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Le dîner sur le tapis

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

Restaged Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe by Édouard Manet.

Its seems untimely to talk about anything other than what occurred on May 25th 2020, when a white officer pressed his knee to the neck of a 46 year old black man for nine minutes. George Floyd was confirmed dead.

Last night I enjoyed a beautiful cooked dinner by the lovely Amy Cosson link below. I always look forward to these dinners! I met her new flatmate, Veronica who has recently come to New Zealand from Tanzania. We spoke about the notion of 'home', what it is like to be in New Zealand, travel and other such preliminary topics. Shortly after a bit of small-talk we delved into what had happened early that day at the Black lives matter protest that was held at Auckland City; in response to the George Floyd murder.

At the protest, a primary school teacher wore a MAGA cap 'Make America Great Again' which was later taken off his head and burnt by a protester. MAGA caps were worn by Donald Trump and supporters during his 2016 presidential campaign, for this reason it is seen as a symbol of racism. The school teacher insisted;

"I wasn't wearing it to incite racism. In fact, I was wearing it to represent a diverse range of ideas."

I personally have no idea what that means, why would you go to a protest to represent a diverse range of ideas?

I initially resented the whole protest, the hashtags and the social media frenzy. There has and continues to be many injustices occurring around the world that don't attract a grain of attention the way some do. I resented the silent 'I keep out of politics' type of people that vivaciously decided to join in as the movement gained momentum and popularity, whom otherwise are oblivious. In saying all that, such events give rise to togetherness and unity. I remember watching the news at my parents place, and my mum who is still recovering from surgery said 'are there white people at the protest?'

This however, as much as I would like it to be, does not only concern white and blacks. In a recent conversation with my dear friend, Ben, I said "yes but what would I, an Arab, have anything to say about the topic". What I meant was that the Middle-East gets its decent dose of hate and discrimination and how is this any different? He reminded me where the Arabs stood in all of this by saying "you guys basically introduced slavery". Till today if you are to watch Arab TV; black actors, presenters or anyone in politics simply don't exist. In fact the term for a black person remains to be 'Abd' meaning slave.

Almost any conflict I can think of stems from a desire to feel superior. I for sure see it in myself. I make judgments about others the moment my top eyelid peels away from the lower every morning. It was instilled in me from a young age. When I scored good marks at school I would rush home to tell my parents that I got top marks, which ultimately means I did better than the other kids, which means I am better than them!. My parents would congratulate me, some friends would too and others would be envious. Some parents might even go as far as pinning it to their heritage and background to justify their superiority.

I recently traveled to (I wont state the country) and spoke to a mother whom in a conversation told me;

"I told my daughters you must do well at school because you are ethnicity and your dad is a high paying profession." Of course I just giggled because that's what I do in any awkward situation, but.... What? That is by default telling me that I am inferior since I was not her ethnicity. And what a thing to tell your child! it might just be the thing to make them work harder if they weren't already. Assuming they don't question why their ethnicity and their fathers high paying profession makes them better than others. And why question your established superior position unless you wanted to be inferior? or if you just like to question. After all how did Hitler win his people over? What I am trying to say is that things start very small. Maybe one of the things we can do is check-in with ourselves. What are our true motives/intentions when we do and say things?

I can't change much, the death of George Floyd and this conversation is one I wish I wasn't having in 2020. But since we still are, then we must continue questioning ourselves; discuss, have uncomfortable conversations, choose where we stand. For those that stay silent, your silence pains me.

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