Race and Stereotypes: Zimbabwe vs North America
By Tsungai Chipato
Having allowed the adequate time for the dust to settle due to the New Year celebrations and Christmas festivities, a sober qualitative analysis of the past year from a Zimbabwean Diaspora view was still required in order to articulate the year 2013 biased events and put them into a perspective packaged for African consumption.
Residing within Toronto the issue of Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack and hiring prostitutes will suffice to be the opening salvo to the events of the last year.
Could Mayor Rob Ford have African ancestry?
As Toronto tries, to recover from the international coverage directed towards Mayor Rob Ford, the issue of double standards when defining voters is a theme amongst ethnic-minorities within Toronto that has got lost or garbled in the furor of Ford’s crack-smoking allegations.
As the world marvels at how Mayor Ford still has a following, media sources skirt around political correctness trying to impugn the voters supporting Ford as being uneducated and backward.
The manner in which Rob Ford is viewed is very similar to the caricatures given to Morgan Tsvangirai, a man who at heart means well but is widely seen as unworthy of wielding power due to his weight, intellect and lack of charisma.
Rob Ford just like Morgan Tsvangirai has refused to fall on his own sword and depart from the political field further frustrating opponents and allies’ alike. Ford having lied to the public several times continues to confound the establishment due to his residual support.
The manner in which both men do not follow political convention is very similar and explains why the common man finds them at least interesting enough to be conversant with, without viewing them as slick politicians who are seen as career driven.
Tsvangirai and Ford, lie in a human way that is not typical in politicians, this is seen by the political establishment as just being stupid and inept whilst the common public may actually relate to it since we are not perfect.
However this is where the similarities end, regardless of his follies Rob Ford is still Caucasian within a democratic western institution where his faults technically cannot be compared to Mr. Tsvangirai because the Zimbabwean system is subconsciously seen as inferior.
Thus Mr. Tsvangirai is a black man who tasted power and went crazy popping bottles switching around females whilst Mr. Ford is a Caucasian politician who dishonored the institution by refusing to resign thus sullying the seat of Mayor.
What are the advantages of Western- precedent?
Once you have lived in the Diaspora for a while your view of the world somewhat changes. You begin to realize that corruption is everywhere and not only a Zimbabwean problem. Within advanced nations they change the wording and try to regulate the manner in which unfair practices are carried on.
Therefore in a developed world; corruption is defined as lobbying, these lobbyists have to play by certain rules so that the common public don’t overreact and think it is outright corruption.
Nepotism is called affirmative action, bribery is defined as consultation fees, whilst tribalism is defined as grandfathering/legacy or patronage, take your pick.
African politics or its institutions have not yet mastered the manner in which democratic institutions can be used to influence power without causing uprisings amongst the populous. Thus we are still seen as stuck in the 1800’s where revolutions where a common occurrence within the America’s and Europe.
Positions and institutions within Africa are attached to the individuals holding the seat of power. Within North America or Europe the individual is meaningless compared to the value of the seat he or she holds, individuals are known for their policies.
Within North America to be elected to a seat an individual needs to have integrity or at least appear to have integrity until caught.
This rule has been ingrained in the minds of voters for so many centuries, that it is almost taboo for a politician to at least not take a leave of absence whenever a scandal arises that affects them. Which brings us to the death of Madiba?
Where were you when Madiba’s memorial was televised?
As Richard Dyer succinctly puts it; “white people (western culture) create the dominant images of the world and don’t quite see that they thus construct the world in their own image”.
As South Africans mourned Nelson Mandela’s death whilst bickering over their internal politics their dirty laundry became public fodder at an inopportune time, few South African’s, were paying attention as the global world assimilated Nelson Mandela’s legacy and began insulating and inoculating his image from whatever South Africa became in the future.
Mandela’s image may become an abstract ideal that may be used against South Africa in the future by the global world. Not claiming ownership of Madiba’s legacy; South Africa may have made a mistake they may regret in the future.
Few concentrated on the fact that Apartheid in South Africa and Segregation in the United States had shared several similarities, furthermore few media sites highlighted that all the leaders of these movements had died with the realization that Poverty was the biggest threat to their movement’s survival. Mandela just like MLK had died knowing that education and poverty were the issues that black people had to deal with first.
Are blacks driven by African-American culture?
The Trayvon Martin issue has quickly been replaced currently with a viral video of an African-American toddler speaking foul language on Facebook muddying the waters of racial debate.
Having a black president in power has done very little to move the debate on race and ethnicity within America besides the President having a photo-op sharing a beer. Most people although championing for President Obama forget to realize that his party was on the side of segregation.
Bill Clinton’s mentor William Fulbright supported segregation, it was actually George Bush’s party that ended black subjugation within the United States, and if you actually look at the statistics George Bush has currently done more for Africa than President Obama in terms of saving lives.
Hollywood which is a factory for typecasting and disseminating stereotypes through art, churned out blockbusters like Django, 12 Years As a Slave, Mandela and The Butler.
These movies if closely paid attention to, highlighted hidden caveats of black people such as the fact black people in America owned slaves, or that something happened to New York for it to embrace racism, because in the 1800’s New York was racially very progressive, or that the black conservatives within America are considered sellouts, or that the rest of the global black population is assimilating the vices of centuries long subjugation within the African American community.
Any knowledgeable linguist will tell you that Ebonics is a black language that has its roots in the West Indian Creole and Scot-Irish English vernacular of the 18th century. As we listen to Kanye West ranting about being a God, is that really wise?
As we start this New Year from the western world, I bid you tidings of being careful for what you wish for, although all politics will be local in 2014; all policy-making will continue to be global.
With ZDERA nullification lounging within U.S Congress, being sponsored by a tea party member, and President Mugabe taking the Malcolm X instead of MLK route by passing the Zimbabwe indigenization bill, only tough times can lie ahead of Zimbabwe regardless of whoever is in power.
The reason Mandela will be forever remembered is the manner in which he was the first African to follow the teachings of Confucius, he died knowing this battle for African Emancipation, will take more than a century to be won because no one person can be bigger than the struggle, he therefore died striving to be a historical marker in a true African sense, an ancestor to espouse to.
Tsungai Chipato is a Journalist and blogger within Toronto Canada. He can be reached on [email protected]