Thursday, 20 August 2015

Opinion: On the pejorative of being 'white on the inside'

So he said
Steven Patrick Morrissey who is commonly known as Morrissey and really from my perspective might have been noticed for the fact that the name is recognisable but whatever he might have done and I am led to believe he sings in a band known as The Smiths whose music has had no personal recollection as to be forgettable, appears to have opinions.
Reading the Wikipedia entry as pertains this man suggests for an Englishman that he is apparently controversial as if I care a hoot.
However, I am drawn to comment on a view he expressed to Larry King in a somewhat candid interview, they say, when he surmised in the following words, “So is Obama, is he white inside? It’s a very logical question, but I think he probably is.
The pejoratives are many
I have never really been sure as how to respond to this kind of view, the many variants of this “white in the inside” pejorative is probably, ‘bounty’, ‘coconut’, ‘not one of us’, or ‘thinking like a Westerner’.
All of these I have been called at various times for having an opinion, standing by a principle, enjoying an interest, stating an objective or daring a particular conspicuousness of appearance.
It is a maligning form of slanderous condemnation borne of you not acting to a type or a stereotype, where your somewhat unique worldview is excoriated as a betrayal of the identity you are supposed to project and accept.
In this case, Morrissey was suggesting Barack Obama was not doing enough for black people in America especially after the globally significant incidents that have affected young black men in encounters with the police.
Barack Obama leads a nation
Maybe it is too much to say that Barack Obama is mixed race and was primarily brought up by his Caucasian maternal grandparents, even if he more or less identifies as black, his heritage is indisputable. Should one also say that he is the president of a very diverse United States of America, representing all peoples and in which the African American population does not number 20% of the total population?
Whilst again, he might have an affinity with fellow African Americans, the level-headedness with which he has addressed these issues is more what you will expect of a leader, he is not a controversial reactionary. In my view, he is not the reincarnation of Martin Luther King Jr nor a Moses that has come in the spirit of Exodus to lead a people away from a history of slavery depicted in the racism and the deprivation that has hallmarked the existence of the African American in the United States of America.
His job is to speak to reason, speak to hearts and minds and get people to contemplate what kind of country they want to live in that represents the theoretically attainable aims of freedom, of justice, of equality, of fairness and of liberty. He does that well and that is why he is also in his second term as president.
We refuse to be stereotyped
Yet, this whole matter harks to a kind of clannish politics of identity where you are expected to think and act in a particular way, hold up placards and lead protests within a stereotypical pigeonhole that you have been allotted but have refused to occupy.
In that, I remember when a friend asked that I give him an academic reference when we both knew I had never held an academic position, talk less of guaranteeing the academic nous of a friend; a serious conflict of interest and opinion. I countered and generously offered to write a character reference which I believed will be as good and any reference he might require.
I do remember that years after that, I did write a character reference for another friend seeking admission to a university and on the strength of that, the admissions officer called me to suggest I was also the kind of person they were looking for to attend their university. That is how I started a postgraduate programme with the University of Liverpool.
Race does not define virtue
Yet, my friend contemned me and abused me for refusing to give him an academic reference and ended his diatribe with calling me a coconut.
Rather than take offence, I understood his inference and responded, “It is not the exclusive prerogative of the Caucasian to be objective.” If I were in his close proximity, I might have been decapitated, but the self-same fact could not be ignored.
Race or identity does not determine virtue or character, and whilst experience and heritage might shape certain views, they do not have to rigidly define you that you become another example of a stereotype or be found to true to type.
Your character is the greater impression
Indeed, there are people who put it on, who have a particular mannerism with its affectations and there are others who are naturally who they are. By nature or by nurture, we are products of different influences that do not necessarily mean we cannot be liberal, be fair, be just, be honest, be true, be objective, be loving, be forthright and be much else.
Your race is not what decides whether you stick to the rules or not, that is a function of your character, the principles you espouse and the impression that you want to make either consciously or unconsciously.
I will not apologise for who I am or what I have become as a result of my life’s experiences, my pigmentation is a gift of nature, my attitudes, however, are not dictated by the colour of my skin, but by the strength of my character – even Martin Luther King Jr dreamt of a day when my colour will not automatically include me in a stereotypical straitjacket when I am just trying to be an understanding and a teachable member of the human race.
To Morrissey, one might be tempted to say, he is ‘blank on the inside’, but that will be to stoop to his primaeval level. Perish the thought.


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