October 2007


I remember watching a couple of the Sherlock Holmes movies when I was a kid. I never thought much of them as the story lines didn’t really hold my interest, plus they were shown in “black and white”. I do remember though the line Sherlock Holmes gave his sidekick, Dr. Watson when he was ready to solve the case and explain how he came to his conclusions. He made it all seem so obvious after he proclaimed: “elementary my dear Watson, elementary,” and then broke it all down. I would wonder why Watson, being a learn-ed “Doctor”, hadn’t figured it out also and would ask the detective dumb questions. hmmmmm

This week another Dr. Watson garnered media attention, not for asking dumb questions, but for making “dumb” comments. Dr. James Watson, biologist, geneticist, Chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and 1962 Nobel laureate in science, made some controversial statements regarding “Race” in an interview he gave to The Sunday Times. The interviewer shared these beliefs of Dr. Watson’s in the article:

“He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so”.   

This is not the first or only time the “good doctor” has made controversial statements, especially regarding race. During a lecture tour in 2000 he hypothesized that there were scientific links between skin colour and sexual prowess, specifically that “dark-skinned people have stronger libidos”. He has also hypothesized that if you could detect babies with “gay genes” pre-natally, women should then have the right to abort the baby “because women want to have grandchildren, period.” He also agreed with what he refers to as the “unpopular but by no means unfounded” theory of ex-Harvard president Larry Summers, who lectured that the low representation of tenured female scientists at universities might be due to, among other things, “the innate differences between the sexes”. Due to the furor caused by his latest comments, he has had to cancel a book tour, scheduled lectures and he has also been suspended from his administrative duties at the Laboratory.

So here’s the deal. I believe the issue isn’t so much with the statements he made…. but that he made them publicly! He simply stated what is the widely held belief among those in the dominant “white” society. It is not the first time (nor the last) that science has been utilized to assert the inferiority of the so-called “Black Race”. Scientists are forever coming up with hypotheses and theories either contending that “whites” and/or “Europeans” and their culture is superior to everyone elses, or that “Blacks” and/or “Africans” and their culture are inferior to all others. However, because it is no longer “socially acceptable” nor “politically correct” to make such assertions publicly, “the rule” now is to do it within private (i.e. where Black people aren’t allowed) confines of the backrooms, the social clubs, the boardrooms, the executive offices… hell even in the bathroom…. but never, never out in the open and certainly not to the media! If you break this rule…. you are on your own!

Dr. Watson has made the usual apologies, claimed the statements don’t reflect what he meant, “and there is no scientific basis for such a belief.” Interestingly he also stated: “I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said.”

“Elementary my dear Watson, elementary…. you’re a racist.”  

I have never been a strong supporter for the call for reparations. I find that I expend enough energy just trying to get what I am currently entitled to, while I am struggling to hold on to what little I already have. Therefore I have not been really interested in fighting to get an apology and/or monetary compensation from “white” people for the past and current atrocities, injustices and other consequences that stem from slavery.

However, I recently received an interesting email which got me thinking more about this issue. It was from Brother Pruitt, who is the Reparations Leader and Chairman for the Committee for African American Reparations (CAAR) and the Reparations Union Lobbying Association. On his website he states:

“African-Americans should form a Reparations Union creating a power base in the tradition of lobbying and special interest groups that will consist of rich, middle class and poor blacks in addition to community conscious whites, jews and others who would like to see blacks win reparations and attain equality. This would enable African-Americans to announce the need for a congressional hearing to address the ills in society that exist because of slavery, segregation, institutional racism and discrimination. African-Americans owe it to themselves and their ancestors to expose politics and people responsible for maintaining corruption perpetuating unethical activity.”

From what I understood from his email and website, reparations is just one component, but a significant part of the overall healing and empowering process we need to go through as a community. 

What are your views on the issue of reparations? Is it a worthy cause or just a waste of time and energy? Will monetary compensation address the injustices and atrocities of the past in any significant way…. or will it lead to what Biggie Smalls once warned: “Mo’ money, Mo’ problems”? Is reparations only an issue for those in the Diaspora or should those on the African continent demand reparations also from Europeans and Arabs for the theft of human and natural resources and the continuing effects of colonialism?

Please have the link to your post submitted by Sunday 04 November at Afrospear@hotmail.com, and the carnival date will be Monday 05 November.

in-teg-ri-ty (from Dictionary.com):

  1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
  2. the state of being whole, entire or undiminished.
  3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.

I have always advocated that one should take responsibility and accountability for what one does, does not do and for what one says. We are not perfect, but that’s not the issue.  In our imperfections, once we make a mistake or do something that isn’t right, we need to own it, apologize if need be and make it right. This is all rooted in the concept of personal integrity. This is what bothers me most: when one does not act with any integrity!

Today, living with any sense of integrity is not seen as a positive attribute. Actually it is seen as a weakness. The latest celebrity figure from our community who has manifested this lack of integrity is Olympic track and field star Marion Jones. These s/heroes from our community once were the standard, the model of hard work and personal integrity. Now they are just a reflection of the the lack of responsibility, lack of accountability and loss of personal integrity which the wider society now perpetuates…. and this wider society includes us! There are those we come in contact with every day, even some of us, who act with no sense of personal integrity. It’s not that we never had it, it’s not that our parents or grandparents never schooled us on theses values…. we’ve either lost it or sold out for selfish accolades and/or material trinkets. 

“Integrity comes when character is tested; keep true and never be ashamed of doing what is right.”

I was faced with a situation where I was temporarily assigned as a supervisor towards the end of last year. I didn’t receive the customary supervisor’s pay for the first 2 months of this assignment. Why? Because my manager who is “white”, didn’t file the required paper work in time. It is policy that temporary increases in pay for acting supervisory assignments must be filed and approved before it starts. When I enquired about this at the time, my manager lied to me and said that he had filed the paperwork, but his manager who had to also approve it, had at first lost it and when he had filed the paperwork a second time, it sat on his supervisor’s desk and didn’t get approved in time. He assured me that I would receive all my supervisor’s pay in the next period. I didn’t make an issue of it at the time since I felt that getting the experience was beneficial enough at that point. After 6 months of performing supervisory duties, I was finally given my supervisors wage but it was retrograded to the start of 2007…. so I only received 4 months compensation. My manager informed me that I couldn’t get compensated for the first 2 months, since they were in 2006, in another fiscal period. hmmmm ok…

Because it was a temporary assignment, the paperwork for supervisor’s pay has to re-filed for every 3 month period. My manager again filed this paperwork late for the summer period that I had supervised…. he actually filed it at the end of the summer. For this reason, his manager refused to approve the late request for my supervisor’s pay, which I had already received, so I had my pay deducted! Now I got to find out that another colleague of mine, who is “white” and also on temporary supervisory assignment, had all his paperwork filed on time by this same manager and therefore received his due compensation… no problem. Subsequently, I also found out that my manager never filed the original paperwork so I could receive my supervisor’s pay for the first 2 months of my assignment!

My manager was informed the same time I was from our human resources department that my pay was being deducted. He never contacted me to explain or apologize for his negligence. There were a number of factors at work here and one of them is “racial”. I believe that subconsciously, my manager felt he had no responsibility to treat me fairly, explain his actions or apologize for his inaction, due to the colour of my skin. It’s a slave masters mentality…. he values my work, but he does not value me as a human being!  So after a month I contacted him and made it known that this issue was not about the money, which I was no doubt entitled to, but for me it was now a matter of principle! So I asked him to explain why:

  1. I was being punished by having my pay deducted, for his not filing the required paperwork on time to extend my supervisory assignment over the summer period?
  2. Why I didn’t receive my supervisor’s pay right from the time I started the assignment as did my white colleague?

Needless to say this has caused a sh*t storm! My manager took no responsibility nor accountability for his failure to treat me fairly, or for lying to me…. and went on the offensive. He made it known, very strongly and in no uncertain terms, that he was disappointed in me for being so ungrateful for the opportunities he had provided me. He attempted to twist the whole affair around to make it my fault…. my problem…. and I was the one who was being unfair and he was the victim! 

“Your integrity is your destiny. It is the light that guides your way.”

I now have a son. I have to be the primary example in his life of acting responsible and being accountable for what one does, doesn’t do and/or say. I have to teach him how to stand up for his principles, beliefs and values. I have to educate him on the fact that as a man, especially a Black man in a “white” dominated society, there are those who will try to take advantage of him, who will devalue him as a human being…. and expect him to be quiet and accept his “fate”. I have to impress upon him that you don’t need to “fight every fight” that comes your way…. you need to pick and choose your fights but you always fight for your principles. I have to be a role model to him on having personal integrity…. no matter what the cost. 

I had other co-workers warn me that if I made an issue of this, if I confronted my manager as I had done, that it would seriously jeopardize my chances to get promoted. My reply is “what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul”. Integrity resides within our soul. Once you lose your integrity, you lose your soul. They say everyone has a price. For Judas, like for some of us, it is 30 pieces of silver. For others it’s the opportunity to eat the scraps from “Massa’s” table. My integrity is not for sale.                            

It’s thanksgiving here in Canada, which spurred me to reflect on some of the things I am thankful for. Here are 10 things I came up with:

  1. I thank God for His Son Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made for me.

  2. I thank God for my life.

  3. I thank God for my wife.

  4. I thank God for my son.

  5. I thank God for my family.

  6. I thank God for all the people he has brought into my life…. the good, the bad and the indifferent. I have learnt from them all.

  7. I thank God for all that he has provided for me and my family materially and financially.

  8. I thank God for my health.

  9. I thank God that I live in Canada.

  10. I thank God that I don’t live in Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan, Israel or The U.S.A.  

I am sorry to be late with my submission on this exciting topic for our second carnival, but I haven’t yet mastered how to best divvy up my time as a new father. I am always tired…. I sleep, I take care of baby, I go to work, I take care of baby, I sleep and the cycle starts again…. I have “a minute” to spare so here goes…..  

The work of Marimba Ani in  “Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior,” has a lot of truth in it (it is definitely a must read) and I agree with Lubangakene when he asserts that it “makes it clear that the intention and proselytizing usage of European religion was for control and conquest of other peoples. “ Some of his questions also “struck a cord” within me and sparked a thinking process as I contemplated my responses to them…. namely:

  1. How does our God-consciousness, filtered through an alien religion, shackle us?
  2. Can our spiritual/religious beliefs flower within such a context? Can those beliefs and practices empower us?
  3. Is the white man’s religion a positive or negative force, ultimately, in the lives of African peoples in the diaspora?
  4. Is it possible to adopt/adapt the religions and religious practices of an oppressor who has used religion throughout history to conquer the minds and bodies of his targets/victims – to positive affect?

Percolating within me was a rational, intellectual and measured response anchored by my religious beliefs and literary knowledge. I had quotations from the Bible and references from James H. Cone’s “A Black Theology of Liberation” as well as, “God’s Politics” by Rev. Jim Wallis, chosen and ready to assert that religion is about a personal relationship with God and whatever choices we make…. whether good, bad or indifferent, especially in His name, we will have to answer to someday. I was ready to debate that Christianity is not a eurocentric-based religion as such, but that version of it was forced upon us, people of African descent, and it was up to us to free ourselves from spiritual (as well as mental) slavery and find our God… the One who meets all our needs as a people. That is the physiological, emotional, psychological, financial, societal, environmental, intellectual, safety and spiritual needs which may be unique to us and our condition. I was all set to argue that paradoxically, all these needs are not ethnically nor culturally based, since they are important to everyone, regardless of colour of skin, nationality, gender, orientation, language, or even religious beliefs…. however the way and how God meets our needs are not necessarily the same. Depending on any one or combination of the above factors, He may meet our particular need(s) on an individual, community or yes…. even a cultural level. I was ready to boast of how multi-cultural and multi-racial the church I attend is and that as a Black man…. as a Black family,  it certainly meets my/our needs and that it reflected the best of what heaven on earth can be. Yes I was all primed to “shock and awe” with my blah, blah, blah….

Then I went to do my weekly volunteer commitment. I am involved with an inner-city mission that I found out about through my church. It is a Christian based facility that specializes in assisting the homeless and those with psychological challenges and substance abuse issues (and the combination of all for some). We simply provide information on where to access city services, feed the hungry, provide shelter for a time, listen to life stories, offer advice and when it’s appropriate, tell them about the love of Jesus. On Sunday afternoons we hold a inner-city service for those who don’t belong to a specific church or denomination, or profess to follow any particular religion. The mission caters to different types of people, from a variety of cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common: regardless of our circumstances or status…. we are all striving to make it through the day.

So as I was working, I looked around at the people I was serving and I thought that as a Christian, as a person who believes and wants to serve God in my own “little” way…. this is what really matters! Standing there it was clear that cultural and historical context didn’t matter. Eurocentric or Afrocentric symbolism didn’t matter. Religion and religious practices didn’t matter. What really matters and gives me hope is that today, there are people all over the world who are inspired by their own religious beliefs to serve others (the Buddhist monks in Myanmar come to mind). What truly mattered was the “smile” and “thank you” I got from connecting with another human being and hopefully making a positive impact on their life. Even it that just means giving them a sandwich and a coffee or listening to the same joke or story for the umpteenth time. Regardless of my all religious pontificating and intellectual discourses, the few hours I spend each week, serving each individual, meeting their individual need at that particular time, for the glory of God, is what my religion means to me.                                 

  

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