Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Explaining the Unexplainable

My good friend and colleague Dr. Kofi Gbolonyo wrote this heartbreaking piece about trying to explain racism to his mother in Ghana. When you grow up in America, you just come to accept this as a fact of life just because it has been for over 400 years in the land that boasts about freedom and opportunity. How powerful to take a step back and see if from the eyes of a 92-year old woman who has lived in a culture of welcome and hospitality. Four times, I have experienced this extraordinary sense of welcome in this most beautiful culture that we ignorant Americans see as “backward” and underprivileged. A place where in Kofi’s home town of Dzodze, there have been exactly two murders by guns, one an accident and the other a reason to gather, grieve, talk, drum and dance for three days to ensure that this would not happen again. And it hasn’t. In our country that we think is the number one greatest, there were 39,373 murders by guns in the U.S. in ONE YEAR! (2017). Which culture has something to teach the other? Please read Kofi’s profound words and pass this on. 

One of the reasons I am posting this has to do with the challenges I face in these past 7 days. The challenges of how to respond to my 92+ years old mother and my 8-year-old daughter’s questions about the recent killings in the U.S. After listening to local radio stations reporting what was happening in America, and most importantly, after watching the video of a policemen murdering George Floyd in a broad day light on a street in America and the aftermaths, my mother became restless. She asked to talk to me and her grandchildren in “Amedika.
” 
“Togbi!” she shouted my name when I picked the call. “Are you and my grand children ok?” she inquired with seriousness in her voice. “I thought Yevus (white people)  like us? What is going on there?" 

Before I could give an answer, she added…

“Why are the Yevus, who we love and treat well when they come to our home village, dehumanizing us in their country like that?”

At that point, I knew a lot of discussion and commentaries is going on in Ghanaian media regarding racism against people of African descent in America. So, immediately I knew I had to give a thorough education to my mother before she draws her conclusions, generalizing all Caucasians and putting them all in one and the same category as what she saw and have obviously been hearing in the media in Ghana. Tough situations with my mother on the issue of racism -- a concept she does not have, let alone understand, and obviously, cannot contextualized. You can imagine my situation trying to explain things to her.

Frankly, the current issues on racism in North America, and indeed all over the world against people of African descent, in particular, is affecting all of us in many different ways, particularly the current one sparked by the gruesome video of George Floyd being murdered.

Personally:
(1) It has been a tough emotional week for me as a result of having lived and experienced racism in the US and Canada for many years and also in many other parts of the world just because I am person of African descent.

(2) But also I am most affected now because I now have children who are growing up in this North American culture. My children, together with other Ghanaians, welcome all people from around the world including Caucasians into their ancestral villages in Ghana annually with open arms and hearts and they see me and others freely, openly, and genuinely extend love, hospitality, warmth as well as share everything we have as a people including knowledge with them, protect them in any and every way possible while they are with us in Ghana.

(3) How to explain to my family back home (including my 92+ years old mother and all the people that help me to welcome and work with those who come to Ghana with me to learn our music, dance and culture) WHY George Floyd, a man just like me, would suffer such dehumanization because of his color from the hands of the very people we give the VERY BEST hospitality when they come to Ghana? Impossible!

(4) And finally how do I reconcile what is happening on the streets of America between police, soldiers, political leaders and the ordinary citizens of the land with the ever publicized America’s “pride” of being THE “land of the free”, a beacon of democracy, rule of law, promoter of justice and a “leader” in human right promotion around the world and in Africa in particular and other “American values” the US, and for that matter, the Western world forces down the throat of the developing world.?

Here is a link to an article that I think says it better. I encourage you all to read it and share your views and perspectives, if you possible.

“America Cannot Lecture Africans on Human Rights”

As an African, who lived in the US for many years and now in Canada for over 11 years, I have seen what human rights, democracy, rule of law, justice, etc look like in the West. So, this article speaks for me, particularly in the context of the killing of George Floyd as the most recent and gruesome acts of racism against us and how the American leadership and justice system is handling it.

I write this to the memory of George Floyd and many, many, many other minorities who preceded him because of racism against people of African descent and other minorities in America in the past 400+years. Please, feel free to share your thoughts if you wish.  Thank you.


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