Reality Bites and then some

By Geral V. Paul.
Canadian [black] Wins Gold Medal. Jamaican-Canadian [him black, inna yard] Accused of Steroid Use. Jamaican [Yeah, Mon…] stripped of Gold Medal. And so it goes….

Dearly Beloved Eyesers, Walter Lippmann said: ‘the press…is like the beam of a searchlight that moves restlessly about, bringing one episode and then another out of darkness into vision….’ We all know the famous formula: ‘When a dog bites a man? No news! Ah, when a man bites a dog? Yikes! That’s news!

This presupposes heaps of cultural knowledge: for instance, that we live in a society of ‘animal lovers’ keeping dogs as pets, but also in a society of ‘meat-lovers’ consuming beef as food. Then there are Asian societies where the opposite holds true: some that eat dogs, and others that venerate cows. Therefore even this seemingly obvious formula presupposes a particular world-view. Now, this brings me during Black History,- or is it African, moreso, Liberation?- Month. Pray, tell, if white is not a colour, then neither is black…right? You see Eyesers, when Europeans exploited abroad, they labeled Asians as ‘yellow,’ Amerindian Indians as ‘red’, and Africans as ‘black’. Small wonder we sang in Sunday School: “Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world, red, and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight….” Eyes man, right, or him …right. Nah suh?

Whites prefer not to see themselves as …pinkish, but rather as lily-white; they choose to see all others as coloured, as ‘dark’. White is often associated with pure; dark is associated with ‘dirty’ and a variety of negative connotations and expressions. Get this, early white anthropologists even claimed that ‘people of colour’ could ‘by definition’ not blush, and therefore knew no shame. God help us all.

Why- in God’s name?- is the supposed skin colour of people used as if it were one of the most fundamental aspects of their cultural and biological identity? Because it denotes…race!

And so the widespread use of colour labels implies that race is treated as if it were an essential category.

O, race, thou art weighed in the balance – during this ‘black’ history month – and found wanting! And how can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land since race is an ideological concept? Pray tell? Even the scientists have long ago begun to abandon it as a collective term. The ideological nature of these widespread labels becomes even more apparent when we leave the field of theory and take a closer look at everyday practice. Of course, a ‘white’ spending a day on a beach, may be ‘coloured’ close to a ‘black’ person but is still considered ‘white’. Internalization? Proudly adopted? Food for thought for another day, methinks.

Then ‘Eskimo’ was an imposed label for ‘those who eat raw meat’; today, they call themselves ‘Inuit’ (human beings) and Gypsies? Prefer to refer to themselves as ‘Rom’ (that is to say, ‘people’). This begs the question, why do we need this protracted demonstration that our spatial and time perspectives on world geography and history, on categorizations and language, are all tainted to some extent by an ethnocentric or Eurocentric frame?

Because as journalists, teachers and scientist we are continually made to believe that all are ‘free’ to think and to say whatever we want, forgetting that this act is preceded and conditioned by innumerable social and psychological mechanisms.

And that’s a ….fact. Oops, fact as stems from the Latin word facere or making. In this sense, all observed and reported facts are artefacts: they are wo/man made. They are made to say certain things by certain people and certain ‘instruments’.

Observations about reality? Determined by the way in which the observation is organized; reports about these observations are determined by the way in which these reports are organized. They inevitably imply pre-selection and pre-interpretation, for instance in the choice of words, images, sequence, a logic, etc. Then there is the black and white, the good and evil of it all, when it comes to our fundamental world –views. The mediation process implicitly uses our own way of life and values of others. There are constant processes of ‘patterning’ and ‘disorganization’, of ‘normalization’ and ‘alienation’ at work. Ah, well ….methinks time to bite a dog! Doggoned. Say wah story, dis? Oops, a Hot dog sandwich! Dearly Beloved Eyesers, live, love and laugh….take yuh time and peel yuh pine…this too shall pass! One Love inna yard.