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Location: United Kingdom

A Naija Guy living (and loving) in the UK.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Identity Pt2: Race and Religion


I once attended a training course where the ice breaker asked all the delegates to describe themselves in seven words or phrases ie fun-loving, creative. Of the ten delegates all three black delegates chose to mention 'black'. None of the white delegates used their race to define themselves in the exercise. The one asian female in the room included 'muslim' in her description. Everyone mentioned their gender. Of course people said party-animal, mother-of-three etc but thats not really the area I'd like to focus on here. It was interesting discussing the results with the group and finding out why each of the elements was important to each of the individuals and why all the elements that make us minorities came up. I subsequently discussed this with a friend who is from eastern Nigeria and studied in the University of Lagos in the nineties. He said while in University he thought of himself as 'Igbo' but since living in the UK he has increasingly considered himself black.

In response to the first article, Sola Baale said "the Jews, over the years and centuries have lived in several places (Russia, Germany, Britain, everywhere in short), yet they tag themselves as Jews and perhaps prefixing with the place they live in e.g (Russian jew) to reflect influences and sense of belonging". Thus it seems they are Jews first and Russians, Britons etc second. Malcolm X opined in his autobiography how from visiting Mecca he had a sense of brotherhood with Muslims irrespective of their colour or place of origin. These sentiments have been echoed by some of my friends who are muslims who have stated they think of themselves as Muslims first before their nationality be it Pakistani, Indian or British.

The one-drop rule was developed in the American Southern States where even a single drop of "black blood" makes a person "black". It was initially conceived as a racist means of classification and also to ensure that the children of slaves by Slave owners would still be slaves. For African Americans, the one-drop system of racial classification became a tool for ethnic solidarity uniting blacks and people of mixed race background under the umbrella of Black. In South Africa during apartheid the population was classified into four groups: Black, White, Indian, and "Coloured". The coloured group was for people of mixed racial parentage and due to the flawed system of classification members of the same family could find themselves in different race groups. The term 'coloured' continues to be used in South Africa in the post-apartheid era. Over here in the UK some British people consider the term Coloured to be pejorative or, at least, out-moded (everytime I've been called coloured its been by someone over seventy who still believes they are being liberal). There is a collection of writing on some of the internal conflicts that take place within people of a multi-racial background who are more prone to being asked to choose which aspect of their cultural history they would mostly like to identify with. The term "identity crisis" was also coined to describe this internal conflict.

In the midst of the madness of my last 100 words I've been trying to explore how we think of our selves and how the world we live in perceives us. I remember recently when the BBC were exploring the results of the Macpherson report they were seeking an images that would portray black people as a visual with the narative as a backdrop and they used visuals of various club events. That really worried me as I'm sure if the researchers had even tried they could have come up with more positive images of black people (come on doesn't anyone go to church as much as black people!). Any Nigerian male that has been to clubs in Northern UK will be familiar with being asked if they have any weed for sale, Nigerian females tourists in Spain will probably be familiar with being followed in stores by the store detectives or being taken for prostitutes on the streets. We are probably all familiar with being expected to know all Bob Marley song lyrics 'jus cause we is black'.

To what extent is our appreciation of ourselves impacted upon by social stereotypes, how do the media depictions of 'black' culture impact upon our desire for equity, what is the effect of the corporate packaging of black culture as being hip, what image do we see when we look at ourselves in the mirror and would this image be different if we lived in a different country? All these questions and more are just running round my head right now and I just don't have enough time to put them all down.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my old teachers always used to refer to "those coloured boys". It really used to wind me up.

3:53 pm, June 05, 2006  
Anonymous Isabel said...

I only try to identify myself as a human being. I'm a mixed race woman and don't think I should be defined by my race.

5:35 pm, June 05, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you've mentioned several times that you're a second generation immigrant, so your views will undoubtedly be different from a man like me who's straight off the banana boat.
I look in the mirror and i see a man.
I 've come to understand that i'm less likely to react negatively to racist comments from ignorant people and i'm more likely to view it as simple ignorance and hence feel superior to anyone who feels they can judge me because of my colour.
I'm less likely to talk about "black issues" and "blackness" than any second or third generation immigrant.
I dont get offended with negative black representations on television, but understand that there are undoubtedly "powers beyond our control" which dictate why Crime Watch focuses on london and not newcastle or middlesborough which are by population density comparisons equally if not more crime riddled.
I've never and i hope i never look into any mirror and see a "black man". i'm a man period! whoever wants to label me is subhuman.

5:53 pm, June 05, 2006  
Anonymous aihammed delot said...

you've mentioned several times that you're a second generation immigrant, so your views will undoubtedly be different from a man like me who's straight off the banana boat.
I look in the mirror and i see a man.
I 've come to understand that i'm less likely to react negatively to racist comments from ignorant people and i'm more likely to view it as simple ignorance and hence feel superior to anyone who feels they can judge me because of my colour.
I'm less likely to talk about "black issues" and "blackness" than any second or third generation immigrant.
I dont get offended with negative black representations on television, but understand that there are undoubtedly "powers beyond our control" which dictate why Crime Watch focuses on london and not newcastle or middlesborough which are by population density comparisons equally if not more crime riddled.
I've never and i hope i never look into any mirror and see a "black man". i'm a man period! whoever wants to label me is subhuman.

5:57 pm, June 05, 2006  
Blogger Nkem said...

Herr Delot, I echo your sentiments. But I have no problems speaking about black issues, except I don't talk about them from point of view of the oppressed - because I don't consider myself to be oppressed. No matter how racist people in society might be, I like to think I still my own destiny in my hands. In apartheid South Africa they had the pencil in hair test, where if they pushed a pencil in the person's hair and it stayed, they were considered black/non-white. The term coloured upsets me, but the people who ue it are genuinely ignorant, so what can we do? Can we teach an old dog new tricks?

9:15 am, June 06, 2006  
Anonymous aihammed delot said...

herr playahated, I dont talk about black issues anymore cos i've come to realise my views are insensitive and unsympathetic to those who might have been "oppressed". i can talk about conspiracy theories about how Africa is meant to remain the worlds latrine from now until tomorrow without a single racial reference. The fact that i can do this has offended people in the past, so its largely a conscious decision to keep my black lips firmly shut.

12:58 pm, June 06, 2006  
Blogger Onyeka George Nwelue said...

Cambridge dictionary defines 'black' as OFFENSIVE and I hate it. I prefer to be called Chocolate....lol..

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