Saturday, June 03, 2006

Value of color

They come from far and wide to see the Americans, flashing neon lights advertising the Main Attraction, namely our presence. It is unescapable, life defined by something you lack the ability to choose. The age old cry "I am not just the color of my skin." I forget what it is to blend into a sea of people, even at the highest level of integration I will always be the other. But my coming to Africa, to Mozambique was a choice. A choice to willingly put myself in the minority, a choice the only a social class and a degree from a private University could provide. A Privelaged Choice. A choice that escapes those native born to racists societies, ok lets stop the abstract. A choice that non-white Americans will never have. My journey here was in part an attempt to further my understanding of racism in the USA, by experiencing it for myself.

But can I ever fully understand discrimination in the USA, if all the assumptions made about me are positive? (also, the singling out I feel is a result of both racial and cultural differences, but putting that aside.) I experience positive discrimantion, maybe liken to how white americans view asian americans. People assume I am rich, educated, and can provide for them the opportunity their society fails to give. But I think there are some similarties between my experience here and the experience of minorties in the States.

Discrimaination is the resulting veiw of the other, people are categorized and defined in to social hiearchy not by their personal opinions, but by the opinions of the other/outsider. This outside view is eventually internalized to depict the individuals self worth in terms of their group status. In turn each individual of a group is stripped of individuality and thus able to speak on behalf of the totality of the group. I am no longer Chelsea Larkin Keyser, born and raised in VT, with individual experiences and thoughts, I am the white female American. My opinion has become the American opion, which frankly at this point in time, I rather have my beliefs values, founded in Liberalism, stable family and a Unitarian Universalists church, repersent American, than the violent many times ignorant words of our dear President Bush.

In Mozambique the issue of race is not tip toed around or cloaked in delicate phrases like 'celebrating diversity' The difference here, is people have no shame in calling white white (or rather Mulungo) and black black. And my attempts to describe the race relations especially cultural sensitivity in calling non-white Americans by the politically correct name are lost in confusion and blank stares. Mozambiquans come form a colonial history of oppression, were rules were imposed to hold the native, black mozabiquans down, while the Portuguese exploited the country. Yet, the present seems to carry no scars of the divided past. Although Americans golor blind goals are noble our continual failure to combat the institution or racisms in our society- to live by our catchy motos- is like a continual cold slap in the face. Maybe its better to call the Kettle balck, and then appreciate the cup to steaming tea it provides?

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