HOW DID WE GET HERE?
By Walter Henry Male Ally Coordinator/ Public Educator SAVIS of Halton.
Considering all that is occurring in the world now. It is easy to get distracted by all the proverbial noise of the day. The truth is, whether we like it or not racism, sexual assault and the attitudes towards sexual, violence against women, and LGBTQ peoples are culturally embedded in our societies. These attitudes are taught and the only way that they could be unlearned is by being informed and acknowledging that they exist, and that people are affected by them in large numbers. This monthly blog seeks to advocate, encourage discussion and effect a change in these attitudes.
In one of my tertiary education stints a professor came into our very multi ethnic class and asked the class “do you have prejudices? “The entire class became uncomfortably quiet. He then stated that he does have prejudices himself and explained that they are often based on perception and ignorance. He posited that we all have prejudices which have been ingrained in us from our formative earthly years. He stated further, that the only way to beat prejudice is through first acknowledging, introspection and the acquisition of knowledge. Racism on other hand he said was systemic and it took centuries to implement and were prejudices that have become societal norms and an entrenched belief system.
How the system indoctrinates?
It is my view that most of us earthlings see history and life in general from a Eurocentric /America centric perspective. You may argue that you do not because of that strong nationalistic, ethnic pride, cultural background, gender, education or may claim to be woke. However, if you can relate to any of the following then, you more than likely you share the above perspective. From the invention of the printing press in 1440 and the development of city sates from the treaties of Westphalia in 1648. It made it easier for European Hierarchy was able to indoctrinate their populace and conquered peoples. What Westphalia did along with renaissance and the industrial revolution was allow for the development of major urban centres. People living in large groups are easier to indoctrinate and control. How so you may ask? You are now totally dependent on the system for necessities such as food. In agrarian systems there is land tenure but at least people were more independent through their subsistent living.
What does the above have to do with you?
It is my view that the above system has evolved into its contemporary states. The ideologies crossed the Atlantic Oceans with those that conquered and resettled these northern lands. You may argue that it was my ancestors and I had nothing to do with it. You may state that I am black, or I am of Asian descent or from the middle east and it also had nothing to do with you. Your experiences might be different based on your intersection.
The fact is, that you live, work and play in this system means that you are influenced by its tenets in some form. Let me point out the obvious. The fact that you are reading this, means that you have access to the internet. You have at least a social media account. You probably have access to Netflix or stream movies. You also know what a meme is. Your timeline is inundated with COVID, Trump and Black Lives Matter /George Floyd related or influenced post, stories or blogs like this one. You have had at least one conversation about Trump or BLM. You can at least hum to hotel California and know who Beyoncé or Taylor Swift are. You probably have a WhatsApp, Instagram or Tik Tok which means you have a smart phone and have watched at least one YouTube video within the last month. Pre- COVID you went to concerts, movies, vacations in the Caribbean or Europe. You follow the NHL, NBA, NFL or the European football leagues. You shop at malls; you have a specific brand of clothing even it is a cheaper one. You buy your food from supermarkets. Some of you were up at am when the American girl married that British prince and were either annoyed at the thought, were in awe or like just did not care. You think that a PHD is the pinnacle of academic success, work a 9-5 and spend fiat money. You know what an emoji is, even my Aunty Kate does, and she is almost 80. The fact is that we live in this system whether we agree with its tenets or not. We directly or indirectly or sometimes both, view life through the above lens and we are therefore influenced by it.
Further historical context
It is my view that the world experienced a paradigm political, ethnic and religious power shift in 1492. When the joint Castilian and Aragonite forces defeated the Moors at Granada. The same year Colon used Moorish maps and other technology to claim that he discovered new lands where advanced civilizations already existed. It is my strong belief that 1492 was the beginning of the misinformation, genocide and set the stage for Western Europe dominance of the world. History from then on was written from a Western European perspective. Any historical events before then to none historians is normally portrayed as mystical. The hunter was now telling the story because he shot the lion.
From that point on people were treated as less than human. So called scholars wrote theories which suggested or even said directly that some people were less than human (Check out Carl Linnaeus or Johann Friedrich Blumenbach). According to these theorists these people built nothing, were, backward naked, living in huts and the least intelligent of the human species. These theories were used to justify their affected cognitive dissonance when enslaving these people.
Side note. According to estimates by the New Scientist’s Fred Pearce, Benin City’s walls were at one point “four times longer than the Great Wall of China and consumed a hundred times more material than the Great Pyramid of Cheops”. Parts of the wall is still there even -though covered with vegetation. You were taught the largest wall was in China. Parts of this wall and the city was destroyed and looted by British. Some of the artifacts from that event can be found in the British museum in London England.
George Floyd!! How did we get here?
Back to my ramblings. With these justifications firmly set in place and quickly becoming the belief in Europe. A certain set of people began to be captured, sold shipped and enslaved to various parts of the world. In the process they built economies and countries but were still treated with disdain. The begged to be accepted and still do. Also, poorer classes of Europeans were subjected to serf status and forced to work their lands and feed the ruling class. That culture of mistreatment, inequality, racism evolved into what we have today. It allowed for George Floyd(’s) name to become a truly famous one. All for the wrong and sad reasons.
The George Floyd incident however, it seems is the straw that is breaking the proverbial camel’s back. This system seems to be holding on by a thread. It either will be toppled or will become more entrenched. It must be highlighted that there was a plethora of movements that were forerunners to current one that stood up to this leviathan of system of injustice. The civil rights movement, universal suffrage, the LGBT movement, the me -too movement and many others. These movements have stated emphatically that it is not ok for someone to move to back of a bus because of their skin colour. I do have the right to vote. Not because I am a woman but a human and is equal to any man. I can love whom I please even if it is someone from the same gender and wear my dress in public. You cannot insist that I perform sexual favours because you are my boss. You cannot prevent from living where I want to live. You cannot destroy my community (Africville) displace me. I can drive my car without the fear of being stop even when I was obeying the law. You cannot kneel on my neck and kill me in daylight on camera. However, you and you did all of that.
George Floyd happened because of system that have been in place for centuries, because of prejudices that have grown and unfortunately become the norm. They have become imbedded in the cultural fabric of our societies. Whether we like it or not we all are part of the systems of injustices and is complicity. Do you think that systemic racism exists? Do you have prejudices? I do? We must be honest with ourselves. That’s if you care. Part of the solution is allyship but that is for my next blog.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?