or commented on by perfect strangers) than young women. But as I said before, that reality has never truly mattered because it’s all fun and games in this country run by circus clowns, trapeze artists and magicians whose sole skill is to cause the unexplainable disappearance of millions of dollars in foreign loans and tax-payer funds. Somehow, we manage to smile, cope and keep trudging.

When it comes to basic women’s rights, Africa as a whole has a horrible track record. Too many countries on the continent lead in global maternal mortality, women are still barred from owning property and scores more are discouraged from getting any education beyond the primary level. There are parts of Ghana –particularly in the north – that typify the worst of Africa, and though I am ashamed of many of the attitudes society holds towards Ghanaian women in general, I still have pride in our constitution. It gives me hope. The constitution tells me as a citizen of Ghana, I have a right to an education, protection provided by our armed forces and a rule of law that guarantees my safety and well being. That constitution is upheld by a whole cadre of parliament members who individually swore to reject practices that “dehumanize or are injurious to the mental and physical well-being of a person.”

Of course, as any Ghanaian on the ground can tell you, this is all stuff written on paper and the reality is very different. Accra is Gotham, and it is run by semi-literates, goons, thieves, cowards and philanderers of the lowest order. And because business and politics in the country operate on “trickle down” principles, the entire nation is corrupt from root to tip, starting from its capital. Still! I felt safe…that is again, until November 14th when MP Nelson Abudu Baani took his turn on the floor to debate the Intestate Succession Act (PNDC Law 111). Unsatisfied with provisions in the law which are designed to be more fair to widows (and we’re talking about a country in which right now, a man’s extended family can kick his wife and kids out of their marital home and seize their property if he does leave a will stating the contrary at the time of his death), MP Baani used the opportunity to propose murdering women who have been unfaithful in their marriage by hanging or stoning. He offered Afghanistan as a model to emulate, because “in Afghanistan, day in [and] day out if you go behind your husband they will hang or stone you.” He says that this will ensure that wives remain faithful in their marriages.

Seriously. When since the creation of Hell has anyone woken up on any day of the week and declared “I want my country to be just like Afghanistan!” ? No one but Nelson Boko Haram Baani till last week, that’s who.

No one stopped him y’all. NO ONE. The Speaker of Parliament didn’t halt him. The female parliamentarians didn’t walk out in protest. Even ECG didn’t turn the lights and air-conditioning off and shut down on his crazy behind. In fact, he was asked to speak louder, and after his conclusion the Majority Chief Whip, Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak also chimed in, saying the promulgation of the Bill will encourage “cohabitation, which adverse effect will be the creation of more problems for families.” (Never mind that more and more people can’t afford to date, let alone get married in Ghana due to the ridiculous cost of existing.)

In the days that have followed, Nelson Baani has not backed down from his position, going as far to say he would happily see his wife stoned if she were to commit adultery. Really? What about all his male colleagues in Parliament, many of whom have are currently having illicit affairs with university girls, other married women and the occasional cross-dressing prostitute? Would he happily see them stoned as well? It might do the country some good actually, and save us all time and money…but of course because patriarchy utterly blinds those who it benefits, MP Baani does not see the hypocrisy in his words.

A petition has been generated and directed at Speaker Adjaho asking him to compel Nelson Baani to retract and apologize for his statements. It pained me to even have to start this petition. I would have thought the NDC – which dealt so swiftly with Victoria Hammah after audio of her declaring she would never leave office until she had made $1 million was leaked – would have come out with a statement condemning Nelson Baani’s utterances or at least distancing themselves from them. But again, Victoria Hammah is a woman, and Nelson Baani is man who only suggesting the wholesale slaughter of adulterous women (and not ALL adulterers).

What it looks like to die by stoning.

What it looks like to die by stoning.

Reaction from the general public has been to express disgust, and for good reason. If Nelson Baani was sitting at a bar having a beer expressing these views, it would merely troubling. He has a right to his opinions, after all. However to speak these views while operating in his full capacity as a Member of Parliament is inexcusable, is a violation of the constitution and must be repudiated in the strongest terms possible! If Ghana were not Gotham, he we would be made to resign immediately for failure to comprehend and uphold the constitution. But because each of these MPs runs their regions and districts like a personal fiefdom, this is the rot we get.

Ghanaians have very serious questions for our leaders, especially women who fought so hard to get into these positions via struggles like the 31st December Women’s Movement. As one user wrote:

Where are the women in parliament? Why did you sit and watch silently as Nelson Abudu Baani was making such barbaric and inhumane proposals for the punishment of your fellow Ghanaian women? Are you in support of hanging or stoning women who are suspected to be unfaithful to their husbands? I have been struggling to maintain respect for parliament and parliamentarians in light of recent events such as the irresponsible decision to buy furniture from China and your deafening silence on issues that bother the Ghanaians you claim to represent. Do something. Take a stand for the women of Ghana. Ask your colleague Nelson Baani to retract his statement and render a full and unqualified apology. Your grandchildren and their grandchildren will read about you in the future. What sort of legacy do you want to leave?

Best wishes,

Kuukuwa

Others haven’t been so generous, writing:

Dear Abudu Baani,

Growing up, my grandfather used to say that if ex-president Rawlings did not do much for Ghana, he will always commend him for passing the PNDC law 111. And that is a man I consider to be the first ever misogynistic male in my life yet even he, recognized the importance of the law and always praises it.

But you, kind sir, greatly surprised me with your statement that a woman who commits adultery should be stoned. What, you want the Sharia law frowned upon worldwide to be enforced in Ghana to give you further reason to subdue women? If you can further elaborate your point, I will be very grateful because I cannot seem to get my mind around it. I am as baffled as the next Ghanaian woman.

No, we do not and will not agree to this. It is the most absurd suggestion of a law I have ever heard out of the confines of the Ghanaian parliament house and trust me, you lot do come up with some amusing ones but this is just unacceptable and we are not having it. Perhaps a law on the reasoning capabilities of MP’s or that men who commit adultery should be castrated and fed their balls (so both sides are favored, right?)

Kind regards

Abena

 

It’s not fun and games anymore; not when our lawmakers feel at liberty to advocate murder on the hallowed halls of our government. Ghanaians deserve better. Nelson Abudu Baani should be sacked from his position and barred from ever entering Ghanaian politics again! We must discover how many other MPs hold these and similar views, gut them out and ensure that they do not lead our nation down the path of anarchy.

I’m asking all right thinking people, Ghanaian or not, to sign this petition send a message to Nelson Baani and our Parliament at large that this foolishness will not be tolerated. This is the moment we prevent the next humanitarian disaster in Africa. This moment, right now!

 

 

Fangirl Friday: Why I Absolutely Love ‘Delay’

I have a radio program, three television shows, a shoe shop and my own brand of mackerel. I am just raking in the money and I have no children. So what do I do? I shop and I dress up. I dress up for YOU to enjoy watching ME. We’ll be right back after this commercial break.”

These are just some of the outrageous things that Deloris Frimpong Manso – known in the entertainment industry by her nick name, Delay – says on a pretty regular basis. I absolutely LOVE it! Bordering on arrogance, she exudes a level of confidence that compels you to be charmed. Delay is a completely open book, but she still manages to hold an aura of mystery. She’s a flame and we’re all her little moths getting singed in the wake of her existence.

After a particularly hard day of anything (work, writing, kids, traffic, anything) my new favorite thing to do is to get on YouTube and watch all any episodes of The Delay Show that have been published. Delay is Ghana’s girl next door. Whereas as in America, the ‘girl next door’ is all sweetness and apple pie, clad in denim shorts and pigtails, Ghana’s girl next door is aggressive, opinionated and well-loved. She is a fierce protector and advocate. She helps you chase away boys who take liberties with your body. She is the big sister on the block, and she looks JUST like Delay.

What fascinates me most about Delay is how she got on television in the first place. It’s a cruel irony when it becomes “groundbreaking” for a Ghanaian to look like a Ghanaian in the spotlight of entertainment. When it comes to beauty standards, Ghanaians are notoriously and willingly chained to Anglo ideas of what makes a woman attractive. The ideal television presenter would have toasted almond brown skin, a modest weave or perm and speak English with just enough of an accent to prove that she’s been abroad but is still very much in touch with her roots. Delay is none of these things.

She’s dark, got a gap tooth, wears all 48” of her weave and does her show in Twi (or Twi-glish for her guests who aren’t native speakers).

delay pix

The ideal television presenter would also have some sort of respectable side enterprise to pad her income; something like a fashion label or a clothing store. Delay has her of brand of canned fish.

delay mac

Not everyone has to wear a high end label, but everyone has to eat! And Ghanaians love their canned fish.

As far as I know, Delay’s format is the first of its kind on Ghanaian television. What Europeans, Asians and Americans take for granted in terms of programming is that ALL of the pop culture shows aired on public access television are done in the native language of their respective countries. You wouldn’t go to China and expect Chen Lu Yu (also known as China’s Oprah)  to conduct her talk show exclusively in English. It would be absurd, because the base she reaches is broad in age and primarily Chinese speaking. However in Ghana, (unless this has changed recently) the only time programs are conducted in one of our local languages is if it’s one of those dull “adult education” sets where a panel sits awkwardly on a sound stage and drones on and on about the weather or rice or whatever. Again, because we’re so enslaved/chained to colonial norms in our thinking, there has long been the idea that business and quality entertainment must be presented in English. I love Delay for challenging that!

This is the essence of the girl next store persona I was talking about. You can’t properly tell someone off or barter for a lower price on beef in English. You will be scoffed at and cheated! Speaking in her native tongue only adds to Delay’s appeal. (I might be partial to this trait because one of the characters I wrote in Lover of Her Sole stubbornly refuses to speak in any other language but Twi, despite the fact that she’s a wealthy, university educated woman. She forces the world to conform to the Ghanaian in her, rather than the other way round!)

The other thing about Delay that puts me at ease is that she is no Oprah and is not even pretending like she’s trying to be. I have yet to see/hear her tackle a topic that is going to shatter the earth yet. Here’s a sampling of some of the questions she’s asked guests on recent shows:

 

Are you a virgin?

-Delay to Yvonne Okoro

Would you say you have emotional constipation?

-Delay to Yvonne Nelson

You insulted Kaakie’s womanhood, and as a woman, I am offended. (With a sneer) Will you please remove your sunglasses in my presence so that I can see your eyes?

-Delay to Shatta Wale

Dumelo means ‘Town Crocodile’? Why that name? Are you a crocodile?

-Delay to John Dumelo

And then she has the audacity to look her guest dead in the face and wait for an answer, as though she’s asked a serious question. What kind of question is “are you a crocodile?” Hahahahhahaaaa!! Ohhhh and the interview with Yvonne Okoro was so cringe worthy. No matter how she tried to dodge the question, Delay kept dragging her back into the ring and pushing her on the ropes. And 8 excruciating minutes later, we all found out Yvonne Okoro has indeed been sexually active at some point in her past.

Did knowing this alter a paradigm or add to this list of things humanity needed to know to ensure its survival? No! But it was fun to watch and that’s why I love her and her show. She’s funny without intending to be. Delay takes herself very seriously.

At so young, she’s achieved enormous success. She has a dozen or more people on her payroll, she has become a brand in her own right, and she did it without slwhoring around for favors. The last part is huge, because in Ghana (like much of African society), people are very quick to ridicule and reduce a woman’s success if it was predicated by the marked assistance of a man. That’s okay though. Ghanaians are also quick to reduce the success of men by alleging said success is predicated on the sale of cocaine or weed. The folly of our society is that we don’t understand what it means to work both hard and smart. After all:

DM“There was a time in Ghana when being a TV presenter meant you could come on air, do your job and go about living your normal life like a regular person. And then someone named Deloris Frimpong Manso came along and made being a TV presenter something to aspire to. We’ll be back after this commercial break.”

O_o

Sitting there talking about herself oooo…In the third person. You know you’ve made it when you talk about yourself in the third person!

Haters and appreciators! How do you feel about Delay? Is she real deal or nah? And if you’re like “Who the heck is Delay” go to YouTube and type in her name. See one of us for translations if needed. Discuss! ↓

Should You Trust Your Spouse Unreservedly?

I recently wrote an article in support of Itz Tiffany on Adventures after videos of her having sex with her husband were released into the ether by no one other than her (now ex) husband.

Yes. Let that sink in.

Apparently, his motivation for releasing the videos was to reduce, shame and demoralize her with hopes of ultimately destroying her career. The rules, repercussions and rewards for nudity and sexually suggestive images are very different for a woman depending on her race and/or ethnicity. If Africa and in the African diaspora (that includes you, Black America!) a naked Black woman in the public arena is a whore, pure and simple. There is no mystique or analysis afforded the nude, Black form that is afforded women of other races, who are more likely to be described as “racy”, or “daring”, or “artistic”, or “rebellious, or just plain “weird”. We know it and Black men in particular know it. And since we are all in the know, should you then trust your significant other with a camera?

Trust is supposed to be the cornerstone of any long term relationship. Even when relationships are adversarial, you can still trust that your foe has constant plans to usher in your undoing. That certainty keeps you on your toes and alert to their wiles. But when you are engaged in a loving relationship, especially one that culminates in marriage, is it wrong –or even dangerous – to trust your partner completely?

The issue of trust has been a concern in my house for quite a while. At my insistence, my husband and I have held separate bank accounts. It has been one of the few things I have refused to compromise on. I will never completely pool my personal resources into one household account. His contention is that doing this makes it appear that I don’t trust him, and this makes him feel bad. My retort is that he shouldn’t, because even if he was Christ Almighty Hisse’f, I still would have my own account. I do not believe a woman should ever be without control of her own money. On the other hand, I think my husband should be encouraged that I trust him in other – and probably more meaningful –areas. I trust him with my soul, my secrets and my body. I trust him to respect me and to defend me. If I live to be ten thousand, I would never expect Mr. Grant to reveal pictures or videos of my body into the public domain. But am I fool for that?

There has recently been a spate of ‘revenge porn’ i.e. ex-partners releasing videos and pictures of women in compromising positions all over the news. The most recent and outrageous of these comes via the case of Desire Luzinda, a pop star from Uganda who is to be arrested for having naked images of herself released in the public domain. The mechanics of how this works bends the mind. Her ex-boyfriend released the images, but she is the one who gets arrested for violating the country’s morality and decency laws. There is no word yet on whether the boyfriend will be arrested for distributing pornography, but my Patriarchy and Misogyny Senses tell me it’s not likely to happen. It’s ironic (and disgusting) that this young man has found an accomplice in the government for his vendetta to further punish this young woman. Whereas other nations like the UK have inked laws to protect women from revenge porn and other forms of online bullying, several African nations are setting us back to the Dark Ages with their brand of witch hunting inquisitions in the name of ‘decency’.

It’s just tragic all the way round.

Ms. Luzinda’s explanation for why she allowed herself to be photographed in the nude is because she was “in love”; and as any woman who has ever thought or known herself to be in love, you can imagine Luzinda was doing anything to make her partner happy. This obviously included taking nude pictures for his benefit. She was being “racy” with the expectation that her privacy would be respected, but we all know now that racy doesn’t work that way for African women!

One commenter named Leslie on the Adventures blog has harsh criticism for any woman who allows herself to be photographed in the nude. She calls such women “brainless” and stated that it was only a brainless woman who would trust a man completely…even if that man was her husband. She seemed to imply that only brainless women allow themselves to be vulnerable, which I think is an unfair accusation.

smallerbandsIs Leslie right though? Should a wife hold her husband in suspicion at ALL times? I can allow for a boyfriend leaking photos, because I think of men who have found themselves firmly in ‘boyfriend status’ as those whom a woman has not determined mature enough to marry. An immature man – like a boyfriend – would post personal images, emails, voice mails, etc. to shame a woman in public. But a husband on the other hand – someone who has worked to provide a home, honors his family legacy, spends time pondering the ways of the world, seeks knowledge and speaks with intelligence – a HUSBAND would never do that. To that end, a wife should never have to fear that her husband would diminish her in this way. I think too many women are allowing boyfriends husband benefits, and these are the results. I’m not victim blaming at all! What I am saying we have a swathe of humanity who has misplaced their trust in totally unqualified candidates.

If you can’t have trust in a marriage, then where are you supposed to have it? Suspicion of your spouse can only poison your relationship and lead to its destruction in the end, which is why Leslie’s comments and others like hers cause me some disquiet. If you can’t trust your husband and vice versa, what’s the point in even getting married? But then, maybe I’m a fool.

Thoughts? Discuss ↓

 

That One Time I Tried Entitlement on for Size

Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly are constantly making much ado about people of color and our “entitlements”. You know, just because we’ve endured socially engineered and government sanctioned poverty and oppression since – I dunno – 1625, we think we’re entitled to food and housing. I get it though. Nobody likes a mooch. Shame on us colored folk for not rising up with, arms if need be, to shake off the shackles of our oppression just as the early settlers did when they broke free from the tyranny of Mother England! You see how black Haitians were punished by (white) American government when they overthrew the French during the slave revolts. Just who did these people think they were, taking their liberty by force? Black people ought to know their place, and that place is under the boot of “real Americans” with cap in hand and handily available for scorn!

The words entitlement and privilege get tossed around in my circles and are often the subject of intense debate. For those of us who find ourselves squarely in the middle class –with our college degrees and respectable middle incomes – we have the luxury of discussing these topics without ever having to live through the true consequences of oppression. For example, if I find that I can no longer endure mainstream racism and the arrogance that accompanies it, I can save up a few dollars and travel to West Africa or the Caribbean. Likewise, I have friends who pick up home and hearth and go live in (read: escape to) Europe for a few months, because they can. We are the ones who carry the scent of the smoke of racism in the fibers of our clothing without ever having to feel its burn in our skin. We identify with oppression, but have never truly felt it; not like the man who gets denied housing because of the color of his skin, or the woman who is forced to undergo sterilization because of hers. Our education and zip code often insulates us from the most heinous forms of racism, and acts as a buffer so that we do not need to seek out “entitlements”. When Hannity and O’Reilly talk about entitled Black folk, I know he’s thinking about my Black face, but not talking about my particular circumstances.

But then of course, this got me thinking: Are people of color the only ones who pursue entitlement? And what the heck does that word even mean in the 21st century? I submit that Donald Trump feels he is just as “entitled” to a certain level of treatment as the homeless vet pushing his cart around downtown does. That said, I do admit that there are certain liberties that one is not entitled to take depending on what elements make up your existence. Like, you can’t be destitute, overweight and short and think you’re going to break into the haute couture world of fashion. Some things will just not ever be so. But what if there were some liberties you could take, just to try on for size? What if the matrix of your existence gave you juuuuust enough wriggle room to venture into a space that is not normally reserved for you? Last week, I decided to dedicate 24 hours to give this experiment a try, and I knew just where I wanted to begin.

“I will block traffic. I just don’t care,” my former colleague Becca* informed me, her green eyes flashing with confidence. “If I need to make a turn, I’ll make everyone wait.”

At the time, Becca drove what I called a “bully truck”. It was a grey Nissan Xterra and she would whip it into the parking lot like it was a Vespa. What kind of a person blocks traffic just so she could make a turn? What kind of human being is that inconsiderate? How can you not feel any sense of embarrassment for holding up the rest of road because you couldn’t wait a few more moments for traffic to clear? Well, an entitled person doesn’t, that who. I see women in their bully trucks driving as if they own the road several times a week. So when I dropped one of the girls off and was coming out of a particularly difficult turn on Peachtree Corners from the hair salon, I did just that. I pulled into traffic, forced everyone to halt and made the U-turn I had been denied for the previous 3-5 minutes. When a woman in a burgundy Honda CR-V honked her horn at me in irritation, I gave her one of these looks and went on my merry way.

What-the-fuck-GIFS

It was thrilling!

You know I work in retail, right? I meet all kinds of crazy people, ALL the time. My favorites are the one who come in to purchase/return an item with no receipt and a stack of coupons that expired in 2008. They also want a full refund or credit for their purchase, damn what the stipulations say. Why? Because they are entitled to it!

So I walked into Target during my 24 Hours of Privilege spree and picked up a few items for the kids. Target has a Red Card, and they practically pull your panties off at the register trying to get you to sign up for one. Needless to say, I have a Red Card – not because I enjoy being publicly fondled – but because I like saving money. The card guarantees me 5% off all my purchases. When I got to the register, imagine my surprise when the cashier informed me that their card reader was down.

Was this supposed to be my problem? My face conveyed my annoyance as I asked, “So what about my 5%?”

“Uh…I guess…Let me ask a manager,” the cashier stammered.

Oh, on any other day I would have let it go. But I was intent on enjoying every bit of privilege that I could! So yes, I held up the line when it was 10 minutes to closing time, had the manager called over to make my adjustment and walked out the door $1.60 richer. I suppose the glare that the 6’1” sashaying key holder shot me was meant to shame me, but it didn’t. Because, privilege.

I only had a few hours left into my experiment and so few opportunities to explore the type of privileges certain folk take for granted every day. At last, I was given one from the ancestors themselves.

I work with a particularly immature and irritating manager named Jordan. Her hair is dyed red as an anus set aflame and her voice is as pleasant a spoon trapped in a spinning garbage disposal. On my first night working with her, I took a break toward the end of my shift since she had not given me one. I am entitled to a 15 minute break, even if I don’t always receive one. I had a colleague radio up to her to inform her I was in the break room. Sure as the sun rises at dawn, here came Jordan clicking her way back into the break room to scold me. To scold ME! Oh no. Not on my Day of Privilege!

I gave her one of these looks and kept munching on my chips. With my heart pounding in indignation, I fired off an email to the store manager that night, knowing it could have potentially got me fired. (Spoiler alert, it didn’t.)

get-out-no-seriously-just-get-out

Dear manager,

Do not ever put me on the schedule when Jordan is on duty. If you do, I will not clock in for duty. I will look in her face, spin on my heel, get in my car and drive to McDonald’s and pick up a sweet tea. I will then go home and watch the latest version of ‘Jake and the Neverland Pirates’ with my kids.

And then I waited.

Do you know they have given me more flexibility with my schedule since I sent that note? How’s that for leaning in!

Of course, I cannot exist this way for the rest of my life. Not until we achieve true equality. This sort of privileged behavior casts me as an “Uppity Negress” or “Sassy/Angry Black woman”, and no one wants to associate with those. No, for now I remain your humble Malaka, beneficiary of whatever liberties society deems fit for me to possess.

 

Have you ever tried exercising entitlement where/when you didn’t feel you had the right to? How did it feel? Felt great, didn’t it?!?!

 

UPDATED: The most profound series of Tweets I’ve Ever seen – Ever!

Malaka:

One day I will find Jesse Williams, hug him, scratch him, take his ill-acquired DNA and clone him. The man is magnificent.

Originally posted on The Fifth Column:

This replaces the previous article.  ALL of the tweets on this subject are now included.

H/t:

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What’s the Greatest Act of Love You’ve ever Witnessed?

Some dude a long time ago once said “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I believe that to be true. It’s the reason grown men are reduced to blubbering, weeping heaps following strategically choreographed scenes in football and war movies. Remember when Chappy died in an aircraft explosion in ‘Iron Eagle’? He sacrificed his life so that Doug could save his dad. It was devastating, heart rending, and moving. Fortunately, Louis Gosset Jr’s character also doubled as the Magical Negro, so he popped back up from the dead at the end of the movie, fresh as a daisy.

Outside of the silver screen how often do we get to witness acts of true, selfless love in real life? Can you recall the last time you witnessed an act of true love? This summer, I was fortunate to be in a front row seat to observe such a phenomenon…and it was absolutely terrifying.

This summer my Somali friend Ameera* brought her girls over to our pool for a swim. Aisha and Aaliya are Nadjah and Aya’s best friends, which makes Ameera and I BFFs by extension. (It’s part of some motherhood code, I’m sure.)

Ameera's coat was similar to this one.

Ameera’s coat was similar to this one.

Ameera’s daughters are the sweetest, skinniest things you’ve ever met. Clad in their hijabs and modest swim wear, the girls looked around to make sure there were no prying eyes before they dove into the pool. I cut my eyes at a group of brown-skinned, mean girl teenagers who hopped out of the water as soon as Aisha and Aaliya jumped in, grunting their disdain and muttering words about the family’s attire. Ameera had on a brown and black hijab and a black overcoat.

“It’s too hot for alladat,” one of them snorted.

If I could have kicked her teeth in, I would have. This is the same breed of micro-agression that Black people have fought against for decades: White people leaving establishments when people of color walked in and so forth. How far we haven’t come.

Ameera and I took the time to catch up on our personal lives. Although we’ve known each other for years, our relationship has consisted of “hellos” and “have a nice day” for almost its entirety. We talked about how we got to America, how education was so different here than back home, and our plans for our respective families. She had her eyes hawkishly fixed on the pool.

“Aya is such a good swimmer,” she complimented.

I thanked her, but told her it was not my doing. Although I had paid for lessons, it was Aya who had put in the real work. Nadjah was too afraid to get her hair wet, which is why she huddled near the edge of the pool.

“The only reason Nadjah is being more adventurous is because your girls are here,” I informed her. It was my turn to compliment her kids as well, so I pointed to her eldest and said.. “Aisha is really good in the water!”

“Yes, but she takes too many chances,” Ameera said with exasperation.

No sooner were the words out of her mouth, I saw two little hands flailing from beneath the surface of the water from the center of the pool where the water was deepest.

“Oh my God!” I screamed.

Ameera was in the water like a flash of 200 lbs brown lightening. Still dressed in her modest clothing, she sprinted along the pool’s floor, grabbed her struggling daughter and pulled her to the surface. Meanwhile, I was running along the pool’s edge, my mind clouded and wondering what to do next! Ameera emerged from the water, drenched and hijab still intact. She hugged and scolding the shivering child at the same time. Finally, she released her into the company of her friends.

“Stay in 3 feet,” she commanded. “That goes for all of you!”

The girls nodded obediently. We were still in awe by what we had witnessed. Ameera was muttering to herself in her local language, peeling off her coat and head covering so that she could give them a squeeze and hang them to dry in the summer sun.

“Ei. Ameera, I’ve never seen anyone move so fast!” I gasped in admiration. Suddenly, I was gripped by terror. A vision of how the pool scenario could have played out differently hit me. Given the conservative upbringing she described earlier, a thought occurred to me. “Can you swim?”

“No,” she replied curtly.

“Then…”

She answered my unasked question with emotion choking her throat. “I love my children SO much. Of course I will jump in the water to save them.”

And that was all there was to it. Love – true love – makes you do crazy things.

Have you ever seen such an act? Or have you ever put your life on the line so that someone else could have a shot at survival? Was Ameera a fool to jump into the pool without thinking? Discuss! ↓