Even nice people raise racists

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis Protest

Enraged, the questions, “Why can’t white people leave black people alone?” “Why can’t white people end the hatred and wickedness that now looks like it is genetically infused and transfused per blood from parent to child to black people” mount in my mind. They multiply, are edited, but the answers never come. Each year, the same questions, the answers, unsuccessful. And now, in this concise post which is incapable of holding all my thoughts on racism, I share some understandings of how white people even the nicest ones raise racists.

My first personal scrape with racism happened on my move to Germany, even on the Lufthansa flight. The white waitress believed she was doing me a favour by providing me for a service I paid. She treated me differently from the white man seated by me. Anyway, I moved to East Germany, former German Democratic Republic, the place mostly intolerant to anything foreign unless it is food and sex. I was shielded by being part of a student community, on a campus and in a University town. But this region is the headquarters of PEGIDA (you can google that), an organisation that started in the same year I moved to Germany. They go on regular protests and when they happen, we stay indoors. They are against Islam, foreigners, refugees, and anyone else who is not pure-bred white German. They believe that in speaking up against all the things they hate, instead of speaking up to the real problems they face in that region and the injustices they suffer as a bulk of industries are in west Germany, they make sure the dignity of their heritage is maintained. Ask what this honorable heritage is.

The thing is: each city I moved to, I experienced something, some form of rudeness, some form of wickedness, some form of hatred, even in West Germany I experienced the worst and hopefully the worst from neighbors who harassed me and were supported by the house administration. I also experienced other forms of racism from my son’s father’s family which I reserve for a future post.

I came to Germany with an open mind. I knew of racism had not prepared myself for it. The Germans I knew before coming to Germany were missionaries. I was naive. I thought most or all Germans were open minded, receptive of all races. I learnt the truth by burning myself in all the wrong ways. Last year, I had a conversation with a colleague, she (white) believed race tolerance was getting better, people were more receptive (how could she know? She is white). I argued the opposite, that people are rather now intolerant than 30 years ago even when the world is supposedly closer . As many as there are of persons advocating for freedom of the sexes, gender, etc. how many laws and legal instruments have been passed in the past decade against the injustices of black people? The disrespect white people and others have for black people is unwarranted and shameful.

How do you remain that proud of the injustices and murders your great-great-grandparents have caused for generations on black people and stay justified enough to pass it on to your children? As a parent, it becomes clearer how these biases are passed on to their children, for example through education structures that label heroes as those who destroyed, killed, manipulated others in their homes or through simple rhymes that do glorious storytelling and sing about other nationalities. I ask myself what essentially is for example the popular folk-song “Drei Chinesen” to teach children. Yes, it is to teach them vowels, but is that the only way children can learn vowels, by singing about the Chinese? The song lyrics says three Chinese with the contra-bass sitting on the street and having a conversation. Then came the police and asked them what that is. Three Chinese with the contrabass. The first time I heard it I knew it was wrong. Why should the police walk up to them? This song is passed on to children as early as 1 where the inherent message sinks in and is affirmed in school with gallant stories of  heroes who civilized the uncivilized and how that makes them glorious and the know all. No song is just a silly song unless you wish to nurture silliness in your children. Another song “Ein Mann, der sich Kolumbus nannt”, lyrics here, is an over glorious storytelling of Columbus, a hero who discovers America where the people there yell in delight “We’ve been discovered” which we know is false.

Why can’t you make your children sing about apples, bananas, dogs, and cats like everyone else? These things start so early. There are many children whose parents never tell them there exist other races apart from the white race. When they see a black person, they stare at them and ask why they are like that, while their parents look away or say something like they are (beautiful) people too. Let us never forget, even nice people raise racists, even the well-meaning can raise racists unless they are intentional about addressing racism in their home.

Some years ago, one of the nicest people invited me over for dinner where I made a Ghanaian dish for them. When one child saw me eat with my hands, he made vomit sounds and said what I did was disgusting: eating with my hands. At the age of 8, no one had taught him to have an appreciation of other cultures and that no culture was supreme, not even his. I could go on ranting into a book. Maybe I should but not today.

Racism is believing that this world space is not enough for blacks and whites. That whites need to claim superiority over blacks by heralding ownership over blacks and making all crimes against blacks’ honorary badges for generations to come.

How will racism end? When all white people accept that they are racist and everything they have is built on their oppression of minorities and strive to address it.

That is when freedom starts for us all, blacks and whites.

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Church.online

COVID-19 lockdown restricting church meetings was needed in curtailing the spread. In Germany, restrictions were since March, though since early May, with precaution, some churches meet.  At the outset, the ‘shutdown’ of churches was met with mixed reactions. This ban was historical, affecting church, mosques and other religious gatherings. For some, it was church persecution, no disease should keep them from worshipping God. Others wondered why preachers who claim to heal everything could not do same with CoVID-19 but closed church. While some preachers protested in the way they knew best, others asked their members to stay home.

In the following days, the church if I may use this collective phrase, bombarded the Internet. I thought this was marvellous! I could be part of any service in the world! I could listen to any preacher on Sunday I wanted to! My fantasies were short lived, that would be overwhelming, not to be talk of time zones. But it was nice to watch the few services I could from Ghana.

I belong to a tightly knit Ghanaian church and this virtual thingy has been a learning curve for us. I first titled this piece “church on a conference call”, I wanted to share how the experience of church on a call was. As I was used to conference calls for work purposes. It changed into this title because we transitioned to video conferencing and I thought to add that experience too.

The church phone conferencing was new experience. Initially I found it irritating with technical intrusions and background sounds from persons who were unaware. This was new to us all. Thus, sometimes people made other calls putting ours on hold, intruding private conversations, or TV. Later, repeated stressing of muting made a huge difference. When we switched to Zoom it was livelier, nice to see faces I had not seen in a while, with most people putting in the effort to dress up which was also nice. And Zoom made it easy to control unwanted background sounds. But video conferencing can be daunting, people come into your home, they are just not touching anything. For a church service, it will be awkward if someone or something  you prefer to keep private launches in your video like this situation.   

The positives I find are that church online has made uncomfortable places becoming comfort places for many. For example, for some, with the use of technology, though I believe a few are left behind. I like the convenience of being in church and on a walk at the same time. I like not travelling or dressing up and mostly being on time. It has as well been a wonderful bonding session for us as a district of four assemblies (churches) which seems like a convention each Sunday.  

But we (I) do miss church, face-to-face church I mean. Church is not only church. For some, church is the one time in a week they dress up, dance, clap or sing. For some, therapy. For me, church is the one time weekly, I meet Ghanaians face-to-face and get in touch with my Ghanaian roots. I imagine that when we meet each other soon,  we will appreciate each other more or better. I only imagine. But one thing I am sure of is that there will be people dancing, singing, clapping and shouting out loud like never before.

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When do the little cees become big cees?

When learning to write the english alphabets, most children start with capitals (upper cases). Two common arguments educators use are that upper cases are easier for children to master. They have less curves. Upper cases are found effortlessly by children in their environments. For example, shop signboards are every so often in capital letters.  Thus, children start the writing process with capitals before progressing to lower cases. Opposing schools of thought believe that teaching children upper cases can be a form of passing on bad habits. They believe it is detrimental while children encounter less than 10% of texts in lower cases in the future. Most literature is in lower cases, so why not start with lower cases then?

Let us step out of the classroom or pedagogy into the future where children are now adults and do not for a second consider how their writing skills started. Or dare I say, care less of how their writing skills began but appreciate the fact that they can write. And the best part is, they cannot recall or explain how it started, with lower cases or upper cases.  

One major challenge of many economies is corruption. The ability to skirt accepted procedures by concealing an envelope in the folder or squeezing the five Ghana Cedis note in the hands of the policeman who questioned the broken headlights. While this was happening who was watching? Was it a toddler or the new intern? How can a tree be uprooted unless we know the extent of its roots? Abruptly removing that tree can end up destroying something else, even valuable. I think it is not entirely right to believe that corruption is a thing of politicians, unless all politicians are of one family, country and are on loan till their term is over.

I think corruption started from the nursery. It started when the nursery teacher unexpectedly turned into a more loving person because mama gave them a sack of rice and box of oil for Christmas last year. As a child this lesson was learnt, little favours like toffees can turn enemies into friends. And that is why when standing for the class prefect position, upon request, mama buys a carton of pencils and pens for the class before the election day. Even though Akwasi would be a better class prefect, the pens and the pencils help the class in the decision-making process.

The trend carries on in senior high school and then tertiary. Then the day comes when the Tender folder can only be forwarded to the germane desk with an envelope hidden inside. Or the day when squeezing the five Ghana Cedis into their hand allows one to hurriedly proceed to drop the young one at childcare. The normality of corruption is what challenges the fight. The word fight suggests a battle against a foreign thing, when it is us, a sibling or a neighbour that is corrupt. No one from space.

Detangling the tentacles  that is interwoven into the defining elements of a society is challenging but possible hard work. Where are the lines drawn? What am I doing now that is infringing on another’s rights? How do I answer that question when I think all I do is normal as per the society I come from? How can I work to remove the grips of these tentacles and learn to realise that I am passing them on to my child and the new intern?

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