Yesterday, I had my very first argument on Facebook – with someone I barely know, as go all Facebook arguments. I, unlike many so-called ‘intellectuals’, do NOT believe in Facebook arguments. There, I said it. I don’t think Facebook is the right platform to conduct healthy discussions on issues that matter. Let’s face it, Facebook is oftentimes an outlet for people to brag about their deeds and their ‘morality’ with the appearance of caring about the world and humanity. Yes, sure, I do acknowledge that it’s a good way to be up to date with current news and issues (but even then, your feed will probably be covered with things you already agree with). But unlike what it professes to be, its ‘social network’ only expands to people users are already close to. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any privacy setting. I personally use it to ‘be moral’ and share news articles that I think are important and that I think make me look smart. I also use it to put funny and sarcastic statuses and pictures because that’s my vanity – believing my friends when they tell me that they like my Facebook statuses because I’m a funny gal. Yes, I know. I take pleasure and pride when people like me, or when they tell me they like me. Sue me.
This is why Facebook arguments are often (not always) useless because no matter how long my comments are, they will never truly be able to show my history, my identity, my background, and my experiences. They will be taken out of context by people who don’t know me and interpreted according to their history, identity, background, and experiences. When we live in a world where people can barely get through decent conversations face-to-face, how likely is it that we would be able to change people’s minds drastically through Facebook? Let’s not kid ourselves.
No, it is not possible to ‘have intellectual conversations’ where our ‘personal’ feelings don’t get involved. Everything is personal. So don’t blame me for being ‘defensive’ and ‘taking things personally’ when I’m being insulted and attacked under the guise of ‘intellectual debate’. It is possible to be ‘insulting’ while using words such as ‘sorry you feel that way’, ‘yes that is fair’, or ‘I didn’t mean to offend you’. Just because you use ‘civilized’ expressions doesn’t mean you can’t be insulting and condescending.
Having put this very long preface, this is what happened. It’s too long and complicated to summarize, and I wanted to be as objective as possible, so here goes – I explicitly made this post ‘public’. (Click on the picture to see the comments). On another thought, I could have made the ‘commenter’ anonymous to protect her privacy, but that would have been too much trouble (ain’t nobody got time for that) and she chose to be on this public intellectual debate in the first place, so….
I have MANY MANY things to say about this, but will say this one thing – for now. I may go on several ranting posts after this.
One of the fundamental truths White People (WP from hereon – and I put this in capital letters because I am not speaking about all white people, but the history and privilege white people represent as a racial group) seem to believe, is that it is absolutely degrading and immoral to see Africa or African countries as both ‘poor’ and ‘wealthy’, as being the homes of both ‘joy’ and ‘pain’. They have (and still do) portrayed Africa in such a negative light for so many years in so many ways that the ‘woke’ thing to do now is acknowledge that Africa has much more to offer than just ‘poverty’, ‘malnutrition’, and ‘child mortality’. And yes, that is true. Africa is much more than that. Like ANY OTHER CONTINENT.
Why do WP go on talking about wealth gaps in ‘developed’ countries like the States, but the moment we mention that ‘some’ Africans may not practice Yoga (a very privileged leisure in places other than India), we have committed an immoral crime? Why can’t WP acknowledge that, like in ALL societies, poverty AND wealth cohabit in African communities? Why do WP feel the need to protect Africa, like it’s a child that knows nothing and stumbles into the harsh real world completely blindfolded? Colonization has been over for more than half a century now, but the white guilt coming from it is so strong that now the reverse has occurred – there is absolutely no way you can talk about serious issues in Africa, such as poverty and civil wars, without being a ‘racist’. You MUST acknowledge its potential! Its future! Its people full of hopes! WE ARE ALL EQUAL! WP fail to see this is just ANOTHER White narrative they are imposing on their former colonies. A ‘more positive’ one, sure, on the outside, but just as condescending.
WP love talking about ‘African culture’ and admire it because it offers hospitality, a sense of community, and so forth. This is still another form of ‘exoticizing’ Africa. Africa is not the ‘black continent’ where people die under miserable conditions. But neither is it a place where children run happily without shoes because, you know, that’s happiness for them.
So no, it’s not OK to use the hashtag #firstworldproblem assuming Africans don’t have cell phones or don’t have to deal with mosquitos. But it’s also not OK to impose your white guilt on everything and pretend yoga is a national pastime. It is OK to think some people would have found my downward dog on the yard ‘the whitest thing ever’. I’m sure the Senegalese maid at the house I’m staying at rolled her eyes at me. And so did her brother that came in later. And I’m OK with that. I had never felt ‘whiter’ than that moment I was doing my Vinyasa being bitten by mosquitos (this is meant to be sarcastic – just pointing it out). It is OK, no, necessary, to understand a community, a country, a culture, a region, with all its complexities and differences. It is OK to think and say that problems and hope exist together. Denying either one only shows your white superiority complex that YOU know what’s best for them, because it makes YOU feel better.