Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cindy McCain Refutes Ethnicity as a Disability

As readers of the blog know, I’m African.

I’ve had my detractors, since moving to the US, about whether I can even make that claim.

Most bizarre, perhaps, were the charges by people, who should know better, that I couldn’t possibly identify myself as African because, as my photo attests, I’m white. I’ll note for the record that these detractors were not of my ethnic identity, not of my culture. They were American, and had never graced the shores of my beloved African continent.

I’ll note further, that in sharing this bizarre state of affairs, my African brethren, informed of my American colleagues’ epithets, were, above all, amused.

I told my story to a prominent national community leader in Zambia. He listened quietly and respectfully, as is the African way. When I was done, he asked me a question that healed my heart: “If you are white, and cannot be African, is it also the case that that, if you are black, you cannot be American?”

In a Johannesburg craft market, I shared the same story with a Congolese trader. He looked at me for many, quite uncomfortable seconds, eyes growing ever wider. Then, as is the African wont, he burst out laughing, shook his head, and told me that my story was so implausible that I must surely be making it up. Assured that I wasn’t, he shook his head and said, “I am sorry, my brother.”

Enough said.

I was reminded of this issue listening to Cindy McCain a few minutes ago, because she talked about Rwanda, and about Rwanda’s suffering in the genocide of 1994.

In 1994’s Rwanda, tribal identity was a lethal, and official disability: Hutu, you live. Tutsi, you die.

Cindy McCain acknowledged a guest in the audience, Ernestine, of Rwanda, a woman who had survived the genocide, and who works for healing and reconciliation, in spite of her painful past.

Making difference a disability is never right. Making disability a difference is no better.


Anonymous said...

Cindy McCain's comments to Ernestine were a thinly guised attack on African-Americans. Cindy McCain was in fact appealing to Caucasian-American voters who are afraid that if a President with genetic ties to the African-American race is elected, African-Americans will then ask him to grant financial reparations for the horrible injustice of American slavery.
African-Americans have been consistently asked by Caucasians in the country not to "play the race card." This means, really, that African-Americans are not allowed to make any reference to the fact that they were kidnapped, enslaved, and mistreated after "freedom" by Caucasians. The current generation of Caucasians is fond of stating that they are not the generation that practiced slavery, and that they therefore should not be asked to consider its effects today. The idea of reparations to a generation of people whose 1960s parents were not allowed to attend university without firehoses in their faces doesn't seem improper to me.
African-Americans are mocked by Caucasians for speaking poor English, when in fact their parents and grandparents were robbed of the right to give them a legacy of high education and standard English without high powered water and intense verbal attacks.
I think it is Cindy McCain who played the "anti-race" card with her comment. By lauding Ernestine for not seeking reparations, she tried to validate the Caucasians who don't believe reparations for African-Americans are appropriate.
The imposed silence (about the effects of slavery and racism) on African-Americans by Caucasians is the true disability.
-Anita in New Jersey

Anonymous said...

Sorry. In my above comment, I meant to say "a President with genetic ties to Africa is elected." I realize that neither of the Presidential candidates are genetically African-American.

I also realize that not every Caucasian person is represented by Cindy McCain on the point of whether or not African-Americans should be compensated for the effects of systematic racism. I am married to a Caucasian man (English ancestry) who is far more enlightened than Mrs. McCain on the racism that African-Americans currently experience in the US and is not afraid to acknowledge the racist events of the past and present. (He has to look no further than the news reports of hanging Obama in effigy in Connecticut, defacing Obama signs with the "N" word, or the racial slurs shouted out at recent Republican rallies to find racists.) My husband and I happen to believe that educational grants for African-Americans whose parents were denied the right to attend college in a safe environment because of race would be worth considering.

If you're interested in a humorous look at the American idea that it is politically incorrect to even mention racial discrimination and ways to counter-balance it, check out the chapter on that subject in the book "Stuff White People Like." It is only funny and a best-seller because it rings so true to readers.

Take care.
-Anita again

Dr. Mark Mostert said...

Well, seeing that you cannot possibly see the world from my experience, I'd appreciate that you called me "white" and not "causasian."

Seeing that you are not , nor ever will be, white, please call me and my culture what we know, through experience you can never have, "white."

What, according to your culture, and perspective, would you prefer that I called you?

I also note that you did not address the heart of my argument.

For you, am I an African American or am I not?

Bests, Mark