Seeing with the Eye of Spirit

Posted By on August 24, 2014

In my last blog post I referred to myself as Guinea Pig G, in the spirit of Buckminster Fuller. I also stated my intention of sharing my longitudinal research process findings from using my life as a social experiment in transforming the black British Caribbean life experience.

Being black British Caribbean, an historically racialised identity, made me highly victimisable in Britain in ways I did not

The Bicultural Competence Matrix

Posted By on August 24, 2014

The bicultural competence matrix is foundational to CBACS’ work with its focus on the importance of bi-cultural socialisation into a culture of origin and a culture of residence.

CBACS’ findings are that descendants of enslaved Africans (DoEAs) are not recipients of bicultural socialisation having been uprooted from our culture of origin during slavery. Over hundreds of years we have instead been mono-culturally resocialised into ‘black’ culture.

The bicultural competence matrix was my first insight of the possibility of having been unconsciously assimilated into black British culture on entry to British society on the top left quadrant. This results in a natural route downwards to unconscious bicultural competence and ‘sleep’. This is as opposed to the natural instinctual aspiration for our children to move sidewards to the conscious bicultural incompetence quadrant filled with eagerness to learn about life for themselves.

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Near Silence about Race and its impact on British Academics

Posted By on August 24, 2014

Making the decision to share my journey of surfacing the human costs of slavery through these blogs, because of the on-going racial silences, has triggered a deeper process for me.

In my PhD (Bravette, 1997) I acknowledge being

… additionally challenged by Byrne’s (1978) reasoning for not including discussion of academic women in her book on women and education.

She argues that such women are ‘best qualified to fight for their own equality’ and reminds me of my own responsibilities (as a black woman?!) in academia.

As a management educator in the specialist subject areas of Human Resource Management (HRM) and Organisational Behaviour (OB) I work directly with students on the experience of individuals in organisations. Over the years I have worked with many students preparing them to manage these issues in the organisational context.

I have experienced extreme dissonance in presenting the dominant view of OB including the notion of equality of opportunity knowing that sexism and, particularly racism, are rife in our society and knowing full well that many black students will never achieve the positions they are aspiring towards unless important changes occur in our society – transformation. This dissonance has been in addition to the dissonance I have personally experienced as a black woman in higher education.

I did not take an easy option when I decided to engage with my personal processes within the academy and to face up the issue of race, nor was it a non-political decision I have come to realise.

Luz Reyes and Halcon (1988) discusses racism in academia and the obstacles to be overcome, in particular, identifying covert racism as the most pervasive form of racism in higher education.

Moghissi (1994) also makes interesting observations about the experience of racism in the academy which strongly resonates with my own experiences.

Acker (1994) notes that ‘there is a near silence about ‘race’ and ethnicity in terms of their impact on British academic women’.

It is my intention that this research will contribute towards breaking the silence around race, being a black woman of African Caribbean descent as well as an academic.

I believe that my experiences, spanning the time period of mass immigration of African Caribbeans to the UK in the 1950s to today (1997) is of particular relevance and should provide important insights as I draw on that experience using personal inquiry/self-reflective praxis.

‘Silenced Knowings’

Posted By on August 24, 2014

In 2001 Helen Lorenz and Mary Watkins wrote a paper titled: Silenced Knowings, Forgotten Springs: Paths to Healing in the Wake of Colonialism. I quote from this paper:

Many silenced knowings can exist within apparently ordinary lives and communities, in the lives of other and our own lives. By silenced knowings we mean understandings that we each carry that take refuge in silence, as it feels dangerous to speak them to ourselves and to others.

The sanctions against them in the family, community or wider culture render them mute and increasingly inaccessible. Once silenced, these knowings are no longer available to inform our lives, to strengthen our moral discernment. Once pushed to the side, these silenced knowings require our energy to sustain their disassociation, and our numbing to evade their pain.

Some silenced knowings require metabolizing over generations so difficult are they to listen to and bear, to act in the light of.

We want to wonder with you what silenced knowings from the past 500 years of colonalism have been passed on to us?

What pieces of our cultural history seek to find voice through us and our lives?

In what ways is our personal individuation inextricably linked with responding to the silenced knowings that exist within our own biographies?

How might they inform our work and relationships?

Lorenz and Watkin do not make reference to the institution of slavery from which colonialism and apartheid was birthed and which points to greater silenced knowings than referred to in their pertinent and poignant discussion.

The Human Costs of Slavery Continued … 2

Posted By on August 24, 2014

To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?
Marcus Tullius Cicero

I began unpacking the human costs of slavery through the research process (with a personal goal of being the best that I can be through taking charge of my own education/development) starting with my MBA research.

My MBA research took the form of an action research project and involved bringing together a group of black women managers employed in mainstream organisations. Our purpose was to explore the black female experience in organisational life.

Worth mentioning is the fact that in the 1990s the recruited women felt so vulnerable discussing their racial experiences in the organisational context that our scheduled meetings had to take place in a setting outside of the organisational context (i.e. my home)

The overarching themes arising from the completed MBA dissertation (titled Unleashing Human Potential: Emancipatory Action Research and Black Women Managers) pointing to some of the human costs of slavery for DoEAs are:
Silence about race (the race taboo), the black life experience and so slavery and colonisation. In short, we were victims of the ignorance of our history that Cicero notes in the above quote causing us to ‘remain always a child’. Silence was a direct result of the race taboo put in place with slavery to ensure that its unsound basis was protected. Our history had been placed under the lock and key of the race taboo with the gaolers being members of the white ethnic majority based on their socialised power over our lives.

Culture: Having been uprooted from our culture of origin (the other half of the bicultural socialisation concept) we continue to be mono-culturally re-socialised into what is today known as ‘black British culture’ through British socialisation (i.e. culture of residence). This cultural situation continues because of the silence and shame which surrounds our history and which is internalised.

Dependency: We were thus left dependent on an external and dominant group resulting in cultural illiteracy while simultaneously deprived of education. We were formally contained in this institution for 300 years, and informally so post abolition.

My MBA research had initiated a process rather than bringing me to a destination. I brought these three themes into my doctoral studies in my commitment to achieving transformational change.

The Human Costs of Slavery

Posted By on August 24, 2014

More often than not, as descendants of enslaved Africans, we are told to forget slavery, move on from it!

What if we cannot move on because we have not yet resolved and so integrated the lessons to be learned from the internalised conflicts this dehumanising experience has left us with?

CBACS was eventually formally birthed in 2007 from my earlier decision in the early 1990s to use autobiographical inquiry to explore what it means to be black British. This was given the distance between my own self-conception and those of the white ethnic majority of what it means for me to be black. It was also necessary because despite being frequently advised to forget my past, the sense of still being ‘enslaved’ and disrespected on account of the black identity was an everyday experience in the world of work.

Insight came when forceful black socialisation aimed at resocialising me to a white perception of who I should be as a black individual/the descendant of enslaved Africans effectively catapulted me into an existential crisis of meaning. My decision to explore what it means to be black in Britain was the decision to research my way out of crisis drawing on the knowledge of the ages given the silences maintained by the white ethnic majority. The persistence and consistency of forceful black socialisation led me to understand what is normally referred to as individual ‘racism’ to be cultural ‘socialisation’. This was a breakthrough in understanding the black British experience.

Ryles idea of reciprocal role procedures as developed, for example, between the enslaved and enslavers during slavery being enacted in relationships between blacks and whites still in the 21st century was a revelation.

The human costs of slavery for descendants of enslaved Africans and the descendants of enslavers could now be surfaced.

(These blogs are a development on ideas shared in Towards Bicultural Competence: Beyond Black and White, Gloria Gordon (2007), published by Trentham Books)

The black-white duality

Posted By on August 24, 2014

Having read Jon Gaunt’s view that children in schools should learn all our history I thought it would be useful to share it on my blog with you – see yesterdays blog.
In googling the article, however, I came across so much criticism of Gaunt’s view (with which I whole-heartedly agree) that I was momentarily stopped in my tracks as I studied what people had to say. I couldn’t have asked for more evidence of the existence of a black-white duality if I had tried!

A colleague of mine sent me the link for Gus John’s view of what is happening in the school system to black children. Of more interest than Gus John’s view are the views of readers commenting on the article. It became clear to me that we really do need to dismantle this black-white duality once and for all so that our children can be extricated from this confusion.

Black People R.I.P

Posted By on August 24, 2014

“Class is a construct based on levels of education; race is a construct based on levels of ignorance.”

This discussion is to develop knowledge and understanding of ethnicity over race. All are welcome to join the debate.
* * *
People from Beijing do not refer to themselves as yellow people; they call themselves Chinese. Likewise people from Calcutta do not refer to themselves as brown people; they call themselves Indian.

The majority of people on Earth refer to themselves based on their ethnic background (ie. Polish, Iranian, Japanese, Brazilian etc) but a lot of ‘black’ people refer to themselves within the confines of race and colour only.

This is not the fault of any particular person but more the product of world history…
* * *

When Europeans first met Africans, centuries ago, there was no body of knowledge in the world as there is now. There was no equivalent to Wikipedia on which you could do some fact finding to prepare you for any eventuality. To see somebody whose physicality was so different to yours would be shocking and as such you would refer to each other based on what was before your eyes.

And so ‘black’, ‘negro’ and later ‘nigger’ came about as words to describe these different people.

As time went on it was easier to refer to these ‘black’ people by colour rather than by their different tribes and ethnicities which were notoriously difficult to pronounce or remember, that is, if bothered to be learned in the first place.

As large numbers of these ‘black’ people were to become slaves or colonialised citizens in their countries of origin, the need for their ethnicities to be remembered became lesser and lesser, until such point that even they began to forget that they had histories and illustrious ethnic backgrounds and began to assimilate with the easier idea of being ‘black’.

Fast forward through the centuries and as the ‘black’ people’s ethnic roots continuously eroded, adversely their European colonial cultures became more prominent. Now they were born as ‘black’ people and as such there was a new idea of ‘black’ culture as opposed to their individual ethnic cultures.

This new born ‘black’ culture was, and is, a confusing entity. Because it has no history, no language or no common belief it is actually anarchic. Inside of black culture is chaos and terror because with no common goals how can anyone decide on a common good and bad?

The desperate consumerism within ‘black’ culture is essentially a search for meaning within these confines.

The mass media all through this has also been guilty of propagating lazy journalism and referring to, say, youths as ‘black youths’ rather than either just ‘youths’ or differentiating ‘Nigerian and Jamaican youths’ (for example). This has made the labelling of ‘black’ people within the confines of race/colour an acceptable part of the global discourse.

Can you imagine the uproar if people from the Far East were referred to by colour rather than ethnicity? Imagine the headline ‘Yellow Youths Arrested Over Suspected Attack’. People would be shocked and embarrassed and forums would be filled with the chatter of how inappropriate this pejorative usage of colour was. However because the word (term )’black’ has been in the global discourse for so long now it is second nature.

In essence this is the story of the boiling frog. Needless to say the term black is still very detrimental and derisory. To be objectified with an adjective (black) rather than be named with a noun (Barbadian, Ghanaian etc) is simply unacceptable.

The point I am trying to make here is that we all conform to what we know and what seems easy, even sometimes when we know it is not right. For the majority of my life I have thought of myself as somebody defined by my ‘blackness’. Although I was often uncomfortable mentioning the subject of race, I still did not see that it was, in fact, the very construct of race that unsettled my inner equilibrium.

However we have a chance here by showing our support and understanding of this matter to open up a new discussion in the global discourse. Black culture is very profitable but so is war culture. It does not make either of them right, especially if we consider ourselves to be real humanitarians.

Let us all be proud of our ethnic differences and celebrate our diverse histories as humans rather than as objectified colour coded humans.

I would ask everyone who makes a post to disclose, with pride, a few opening words telling us of your heritage. I, for example, am British African-Caribbean which aptly defines the journey of my ancestry to where I am today. By affirming this title to myself, I ground myself in the annals of history and like a tree with roots, am able to develop new branches. Amongst my friends there are British German Italians, French African-Caribbeans and British Iraqis, to name but a few.

I would be delighted ( as I’m sure will many others) to hear from as wide a range of people as possible so that we know this world we live in still has a route to hope and salvation through its greatest asset; us!

Q. When does a black man turn into a nigger?

Posted By on August 24, 2014

A. As soon as he leaves the room.

I heard this joke today and rather than offending me it got me to thinking. In essence by the sheer etymology of words it is a truism which is only a matter of taste, diplomacy and political correctness.

The word ‘nigger’ is a derivative of the Spanish word ‘negro’ which means black. So in essence to be called black is the same as being called nigger. Either way the colour of your skin rather than the measure of your character is what is being used as a point of reference.

By my reckoning to be called either is as offensive as the other. All because the term black has been popularised over a long period of time does not make it right. The term ‘nigga’ as used in the rap and hip-hop communities is seen pejoratively by many but considering it is only used between ‘niggas’ and not attached to ‘black’ people when they leave rooms is it not the lesser of the three evils?

I thought further about the meaning of our grand narrative and the connotations that it has for our future as evolving human beings. To recognise and annotate somebody based on skin colour rather than culture or ethnicity is particularly ignorant and closed minded.

Let’s look at it another way. If, say, I bought a new Mercedes-Benz and drove it to a party and then when asked by another of the guests “What car do you drive?” I retorted, “Oh, a black one”, they would look at me blankly because the colour of my car is the least of its attributes and has no bearing on its performance. What about the engine, the fuel consumption, the aesthetics, the make etc?

I then thought further that of all the people in the world we are the sole group known by colour only. We would never call a Chinese person a yellow person in polite conversation nor would we call an Indian man a brown person. Ethnicity over colour.

I am fully aware that what would invariably be mentioned by a sceptic at this juncture would be “What about white people? White people are known by colour too”.

To this I would retort that the only reason why white people are called white people relates back to the opening gambit of this piece. When in the company of ‘blacks’ they become ‘white’ to be a complimentary polar opposite. Similar to good and bad or right and wrong. When no black people are present do white people refer to each other as white? In fact, before the times when the mass population of Europe knew of people outside of their villages, did the whole global discourse of colour, and so race, even exist?

History teaches us many lessons as the world continuously evolves. Women were once thought to be witches, left handed people to be sinister (a term still used today) and ‘black’ people to be a different species. If the advancement of science has taught us anything it should teach us all to grow up and snap out of our prejudices based on fear.

The novelty of appearance should have worn off centuries ago, but there are those who benefit from the social construct of race and the infrastructure of the world’s problems today are based within this construct.

So when I hear people mention me in reference to colour, as much as it saddens me, it makes me smile. The colour of my car has no bearing on the fact that I am the fastest thing on the road.

“Gangsters”

Posted By on August 24, 2014

Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.
– Bertrand Russell

As I walked past another scowling, young, black boy I could only shake my head with a retrospective disappointment. I watched him carry on along his way with an arrogance to his gait and re-thought about the idea of ‘gangsters’.

From Scarface, through Goodfellas, to 50 Cent and the UK grime scene, the idea of being a ‘gangster’ is perpetrated continuously. The commercialised idea of a ‘gangster’ is to revel in the glory of thoughtless crime, endless promiscuity and peerless respect. Music videos, computer games and movie releases do nothing to dispel this idea, in fact, if anything, they reinforce it as cutting edge kudos.

However the last laugh is not being had by these ‘gangsters’, it is being had by gangsters.

In my time, I have had the opportunity (some would say misfortune) of working with a number of different people from the questionable side of the law. However, the common misconception that these guys are ‘gangsters’ allows them to get on with the mundane, day-to-day graft of being real gangsters.

The work ethic of gangsters is akin to that of any entrepreneur. They have to put in long unsociable hours and often have to perform tasks that are not within the remit of what was in the initial job description. Fair enough they don’t necessarily pay tax on their immediate earnings but they contend with the fact they could lose their freedom at any moment in exchange.

Many of these guys I have witnessed could work as CEOs or managers, it just so happens that life didn’t pan out that way. They make decisions that could mean there is no food on the table or could mean a new level of financial security. Either way, there is an ethic to success and it lies somewhere in the ethos that the race isn’t won on entry it is won on completion.

‘Gangsters’, on the other hand, are just like any other dreamer; wishful thinking but no plan or vision. The glamorised idea of a gangster is like the glamorised idea of anything. It is solely there to titillate your imagination; to be a flight of fantasy.

Being sullen and thinking for the day is not how to be a gangster. Optimism mixed with pragmatism and planning ahead is how to be a gangster. And so you see, anyone successful who works within an organised group structure is in essence ‘a gangster’.

The quote at the top becomes clear in context.

Newsnight

Posted By on August 24, 2014

I’ve just finished watching Newsnight which, for the umpteenth time, seems to talk with words of revolution from the comfort of the luxury BBC studio.

Tonight’s offering, once again, is about gun crime and bad boys and yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah… If I’m not watching ex-Eastenders masquerading as moral arbiters in urban communities, it is people who are paid to spout fancy words about an issue they are so far detached from they may as well be talking about Afghanistan.

And as per usual they have got ‘the guy from the community’ with his suitably ghetto moniker who is ‘down with the kids’, the right wing nationalist who thinks the issue is self perpetrated and so should be dealt with as such and the smugly smiling liberal who sits with their leg crossed over their bodies and a pungent air of self-satisfaction that could choke the camera crew.

Listening to them throwing up buzz words and clichés like football commentators highlighted to me the crux of the problem. As long as the issues are glossed over to sell newspapers and pay the salaries of journalists and civil servants there will be no resolutions. In fact, every single day that passes is like the further spread of a deadly epidemic which affects people younger and younger everyday.

I often wonder what credentials are required to get on such shows. Judging by the lame duck answers and attitudes of people from within our own community, I would speculate that it is hip-hop credibility over sense and reason.

Tonight I go to sleep with a lot on my mind. Hopefully tomorrow will bring sunnier horizons.

Mid-Afternoon Pondering

Posted By on August 24, 2014

I’m not sure how many people have seen Ross Kemp’s gangs programmes but it makes for difficult viewing. This afternoon, I watched the South London episode (in all its bellicosity) and was quite appalled at what I saw.

One particular scene had a group of five young BAC boys talking candidly about weapons, respect and the measures to which they would go to get respect with weapons. These guys were no older than 18 but they were evidently living for nothing and so prepared to die for anything.

Now to the company who I watched it with, the most contentious issue raised was that of the young men and their claim that all the weapons come from the government.

His argument was based on the fact that ‘the government are the face of a beast which is hell bent on destroying black people quickly’. However before I could get a word in edgeways the second strand of his argument came thick and fast. ‘The problem for them (the government, the beast) is that soon all these younger and younger disillusioned guys will become hardened killing machines and they’ll turn against the state in all-out war.’

I was stunned to hear this response, probably more than by the gritty realism of the kids on TV. Is this what junior adults think of the children and adults in training? Was this really a representative view of BAC people of my generation? After conferring with a few other similar guys it appeared that this view of our future generations was widespread but nobody had any ideas as to what to do about it.

The sheer depth and breadth of the issue was right up, close and personal in my face.
How can we expect our youth to grow wiser when so many of our elders are confused?

I tried to quickly explain that the thought of an all-out war was ludicrous because there are so many factors that are not being considered in making such a statement. War is a big business which has political, geographical and mainly financial implications. Would all these criteria be met before this ‘war?’

It dawned on me once again that the big issue behind all of the confusion, the crime, the desperation and the despondency is nothing to do with wars or metaphorical beasts; it is simply education. It is culture. But not a dysfunctional culture of fear and division. It is an inner culture of self-empowerment and community.

I could see looking into those young boys eyes and listening to what they said that they weren’t hardened criminals. They didn’t want to be upsetting their mums, who apparently they would lay down their lives for. They were scared kids who were talking big to look tough in front of their equally scared friends.

I realised that these boys were young and far from being lost causes. These so called assassins of tomorrow are just kids who need sustained duty of care and attention, at home and from this country…

All this big talk and it’s not even evening yet! A lot of things to do and a lot of things to ponder so this is me signing out. For now.

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