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24 January 2013

The English-ness inside all of us

I just finished reading the book Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. It was assigned to read the first two chapters for a class I am taking, but I ate up the whole book. It was impossible not to. I starting reading it on the bus home from school Tuesday evening and I finished it this morning. I strongly recommend this book.

Beloved claims that we blame colonialism for our present state far too often. He claims the world we be a better place if we just get over it. Get over it? I ask. How?

How can we get over the fact that some people think that they are better then the rest of us just because of their relations to Europe? How can I get over the fact that people expect me to be better (work ethnic, financial management, spiritual life, grades in school....etc) because of the colour of my skins because from about the 1500's until oh say the 1970's give or take, the world was taught that that which has closer proximity to the colonial struggle is better? I am not making excusing, but I choose to reflect on the fact that society has masks.

I recently went to a retreat. During the retreat we were ask to consider our mask. Of course the theme was not necessarily connected to Frantz Fanon's Black Skin White Mask. In fact, I doubt if the leaders of the retreat even considered a connection. The mask they were taking about were connected to the things we portray about ourselves that maybe be completely untrue or less true about ourselves. We usually hide behind these mask, these ascribed statuses to hide our true selves because of fear, insecurity, or shame. There is something true about ourselves that we subconsciously or very consciously learned to hide because it was not normal, preferred, or just plan embarrassing. The example I chose to relate to was is my talkativeness. it is semi-true that I love to talk to others, and I can be quite chatty. Unfortunately I have been using this to hide many things about me and to project quality that I want but have not mastered. I love it when people think I am smart. In fact the best complement that I have  reserved from Beloved, before he was my Beloved, was that I am interesting to talk to. He actually won my heart by saying that.

Relating this to the book.... I also over talk because I want people to hear my accent. I want people to hear for themselves that I do not talk like my American roots dictate. I want people to think.... "She must be from here". In the novel Nyasha uses language for an opposite effect. She holds on to her British accent, even though she is not British and no longer lived there. She wants people to think "she must be from England".  She hides her African-ness even though it is so obvious that she embarrasses herself and others.

So dear readers, I have to run to class. But please think about it. What are we hiding? Why are we hiding it? Let's take ownership of ourselves and embrace that which makes us feel as we in literature like to call "other".

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