The powerful effect of Black people’s hair

PamGreer

By PAT WATSON

‘Nasty.’ That is a remark commonly heard in my culture to characterize mostly children, mostly girl children when they react to the pain they feel from having their hair tugged from the root – otherwise known as having it combed. 

The whole process is carried out daily across the planet as a grooming practice to be presentable to the public. The very person who should be an empathetic supporter for the child often performs the pain-inducing process. 

Instead, that may be the first person to label the child as ‘nasty’ for not wanting to be tortured daily by having her hair pulled. It may even be that person went through the same abuse at an earlier age.

The obsession with hair as it presents on the heads of Black people, especially Black women and girls, is pathetic and deplorable.

The obsession has given rise to any number of industries. All manner of hair ‘care’ products are making millions (billions?) of dollars to placate the shame that has been internalized about a genetic normality. 

Have there been as many books and heartfelt documentaries about any other hair type?

When we finally assign the term ‘good hair’ to the history books, it will be a massive victory.  

It seemed as if that had been happening during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s in the United States, which then spread across the African Diaspora. Remember the Afro? Remember all those Blaxploitation movies that featured actors like Pam Greer sporting a supersized Afro?

The good news is that the current young generation of Black folks is, as it were, finding their roots. Out on the streets of Toronto, it is beautiful to see this. The creativity is also beautiful. 

This is not about being against styling that includes straightening the hair, for instance. Every person should feel free to groom his or her own hair according to personal self-expression. 

It is instead about a forced expectation about what the hair of Black people is supposed to look like. It is about how Black people internalize these notions such that they despise their own God-given being. 

It is also about how people who are not Black feel they have the right to tell Black people how to be in their appearance in order to make those people feel safe and comfortable.

Another person’s discomfort with the appearance of the natural hair of a Black person should be understood as a personal problem specific to that individual; an issue to work through with a spiritual leader or psychological counselor.

The same goes for those who decide that another person’s sensitivity to pain should be characterized as ‘nasty’. Who gets to decide how any person experiences pain in the body besides the person feeling the pain?

The larger point is this: There is a strong tendency to cast our internal discomfort onto others around us. This would be similar to taking your bag of garbage and dumping it at your neighbour’s front door. We all know that kind of behavior is socially unacceptable. Yet, it is often the way with personal prejudice or emotional discomfort. 

Ironically, projecting these aggravations onto other persons gives them an appearance of power over our feelings. Disliking what someone else chooses to do with his or her external appearance may be a matter of personal taste, but it’s not okay to decide for that person how he or she should be. 

If the discomfort moves to wanting an entire segment of society to conform one’s preference, that should be seen as the call to do the internal work to recover from a misguided belief system.   

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. This opinion column is in the September 27, 2018 issue of Share Newspaper – http://www.sharenews.com

Twitter @patprose

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A young child’s falsehood generates big news

By PAT WATSON

You know when you get that funny feeling that something about a news story is not right? It was the feeling that came with the report during the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro when American swimmer Ryan Loche said he was robbed. Something about his story did not feel right.

Eventually, Loche admitted that he “over exaggerated”. In fact, he had lied about what happened at a Rio gas station in the early hours one morning. Loche and his friends got into some bad behavior and then tried to cover it with a fantastical fabrication.

Which beings us to the events of a few days ago in this city in which an 11-year-old girl made news headlines for telling a story about being approached by “an Asian man” of about “age 25” who approached her with scissors in hand twice as she was on her way to school and attempted to cut of her hijab – a head covering worn by women and girls in observance of their Muslim faith practices.

Now, there may be any number of reasons a young child might make up a story like this. And, it may be going too far to speculate what her real reasons may have been. Yet in the larger picture, the type of hostility that has been directed toward people of Muslim faith in the Western world at least since the deadly terror attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. in September 2001 has to be considered. That is longer than this girl has been alive. She was born into this hostility.

Children are living with the awareness that the faith of their families puts then under suspicion and under attack. It would not be a stretch to see how frightening news reports of other attacks on Muslim women especially could give rise to imaginative expressions of fear from the young ones.

By the way, if this were “not how we behave in Canada”, that little girl would not have the raw material from which to make up such a story. So let’s stop dragging up that nonsensical expression and instead acknowledge the presence of a significant element in Canada that either harbours or acts on racism and hostility towards so-called others.

It might not even be coincidental that the girl’s story came close to the January 29 anniversary of the worst terror killing of Muslims in this country. For, it was just one year ago that one radicalized young man walked into the Islamic Culture Centre in Quebec City during the prayer hour and proceeded to shoot six people to death and injure 19 others.

The other matter that this story raises has to do with the seeming haste with which some stories land in news media. Social media can set fire to any goings-on and sometimes news media seeking to keep pace will jump the gun. This seems to be yet another one of those stories.

Finally, this will most likely be an unforgettable lesson for one young child about the heavy consequences of falsely crying wolf.

A note on s#*/@#…

It was fascinating to observe how major news media handled reporting the top offensive remark last week from the United States’ iconoclastic president. It must have been an interesting time in editorial newsrooms as decisions were taken on how to report accurately on the derogatory comments Donald Trump made about countries including Haiti, El Salvador and pretty much the entire African continent. In reporting what Trump said, (and it won’t be repeated here) some gave a pre-emptive warning about the “vulgar” language they were about to quote, so that children would not be unnecessarily exposed. If it’s not clear yet, American politics has definitely fallen down the rabbit hole into a nether world reality. Oh, and, Trump is racist.

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter @patprose.

@DesmondCole ’s activism and a double standard

Desmond Cole’s activism and a double standard

 

By PAT WATSON

The dynamic individual actions of activist and freelance journalist Desmond Cole in standing up as a voice for equity for Black people and his decision to stop writing a bi-monthly column in the Toronto Star are part of the same struggle. In keeping with his activism, it was very much about anti-Black racism. Cole made a principled decision.

He had been advised by the Star that his activism and his journalism were clashing. To reference a written response by feminist activist Michelle Landsberg that appeared in Now Weekly, the Star “blundered”.

It really comes down to this: At a time when privileged White males in the Canadian writers milieu were having fun being glib on Twitter about funding an award for one of their own – ‘the appropriation prize’ – there is stubborn blindness to the equal value of the existence of others. And, whenever a member of one of those otherized (yes it’s a word) groups claims his equal place in the world, there is push back.

We are in the process of waking up somnambulant White-identified masses – and in particular the male power elite – to the fact that they are only human and so is everyone else. They are being challenged to come to the reality that it is not their place to tell any other racially or culturally identified segment of the population how to be. It must feel very peculiar to them.

The prospect of losing the status they have sustained over centuries must be unsettling. Otherwise, why would Star higher-ups want to try to get Cole to white-wash his columns, which by the way had been cut from weekly to twice a month?

With printed news struggling for market share, Cole’s columns were bringing readers to the Star. Clicks online to link to his column meant money to the Star’s bottom line. Yet, even that couldn’t make them see beyond the platform of race hierarchy.

The Star’s explanation, that the journalist should not become the story, has been shown to be empty. Much could be said about the double standard that was in effect in this matter. Landsberg and others writing in support of Cole’s decision have laid out the evidence of vocal activists who were also columnists writing for the Star and heavily supported in their activism. Landsberg goes so far as to note that her editors “in fact, encouraged my activism.”

It’s clear then what it means that Cole was essentially told he could not do what others before him had done while continuing to have their bylines in the Star.

Cole was quickly invited by other media houses including the CBC to have his byline appear there.

If nothing else, this episode with The Star serves to show how even those that consider themselves as champions for equality and fairness across racial lines still feel they own the prerogative to decide how much equality and fairness other identified groups can or should have. After all, this same legacy newspaper did the extensive investigative report on police carding of Black men that helped raise the flag in the mainstream.

Of course, every newspaper editor reserves the decision whether to print a column, but when the Star brought Cole on board, he was already a high-energy activist on behalf of Black people. Therefore, to then imply he should have to make a choice in the matter is foolishness.

Cole’s readers will follow him wherever his goes, so when he left The Star, his readership left with him. Will this then be a learning experience for the Star?

Anyway, their move, their loss.

A note on ransomware…

The cyber attack, WannaCry ransomeware that locked users out of the files on their computer and created chaos in the healthcare system in the United Kingdom is a reminder to regularly save files in a backup offline. Most of us have no clue how to pay a ransom with bitcoins, the common form of ransom payment. Better safe than sorry.

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter @patprose.

The black people in the Middle of Nowhere: The lost community of Amber Valley, AB

Kenny Edwards was only trying to buy a few tins of chewing tobacco at an Oklahoma store, but within seconds he could see that he was unnerving the clerks behind the counter. It was around 1946 in a state still in the grip of segregationist Jim Crow laws. Hospitals, lunch counters and drinking fountains were…

via The black people in the Middle of Nowhere: The lost community of Amber Valley, AB — National Post – Top Stories

Living Illusions, craving truth

Living Illusions, Craving Truth

Earthscape

BY PAT-ANGELLA

We are, most of us anyway, under an illusion that our life is our own. Yet, what evidence is there is to support this presumtion? We are informed — and ignorance contributes to this — to take ownership of an intangible something which we could not in any way possess. We do not possess life. Rather we are possessed by life. We say life, or vie, or vida… . Whatever the language, there is a sound we make that represents this thing we call life. My life. Your life. There really is no such thing.

Here is the evidence: Who among us writes the story of how his or her life will be such that the life specifically follows that script? Who is it that writes his own path, step for step; the roadmap of a life laid out exactly and then followed exactly?

If you exist, show yourself. Tell the rest of us what we have been missing.

It takes a lifetime to know a scintilla of what is real and true. And, every time we encounter some part of what is real and true, it changes everything that we know that came before it. Isn’t that so?

Now, some of us in this Earth paradigm have no care or concern with such matters. Why bother with these awarenesses if it makes no difference? For whatever reason, we are here. However we got here, we are nevertheless here. So, why not get on with the busyness of the experience as it is laid out here on Earth?

That makes sense, doesn’t it? Sure, it is a fair approach.

But, some of us want nothing better than to peek behind the curtain. We are driven to ask those age old questions regarding our very existence: Who am I really? Why am I here?

Do you ever think that perhaps our so-called real life is some cosmic rollout not unlike The Sims game, which engages players in a simulacrum of life? Oxford University philosophy professor Nick Bostrom makes the argument for this.

If we were to truly know the answer, we would have to be the game player and not the players in the game.

Globe1

Why wars? Why killings for sport? Why hatred of others? Why insert all that chaos with awareness of Love? What reality is this that lays before us in dichotomies and paradoxes?

Yet, we know only a little. Another piece of the truth is just around the corner. But, we may only have a taste of it, for it is elusive. Nevertheless, in among the Mystery — and many mysteries — of Life is the desire to look behind the curtain.