June 17, 2011

Refusing to be boxed in!


Injustice rooted in power play has always been a “red rag to a bull” for me.

However lately, I’ve noticed where I have an increasing tendency to shy away from issues that I used to feel so enraged by and passionate about. It’s not that I’m any less enraged or passionate; somehow I’m just exhausted by all of the rhetoric that brings forth well, more rhetoric and no action. Sometimes when I do speak, I’m told that I’m so emotional, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

Do I just morph into a shell of apathy and simply wade through life?  For me, this isn’t an option either.

I’m now at a space of “put up or shut up.” If one is not prepared to do something to change the situation then please refrain from the intellectual masturbation. I recognize that such a stance may seem a tad drastic given that dialogue is an intrinsic part of creating a movement that is able to effect change.

So where and how do we find a meaningful balance in all of this?

Case in point: this week I came across an article that ran in the New York Times headlined:

Race Remixed

On College Forms, a Question of Race, or Races, Can Perplex

As I set about reading this piece, literally, my draw dropped.  Beyond perplexity, I was gob-smacked for a variety of reasons that I am still trying to decipher.

The first [recurring] question that confronted me was, why do we have this incessant need to place ourselves and others within the confines of a box? According to the projected attributes of my box – female, angry, Black, Jamaican and dread-locked – by now, I should have been a single mother of 3, all different baby-fathers and [still] oscillating between the bedroom and kitchen, enraged, with frying pan as my weapon of choice in hand above head and ready to strike whomever dare cross my path of frustration.

Thankfully, by the grace and goodness of my Higher Powers, I am blessed to live a different reality and to serve those who are trapped in a variety of futile boxes from the empathetic stance that it could have been me.

The second wave that struck me was one of appalling sadness – at the fact that one may need to wager their ethnicity in order to gain access to education – one of the basic tenets of human rights especially in a United nation that is the States of America! To be asked to compromise on the very life force that flows through the red blood in our veins is precisely what gives rise to feelings of low self-esteem, insecurity and confusion about who we intrinsically are as human beings.

As I continued to read through this article, it became apparent that within its context; [think box of what it takes to get into an Ivy League institution], the issues of race and ethnicity are being juxtaposed against measurable, socio-political economic variables. Kudos to the economists and educators of an egalitarian society! How does this correlate to the notion that all [men] are created equal?

However as a human being labeled as hailing from the developing world and traversing this world – one that is largely developing or under-developed by economic standards – my blood boils when I read such horror stories. I am not so naïve as to allude myself to the existence and reality of discrimination. It is part of the darkness of the human condition. What does outrage me however is when systems that are intended to educate and enlighten, by virtue of their actions instead perpetuate such lines of exclusion and divide.

What’s worse is that these ambitious students-to-be become prey and victims to a system, one which they are indebted to financially and otherwise.

I wonder, what would happen if all applicants irrespective of race chose to ignore the question that asks them to identify who they are on the basis of race?  To what extent might one be penalized for leaving this box empty?  I doubt that tertiary education would come to a grinding halt given its strong “business” component.

From my own personal experience, several years ago after a particularly daunting racist incident in a civilized Asian country, I made a conscious decision that I would no longer take a definitive, defensive stance on the issue of race. When, where, why and how I would respond and/or react to racial and racist incidents could only be determined on a case-by-case basis. I would educate when and where I felt I could have a transformative effect and invoke the Serenity Prayer in those instances where any such attempt would be counter-productive.

This Race Remixed rhetoric has seeped into my veins, stirred my melting pot and has helped to re-affirm that I’ve not lost my edge at all!

Injustice still incenses me.

In the words of Robert [Bob] Nesta Marley,

‘if I was educated, I’d be a damn fool.’

For the complete story:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/us/14admissions.html?pagewanted=4&_r=2

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