Big Up from Aribinda

Friday, July 4, 2008

name calling

This blog was written 4 July.

I am so sick of getting “treated poorly” on transport. I better toughen up, thicken my skin a little, because I got another year of it. I remember thinking I wanted to know what it felt like. I know it now, without the racism. And I am thankful for that. Now after being pointed out, obviously, for the difference of my skin color, it just aggravates me. On having to take transport in this country, my comportment changes from amiable to pissed-off. I don’t want to talk to anyone, be involved with the Burkinabe at all. They all seem to piss me off when I am on transport. That’s just me not being zen, because so many of the Burkinabe on transport are very nice.

I was recently going back to Aribinda and we stopped in Gorgadji, a village about 45 km east of my site. I was getting out of the taxi brousse and a Burkinabe simply just says le blanc. He didn’t even address me, he just said it. He didn’t ask a question, nothing. I almost grabbed him by his shoulder and turned him around just to ask him why he did that. A cooler head prevailed. I walked away and just thought to myself what a stupid asshole he was. Why not just say monsieur? Instead, my color exposes me to this. It is just cultural, yet I still have a huge problem with it. I’m a celebrity, mostly for the tinge of my skin and my being an American. People in Dori do it to, to an excessive extent. They just don’t know it pisses us off, it’s just they way they do it and look at it.

When we arrived in Aribinda, that same guy got to see how the villagers in Aribinda embrace me. Monsieur Mac, c’est comment? I looked at him, and he was looking at us, a blank stare on his face. I am more a part of the community then just white. There is more to me than just being this pale, pasty guy. I also remember getting off the bus in Ghana on that nightmare of a ride from Ouaga, the first thing a Ghanaian calling to me was Hey, White! I started laughing so hard, I mean, what the hell is that? The Ghanaian started busting up too. It was just otherworldly. I mean, this is the culture. Just gotta breathe and practice that meditation the Dalai Lama taught me.

Finally, I have never experienced in-your-face racism here. I hope I never do and I can’t really imagine what it would feel like. I read Black Like Me and man, was it good. I can’t remember who wrote it, but wow. His perspective of being a white man from Texas and knowing many blacks who were involved in the civil rights movement gave him a great vantage point from which to write. I remember him speaking about the ugliness of it, how it made you feel subhuman, a kind of stain or filth. People were, better yet, are, made to feel inhuman, less than a person. An ugliness incomprehensible to me. I think that is a book all should have to read. Plus, it’s short and a page turner.

Let’s have some compassion people. Embrace and love diversity, it will set you free.

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