And I strongly believe that “Culture Matters“, the title of a book by a professor from my graduate school, something Harrison (well, he had some kuku colonial ideas, so I did not give him too much attention. That was before I met “Bil[E] The Riler” aka “Bill O’Reily”, who taught me to accept crazies…
Back to my culture. I define myself as a Black, African Muganda. All these three elements are dear to my being…
Black makes me a borderless citizen
African identifies me with Ubuntu or “global communitarianism”
Muganda defines my origin (…well, my father’s origin is a different story..but the Baganda are known to be accepting of anyone who “comes among them” you become:)
Now, I hope you are not saying that I am beginning to box myself into places because I do not see it that way. I tend to believe that each one of us has an identity. We belong to something or someone -be it a football club, a running club, a mother, a sorority, you name it. We are something.
Yet, I also think that my culture easily traverses borders and wades across waters with ease. It is all encompassing, too.
Being a black person is universal —since we are all scattered across the universe, and our hands have blessed, supported and nurtured the lives of every living creature. We know of stories in apartheid South Africa where the Boers/Afrikaans resented any black person (Yes! still true today), yet still used them as maids, shamba boys, cooks, nannies and had them breastfeed their children -so the white women’s breasts would not sag. Same is true in Slavery America where all the resentment and sub-humanization of black people did not deter white folks from sleeping with black women and making babies with them. Food for thought
The African lives among us all
To evolutionists, THE AFRICAN is anyone who traces the origin of human existence and civilization from “The Africa
To me, THE AFRICAN is anyone who identifies themselves with the notion of “Ubuntu”, wherever on this globe or extraterrestrial you might be located.
Of course, this is a loaded notion and one that is both highly contested and aggressively guarded. In fact, there are two loaded notions that I perpetuate here: That THE AFRICAN is synonymous with or symbolic of UBUNTU.
To some, THE AFRICAN is anyone who lays a claim to anyone of the 56 countries that make up the geographical landmark called Africa.
With the latter, folks like myself who have since resettled outside the 56 (adding Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and de facto Somaliland) that make up the area considered continental Africa, are easily excluded from belonging, by the guardians of “authentic Africa”, who are scattered in anyone of these 56 countries.
But I guess what encompasses my culture, as I define it for myself is the belief in humanity in any sizes, shapes, looks, locations, orientation, identity. This comes first to me, and is vital in my human existence and interaction. Perhaps this explains quite clearly my choice of relationships. My best friend is Scott -white Scott –perhaps no way close to the “typical African”…often defined as black…No! she was not born in any of the 56 countries…but Aberdeen….and she is all things black to me….and more…she is very human! She is my best friend!!
Now before I become confused with bigotry…this is NOT a story about “Black superiority”….But I am playing around with all “commonly dispensed wisdom”….about the: 1) origins of humankind; 2) the geographical existence of blacks around the world; and 3) the tags to Black people as ‘traditional’ and ‘communitarian’ aka Ubuntu. I trust, many other people who might not think of themselves as “Black” could identify with all three notions I list here…Keep reading ahead how I sort-of dismantle my own thesis:)
My son is America of black origin. Yes, my son’s daddy is African American, not a Muganda….Yes! It matters in America that your identity is tagged onto your “origin”. Perhaps my son might grow up to see himself differently, but that is secondary to how society sees him and what they think of him. Which then brings me to the real issues I set out to deal with here.
I would have imagined that, “the blackness of color and origin” that joins us as continental and Diaspora America, would imply an ease of cultural navigation and understanding. Not true! African Americans are as American as “Joe the Plumber”. They love their big cars, big lawns, big space, the “paper-chase”, and they too believe in the might of America around the globe. They also enjoy dining at “Friendly’s” or Waffle House, going on road-trips across the country, in the comfort of their SUVs, munching on Pringles or sipping Coca Cola. Of course this is a broad-brush….because plenty do not do all the “mainstreamed American culture”. Some, like me love vegetables and fruit, no fries and no frying. Like Africans, they love big celebrations and family reunions (but so do Greeks and Greek Americans and Jewish).
So, when my son and I got reinserted into America mid this year, and back to my son’s paternal family, it hit us much more that, “culture still does matter”. We became more cognizant that, for instance, life is not all about screaming on top of our voices when others are enjoying their sleep. We also realized that childhood is celebrated and accepted, mostly when it is your own child…Not “the village’s child”…You know the African saying that, “It takes a village to raise a child”?
Interesting, my son’s American family -whom btw he looks like more than I think he does me or my family, see my son as strange, and say he “has a lot to learn”! [I wonder what that implies?!] Never mind that they have not mentioned a thing they are learning from him! Of course, he is bubbly, carefree and “mama’s boy”. Yes! He might be spoiled…but he is also used to a society that is too open..and “in your face”, where life is not a rush or a fine line —laiser faire.
Resultantly, my son is beginning to resent being back to America, even though he pushed me repeatedly to move our departure date closer from Edinburgh where we were vacationing.
“Mummy, when are we going to America?”, became his daily question till we jetted into the US of A
He has already made him father and his grandma know that he does not like none of them….because “they are always tell him to do something”….I don’t wanna sound like a defender of my son’s “not wanting to obey”, but I get it.
Something equivalent to being lectured to all the time, without listening to him or letting him “just be”, I think. Back in Uganda, at home, school and among mom’s friends, he was let to just be. I agree, he can definitely use some learning of new environment and new people. Yes! including his own family. Though, I know very well that, even as adults, we do not take very kindly anyone who is always pointing out our shortcomings. It does not work for us, it should not work for kids.
So, I have decided to change gears. I am adopting what my sister in England shared with me from her teen son’s school teacher. Apparently, the school administration normally gives new immigrant children a break, a time to “live and let be” or “act out”, on the understanding that they are coming from different cultures and different societies, and getting immersed into a new and strange culture.
I am letting my son get acquainted with his American family on his terms, with very little lecturing. Kinda a montessori style of learning. He is a great and quick learner! And I know, once he starts school, it will be much easier for him to understand this world. Remind me to tell you what he is like, around this time next year. Bet he will be theAmerican boy, struggling to keep up to his Ugandan culture. And I will work hard to make sure he keeps up my cultural origin as much as we can. Because, culture does indeed matter!