Tis the season to be Jolly
This weekend I was invited to a tasteless Christmas jumper party by one of my work colleagues.
Now I was hesitant to attend due to a few reasons
The first being that I decided not to regularly socialise with work colleagues as a point. I never wanted my private life spilling into my work life and vice versa when I came up to Aberdeen. The industry is very small and one small thing can fuck up your prospects so I don’t want to take that risk until after I’m fully qualified.
After being up here for 2 1/2 years, I’m beginning to re-assess this and I now don’t think I need to tread as carefully as I did before and I should get to interact with them all a bit more (they are mostly a good bunch). I don’t want to waste the opportunities that life presents to me.
The second notion is that it was going to be a gathering of African individuals (predominantly of west African descent). I had a good range of African friends in secondary school but when I got to University, there was a large number of students who were having their first experience of being in the west at this point in time. I had pretty much grown up in the west and I felt that while some were just as friendly as anyone else, there were some that did have the tendency to turn your nose down at you for not coming across as African enough. There were also a growing number of them and a constant number of mes. Unfortunately though, since the majority of them socialised together in groups, it was impossible to get to know some without the others, so I tended not to socialise where they congregated (normally afrocarribean orientated society nights etc) and I would let my friend network grow…naturally regardless of creed, race or background.
But again, I’ve been doing some thinking and my prejudgement of their interactions with myself are no better than theirs of me. It all really comes down to misconceived perceptions on both sides and I thought I would get outside my comfort zone and be the better person.
What’s the verdict Mr Scrooge?
So taking this all into consideration and the fact I’ve been a bit of a social recluse lately, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and buy a real tasteless jumper and turn up. I was somewhat happy that my inherent shyness wasn’t too big of an issue since I knew four of the people there from work so I found some comfort there.
There was food, a little alcohol, afrobeat music playing in the background and the atmosphere was pretty cool. Everyone there seemed friendly even though I didn’t get a chance to speak to many of them properly, I didn’t feel at any point down trodden. Job done and a pat on the back for moving forward.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water
Of the 10 or so people there, there were three of us that appeared to have spent the majority of their upbringing based in the UK but this never really became an issue, until a little bit later.
So the conversations turned to the normal types of topics and we were deciding on whether to stay in after our massive feast or go to a club
ON talking of clubs, a club in Aberdeen which plays Afrobeats was mentioned.
one of the other girls was asked whether she’s been there before by this gentleman
Her reply was no
For some reason, the follow up question was whether or not she liked afrobeat music. At this point, I could sense by the way it was asked that this was subtlety hostile and could see where this conversation was going but I wasn’t going to rear my ugly head in it to steer it off course.
She said it wasn’t that she didn’t like it, she just didn’t come across it on a regular enough basis for it to be a genre of choice.
Fair enough answer and end of topic I would say but apparently not….
‘So you’re a coconut then?’
I didn’t want to believe it but he actually dropped this old chest nut.
This was followed by a group of general small laughter alongside some silent awkward moments and a couple of odd groans from those who realised a line had been crossed.
She defended herself well and said the issue wasn’t the music, it was it was associated with dancing and she didn’t like dancing full stop as it made her feel socially awkward.
At this point, the conversation changed but to me the damage had already been done.
Same shit, different day
In an instance, my reasons for not attending events like this had been realised. I must say it was a unique experience because normally that type of questioning and tone would be addressed to me but for some reason, people tend to hone in on the person most different to themselves to turn their attention to and in this case, I just wasn’t different enough.
I’ve never seen it ever really happen to anyone else before and I must say it was a bizzare experience. Surprisingly uncomfortable as well. Well, it was uncomfortable afterwards, the part of me that likes other people’s misery found it pretty fucking funny to start off with. I can’t lie to you all, not fully anyways. But even though I silently revelled in her anguish, I didn’t like how it was brought about in such a crass manner.
Even though she carried herself well then and throughout the rest of the night, I felt really bad for her being put on the spot like that. I mean this questioning wasn’t coming from a stranger, it was coming from one of us, a work colleague, a person she may have to interact with on a regular basis in the future.
Why would you want to have someone thinking, you thought about them that way? It just doesn’t make any sense.
Now here is the thing
I genuinely do no get what the hostility is and where this holistic African identity originated from?Did it originate from the original set coming over and thinking they were better than those they left behind, or vice versa, was it a mixture of the two? Why is it still such a sour point with so many folk?
Now the question came from a male and I don’t know whether he’s had his advances from her blocked in the past or something else had happened but this gentleman is usually quite quiet and polite so it came as a real shock for this to be coming from him. He clearly knew where the rabbit hole would lead and wanted to assert himself by embarrassing her which didn’t actually work but that’s beside the point.
Is that a fair comment?
By all definitions, I would go as far as to call that comment borderline racists because it makes someone feel bad about something they have no control over, their own upbringing.
We as children have no choice in our genders, our race and our own upbringing. Those are all out of our hands. Why should we be ridiculed for decisions that are parents made on our behalf?
Decisions which were probably rooted with the underlying ‘raise kids with the best resources we have available’. This isn’t a bad trait, infact, it’s an inherently African-associated trait. To be fair, most coconut critics wouldn’t even be able to HAVE this conversation if their parents didn’t arrange for them to get an education in the west in the first place, which makes the entire point stupid.
Not only this but they are open to the same level of finger wagging from those who spent all their lives based in Africa. So where is this magical cut off point when you’re declared black enough on the inside to not be looked down on?
Why must she and other people like myself feel bad because their parents decided to raise them here?
Heck, I get this from my own parents, my OWN parents. I’m like durrr, you decided to start me off in school over here, yet you mock me for not being African enough? what kinda fucked up shit is that?
We are brought up somewhere in order to gain a educational advantage but education doesn’t come purely in academia, it comes with social awareness and enlightenment as well. You mix the old and traditional with the new and innovative and come up with something unique altogether.
It appears though that no one actually wants that from their children because they become unrelatable and this is manifested in the fear of the unknown, the fear that one’s culture is being diluted, bleached away so to speak.
But here we aren’t talking about dilution, we are talking about cultural evolution through one generation to another.Who is to say I’m not African or anything else and who is to say that their perception of what counts is valid and warranted. Surely it is up to the individual to decide where their own identity (whether cultural or not) lies?
What it all boils down to
This talk is ultimately about cultural identity and how people manifest it.
Just because people are able to blend into a culture different from the one they originate from doesn’t make them any less associated with their origin culture. They may just choose to manifest it in a completely different way. A super quick example I’ve noticed is that while native educated Africans tend to be more extroverted with their culture, Children in raised in the west are more introverted with it BUT they still hold it in the same place in their hearts. It is just the social conditioning of it that alters.
I mean this is pretty damn obvious when it comes to language. Most of the world conducts business in english but it isn’t anywhere near the majority’s mother tongue. Yet you don’t ridicule people for trying to learn how to speak english.
Saying that, I could bring of some examples of people trying to claim that flag (Hey ma and Pa 🙂 ).
Is the point even valid?
I mean let’s break it down for a sec with this specific topic brought up.
afro beats just happens to originate in africa but the style of music is nothing more than aborted american hip hop and autotune lovechild alongside european dance music, with african dressing?
How is this upholding anything of any real african values or culture? It’s not as if she insulted an adult or spoke out of turn to anyone. She was a good guest and was treated the host, her home and everyone there with common respect, elders and youngsters alike. This was just a discussion on musical preference
IF anything, If I was to break the Afrobeat movement down, I see a improper portrayal of culture as they all attempt to emulate the hip hop and popular music culture of the American music scene. The sexualization of women in the music videos is a prominent western influence that wasn’t part of the music I heard in my childhood. Same goes for the advertising of the lavish lifestyle on the videos, a lifestyle like than 0.00001% of the continent’s population can ever dream of emulating.
I’m fairly sure not many people in the room at the time would appreciate the likes of african music from the likes of Amadou and Miriam, Fela Kuti , Corneille or perhaps Lira, Nekka or Vusi Mahlasel BUT if I had brought this up, I could have legitimate grounds to question their cultural hinges.
The reason I wouldn’t is because I clearly understand that musical preference has no influence on anything and trying to use that as a staple point to step on someone’s self identity is just kinda sad.
I specifically mention Vusi, because he sings this song ‘When you come back’ which is all about the triumphant return of an African on their way home and the ultimate rise of the continent in anticipation
But looking around, all us migrant generation have to look forward to is a spit in the face and shunning as not being part of it anymore. We’re being disassociated from our homes and history and the continent’s prodigal children find themselves believing they don’t have a place to call home anymore. They no longer belong.
Is it any wonder why the continent with the richest source of natural resources (mineral, food resource, mental and physical) is still in the state it’s in?
States of Disarray
Members of the African continent continue to point fingers at the outside influences that have caused it to become the way it is. We often neglect the unnecessary inner turmoil that prevents us from trusting each other, working as unit and just moving independently in the same direction (whether good or bad) rather than being dragged by an external force in every direction possible. What all happened to unity under oppression? As soon as the external stimulus is taken off, we start turning on ourselves again.
And at the very end of it, like I said before in the quote of the year 2012 post, one’s own cultural identity is very similar to class and is intrinsic to them. What ultimately does it matter if someone cultural identity is completely westernised anyway? If someone no longer wishes to associate themselves with something, then fucking let them, don’t ridicule them out of some sort of pack culture. It doesn’t make them any less than you are. That may simply be all they’ve ever known or even all they want to know. That may be the way they were intended to be in order to get the best out of life? Can you not simply accept them as individuals instead of trying to place them in stereotypical boxes that make your life easier?
There was a bridge there at the party, a bad tasting woolly jumper bridge. A genuine opportunity for one individual perhaps to enlighten another on their musical way of life but the bridge was burnt for a cheap one up.
It just drives me nuts….coconuts…..I miss the times the term was associated with this little jingle
Gone is the innocence of childhood…
I wonder how many more generations have to endure stuff like this…
I hope not many more… but then I probably should no better by now.
Saying this though, I’m not going to let this stop me putting that olive branch out.
I will put the emphasis on people seeing me as me rather than two parental shades of grey.