From 1st – 4th August 2019, in Praia da Rocha, Portugal the first ever Afro Nation took place. A festival dedicated to all things Afrobeats. When I first saw an ad promoting Afro Nation, I was instantly interested because I’ve always been a fan of Afrobeats. I’m talking way back to Styl Plus ‘Imagine that’, Dbanj ‘Why me’ kind of days. I feel like it’s only recently, since being back, suffering from holiday blues and having time to reflect, that I’ve realised the true magnitude of what Afro Nation signifies for us.
The thing with racism and insecurities is that they’re learned behaviours. So, if you get ‘em young, you’re on to a winner.
This week, I was merrily scrolling through my Instagram timeline when I came across a post shared by someone I follow https://www.instagram.com/p/B0TF_Q5lJ5W/. The post essentially expresses her anger with a cartoon she came across. To give a quick overview, in the cartoon a young angel is cursed, she’s not allowed to speak to her husband otherwise she loses her youth and beauty. Long story short, she does speak to her husband, which means she does lose her beauty. You may be thinking so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that when the angel is turned “ugly”, she’s turned into a black woman. Exhibit A below:
For as long as I can remember, getting my hair done has been a big part of my life routine. In primary school, I’d get my cornrows taken out and redone on a weekly basis by my fabulous mama. As I got older, I got braids and in secondary school I upgraded to weaves, pick and drop and for a period of time I just straightened my then relaxed hair on a daily basis… without heat protector :S. The thought of doing this now makes me cringe but you live and you learn, right?
Not sure how it was in your household growing up, but in mine and many other Caribbean homes, Saturday mornings were dedicated to household chores. Maybe my mother possessed ‘the rod of correction’, and she had those steely eyes that shot daggers, but I knew I had to get up and get cleaning like it was the week before Christmas. Truth be told, I did not inherit my mother’s skills, because I can’t seem to get my teenage son out of bed, much less vacuum the lounge. Let’s not speak about his bedroom (not sure what animal died in there). Is the new-age parenting style failing our future generation? What made my mother’s eye glance so compelling, that it affects me even today as a ‘grown-ass’ woman?
The narrative of reparations has been revisited within recent times. In fact, it is part of the Senator Booker’s (US) manifesto, in his bid for the Democratic Presidential Candidate. I caught his interview on @blackcoffee recently. One of the key questions raised was: would reparations raise the economic status of black people? Generally, Booker’s response was vague, to say the least. Theoretically, he explained that reparations are a repayment of debt owed, not a cure for the disease (confused emoji here).
For those who may be ignorant of what reparations are, I will give a brief insight. Reparations represent compensation for being trafficked and enslaved in the Atlantic Slave Trade. It would be restitution paid to the descendants of slaves for slavery and the decades of lawful discrimination that followed it. From a moral perspective, this is a wonderful idea. However, from an economic perspective the logistics are questionably flawed. Not to get too political or to take sides, I would like to delve into the practicality (if any) of this phenomenon. A pertinent question: how would the beneficiaries be selected? A question raised by another Senator (Mitchell McConnell). If you know your history well, there were also free black people during the time of slavery. Should their descendants benefit from reparations?
Another key concern is how do we calculate how much is owed. Transitional justice, I agree is necessary and is due, but what is the monetary value of it. I don’t know where exactly my ancestors originated, nor do I know to whom they were sold or for how much; how many owners (masters) they had; if they escaped and to where. The research for reparations would be extensive and costly. If this Bill is actually passed (which I doubt), what would become of the US economy? The estimated figure for the US alone was half a trillion dollars! With the current African American population around 38 million people, this will equate to $13,157.89 per person! This nominal figure brings me back to my original question, how would this raise the status of black people? Agreeably, this may be more money than one had the day before, but this money really cannot provide you with true wealth or power, nor would it erase the issue of driving while black or the many other prejudices dealt to the black population. Rich black people are also stopped and searched by eager white police officers.
My understanding is that reparations should give black people an equal playing field to the majority, but that shift is deep-seated and much more cultural than it is financial. First and foremost, we are judged by how we look, and these preconceived biases keep us at a disadvantage, more than the money in the bank. Justice is due and it is due now, not in incremental improvements, but across the board – the way we are addressed, where we are housed, the education system, the legal system, even the hiring system. No amount of guilt money paid for the ills of slavery will ever compensate for the continued discrimination, nor would it stop the prejudice, if there isn’t a social movement for change.