Back in Junior High School, the Religious and Moral Education teacher we had was one who went above and beyond what the curriculum mandated. Tutoring us on the Hajj pilgrimage, the Lord’s prayer and the animist’s libation was not enough for him. He spent majority of his lecture minutes talking about stuff people in the class viewed as “nonfa”. From the World Wars, the Cold War, Republican-Democrat politics, issues from the Kremlin and every other info any globally curious mind should know. While my colleagues dozed off to his never ending rants on issues WAEC was not going to examine us on, I got a kick from every single minute Mr Addo spent digressing from what he was paid to do.
That kick has been with me ever since and transformed into an obsession with issues from far and wide. My twitter feed is littered with news stories from the endless conflicts around the world, half of the handles I am following are international news outlets and whenever I turn on the radio, the dial is on BBC. My web history is an amalgamation of the most obscure news portals from around the world. In short, I am a global news addict.
In getting obsessed with global news, I consume less and less local news. Not because paying attention to both simultaneously is not possible but mainly because the interest wanes gradually. I do not know how that works but it just happens. Maybe because the issues which dominates our airwaves degenerates to petty tribal politicking. Engagements on principles are seldom a thing and all that happens is plebian equalization. In justifying issues, political commentators in Ghana always resort to the “your government did the same thing during its tenure, you do not have the right to criticize us for doing likewise”. And that gets boring eventually.
That is not to say that the discussions on the local front are not worthy of following. These are issues which affect how much I pay for my early morning breakfast Waakye, when next I will be sleeping in the dark, if the cost of my commute to campus is going to increase and whether we will be having a 72 year old president next year. It is to say that opining about these issues immediately makes you tainted in some political colors. These colors will only fade away if you change your opinion and then you get daubed in new colors.
Sometimes I feel saddened by this. That I get caught up in issues thousands of miles away from me. Issues which I cannot influence even with my thumb. While I leave the ones I have some degree of agency to influence. Why did I tweet #BlackLivesMatter and not #BringBackSuwaibasBaby? Why do I bemoan police brutality in Chicago and Baltimore but not the abuse of tear gas and rubber bullets on unarmed demonstrators? Why am I about to start talking about #OscarsSoWhite when taxes have been on the increase and what used to last for month now barely takes one through 14 days?
Because we all pick our battles and everyone gets excited about different things. More importantly, commenting on discussions which revolves around very principled arguments are more intellectually stimulating than the trite back and forth on which government caused the mess we are in.
So why are the #OscarsSoWhite? How come in an entire calendar year, not a single black act was worthy of an Academy nomination? And this was a year with Straight Outta Compton, Concussion and Creed. Not forgetting our very own Beasts of No Nation which starred Ghanaian revelation Abraham Attah.
The defense put forth by apologetics of the Academy is what’s more worrying. Rather than recognizing the racism in all of this, they point to the exclusion of some white acts, talk about the head of the Academy being black and some past Academy winners. All this is to send a subtle message of “maybe Black acts were not that good this year”. But the minute we allow ourselves to start believing that Black acts did not make the cut because they were substandard is the minute we give white controlled establishments reasons to continue excluding acts by minorities.
Exclusion of some white acts happen because the white dominate list does not have enough space to accommodate more white acts but the absence of minority acts in a white dominated list is due to racism. A deliberate lack of appreciation for any movie which does not throwback to the slavery era and make the awarding of an Oscar look like an attempt to say “sorry for what our forefathers did to you”. As has been shown, most of the movies which have been nominated over the past few years have been either about slavery or the civil rights movement. Selma, 12 Years a Slave and Django.
The more reason why I felt the need to write on #OscarsSoWhite was the lack of appreciation of the nuances of the black community in America by most of us Ghanaians. The Gitmo story showed how some sections of our country sees Fox News as a credible source for information. This is news station which hosts like Hannity and Bill O’Reilly who are well known for their disrespect of the black struggle. They do not shy away from supporting trigger happy cops who shoot unarmed black men and every single time a Ferguson or Baltimore happens, they play the good old “where are black fathers and the leaders of the black community” card. Never blaming choke holding cops and policemen who shoot unarmed men several times in the back. Neither do they ask where white fathers are when white students run amok whenever their college basketball teams lose.
Fox News should probably never be a black person’s source of information on global issues. It is the most WASP media establishment out there. But since some of our folks do watch FOX, it is not shocking to hear some say “African Americans whine too much” “African Americans have a sense of entitlement” and other FOX News catch phrases.
Once you understand how understaffed and under resourced inner city schools are (largely frequented by people of color), you will see the value in this thing called affirmative action. A friend attending Yale was informing me of a study by a professor who discovered how kids in class/grade 6 cannot read and write simply due to the lack teachers in their schools and proper after school activities. How will someone like this matchup with a rich white kid attending an exclusive public school? Once you see how police report after police report have proven that black people are more likely to be stopped, frisked, pulled over and even shot when they do nothing wrong, you will see the value in the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the numerous picketing they organize.
#OscarsSoWhite is not black people whining. That is an insult. It is black people calling out the disrespect shown to them in a subtle way. They lack of appreciation for black effort. And it is disrespect like this that gave rise to Black Entertainment Television and Black History Month. So black people can get a space to celebrate themselves without having to meet some standards set by others. Black History Month is a time for black people to know their history beyond the classic slavery and civil rights movement lessons standard textbooks teach as the only black history.
Next time you want to allow yourself to believe what Fox tells you about the situation with African Americans, allow yourself to think about having your forefathers shipped to another land, enslaved for more than a century. After having been released, they then fight for their basic rights as humans for the better part of another century and the fight continues. But the entire setup of your country is white dominated and schemed to trump white brilliance.
And then you were born, chances are that happened in the “ghetto” and you struggled to go through high school because your kind always finds itself on the fringes of society. Your struggle is burdened with the police always seeing you as a practice target, especially when you wear a hoodie.
Tell me if you still believe #OscarsSoWhite is not a bad thing!!!