Quentin, I read your article on Eurocentrism. I hope others will read it as well, and will share their thoughts with us.
I am sure that many wonder why you are so aggressively fighting Eurocentrism here in the United States. I admit I asked myself this question, and my first reaction was to think your article dealt with it from a racial perspective, although you use the term “non-Europeans” and that confused me.
Yet the more I thought of it, the more I came to realize that the picture is bigger than we think and it does not only affect black people. It’s not even limited to the United States.
I agree that European white supremacy is a business, but is it, ultimately, about color? And who in Europe is the creator of Eurocentrism?
I don’t know how much it is known here about the part of the world where I am from – I was born in southern Romania, which is part of the Balkan region.(See http://eurodialogue.org/balkan-countries-map)
Allow me to introduce you to the Balkans, home of violent history, wars, slavery and ethnic cleansings, foreign domination, and what not. Actually, my people don’t even remember to be “free,” perhaps with few short-lived exceptions. Starting with the rise of the Ottoman Empire in 13th century, Ottomans came by, filled their harems with our women, took male kids (it was called “the blood tax”) raised them by their law and make them Janissaries (soldiers) in the Ottoman army, only to send them back to attack their homeland..
Later on the Ottoman legacy lingered, and we rarely had our own rulers; they were foreigners and most of them could not even speak the language, did not know and care about the people they ruled.
Hundreds of years and different Masters later, after everyone had sold everyone, here we stand proudly bearing the same slave mentality. I believe that slavery is not (only) physical; it is a mentality, a way of living.
Sure in the meantime we, the slaves, also learned how to hate each other. You should read sometime about the prejudices and historical stereotypes in the Balkans. What a fun read that is! Romanians hate Hungarians, Greeks hate Bulgarians, Bulgarians hate Romanians, Bosnians hate Serbs and vice-versa, et cetera but all of them hate Jews and Gypsies and a Hungarian Gypsy will hate the Romanian one and the other way around, see how subtle and refined we are in our hatred? It takes a keen eye to peel off the layers here.
We carry the legacy of hatred with out mouths full of Baklava and Sarailie and Sarma, all of them Turkish delicacies we had cooked for our slave owners and finally came to love (great recipes by the way, I will share). There is controversy over the dishes, as everyone claims they’re “theirs.” Now and then a researcher pisses off everyone with his findings, like the linguist who suggested that the root of word “baklava” could be… Mongolian WHAT? The guy might be right because there are records of this ancient dish in China, under the…Mongolian dynasty Yuan. SAY AGAIN?
As one who grew up in this explosive perpetual state of slavery, helplessness and ultimately self-hatred, I had struggled to understand the mechanism. These people hating and killing each other so “passionately “ for centuries do not even belong to different racial groups.
Dr. Will Moreland a distinguished African American public speaker author and leadership expert told me in a recent interview on the Complex Image of the African American Man that “When we hear about racism many times people think it is about skin color, but the foundational essence of racism is about economics. The root word for racism is race; racism comes in when one group is trying to race another group to economic security.”
I think Dr. Moreland makes a great point.
Slavery in the Roman Empire wasn’t about race or color, was it? How about Greece? In fact, I heard that in the Roman Empire slaves looked so similar to the free citizens that they were trying to come up with some distinctive signs to set them apart. Apparently, the house slaves with nobility wore plaques around their neck stating what family they belonged to, how many languages they spoke and if they could read and write. This is what my local History teacher told me.
The atrocities committed against Jews were not based on the fact that they were that different, but on socio-economics. Gypsies are usually dark-skinned, but some Gypsy tribes are light skinned blondes, and some naturally have blue or green eyes. Yeah, you heard that right. As a matter of fact, if you travel in that area, I challenge you to tell a Romanian apart from a Hungarian, from a Bulgarian, and whoever else you happen to see. How can you tell my genetic make up just by looking at me? How do you know what breed I am? What if I am Gypsy? What if I have Jewish or Turkish blood, how can you tell? See, this is where I go back to Dr.Moreland’s theory. It is about money.
Creating and maintaining a “healthy” slave mentality is good business. All you have to do is take one particular population, convince them they are inferior, ghetto them and let the mentality grow inside their heads for a couple of generations. Then they are born convinced they are of a lesser value and they belong in a cage. It works, I have seen it with my own eyes, and hey! I have seen it on animals too, when I was working wildlife. If you have an animal who spent too much time caged you can leave the gate open as many times as you wish, he will not take off, he will stare at the gate with a bland resigned expression, just like some of my Romanian fellows in 1989 when we executed Ceausescu and were “free.” They said, “Oh well, Ceausescu’s regime was not that bad, it gave us some safety.” They wanted their slavery back, because you see, freedom meant responsibility and risk. WHAT?
When I heard that crap I started packing, not because I was a coward and I did not want to stay and “build a new country,” but because I was FREE, I was physically free to go wherever I wanted. Freedom is a state of mind, and I was born like that, and I my parents and my teachers enforced that in me. I will never forget how my long life mentor Ms.Segal used to tell me -- and this mind you, in times of great fear and oppression --“Oana, I’ve always felt a free person in a free country. We are free.”
Now I see that leaving Romania was good, because a new slavery was ahead.
People were not even fully recovered from the nastiness of all those totalitarian regimes and wars, when all the former communist countries got sucked into a new trend: Greater European Union. We had to be accepted into this Europe “thing” at any cost. Whoever was left outside was bad, junk, lesser value. Of course, this would not happen just like that, acceptance was not granted automatically. We had to obey their rules and “behave,” in other words we had to be what I called my puppies when I was doing veterinary healthcare, “good foofoos and fifis.” (foofoos are boys, fifis are girls.)
We had to be humble and serve our Western masters well, same subservient attitude that we had been forced to have throughout history, nothing new to me. And for many years we had crawled to their doors begging “Puleeez let me in,” knowing very well that no matter what we did we would always be second hand citizens. It was the same good old competition between slaves, “Who pleases the Master better?”
To the Master it was just a matter of numbers, and it was all about …economics.
Quentin, most people in the former communist countries hated the “European Union” concept just like the blacks you were writing about who hated to be taken to white schools. They felt this “forced love” came at a price. And they were right, it was the price of Eurocentrism for…non-Europeans. Because Western Europe and Eastern Europe have always been two different worlds, no matter how hard they try to glue them together now.
So I moved to the United States, hoping to leave this entire bullshit behind, but surprise! Every place has its own history of hatred and yes, here color is a tool, and yes, being white gives you privileges in some circles, or at least some acceptance.
Unless you have an accent like me, and you are an immigrant. I am white until I open my mouth. I had never been aware as of why I was treated so poorly by some white folks, until my friends (some of them black by the way) told me that the moment I opened my mouth I became brown. Think “brown” as in “category” not color. It’s very subtle.
I had an epiphany. So this is what it was. I crossed the ocean just to be second hand citizen in another country. And what is happening here is the extension or the legacy of that Euro-centric thinking that I basically ran away from. Silly me! You can’t hide from that. I could not understand this one and for many years. But hey, now I know and this makes me aware. To avoid unpleasant experiences, I stay silent, and pretend to suffer from a mysterious muteness while writing down everything. Sometimes, I am summoned to stay silent, like in my last trip to Nogales, Arizona, when my Mexican/Native American girlfriend who was driving turned to me as we were getting closer to the border and hissed at me, ”You shut up.” I know she meant well and she loves me and she did not want us standing there being searched and questioned for three hours.
YES, color makes it easier to discriminate against people here, and yes, I know a lot about the extermination of the Native populations, African Americans and whatever was/is not “white” by their standards. I must tell you one thing that I find to be very interesting. Back in Ceausescu’s schools, especially during the last years of the Cold War we were told about the discrimination against people of color here in the United States and… we did not believe it. We did not buy into that, we thought it was yet another Stalinist lie. You see, we had been fed lies and bullshit so long, we could not believe the truth anymore.
Ah, all these populations and how they move around. This blonde blue-eyed lady was telling me the other day how she got a mole on her arm and she went to a specialist and they did all sorts of tests to rule out cancer and guess what? The doctor took her aside and told her that this type of mole is specific only to a certain genetic group and it is frequent in … Mongolians. WHAT? Is there anything on this planet that Mongolians have not touched yet?
Quentin, you sure brought up some memories I wanted to bury deep inside and move on. But maybe this happened for a good reason. Some stuff need to be analyzed over and over again, until we finally get it. I bet you if we were to run comprehensive genetic tests, we would be in deep state of shock. We might even not know who we are, that is why I have always thought racism is ridiculous.
On a deeper level, I am a citizen of the world. I have amazing friends from all over the place, including Western Europe, Africa and you name it. There are good things about the Western European culture too (such as emancipation of women). It is always dirty politics that mess things up.
In the end, it is about humanity.
It is about us reaching out to each other and listening to each other, and not about greedy corrupted rulers and governments.
After all, this is why we go to school to understand the connections between Here and There, and Everywhere.
Your Mongolian (?) friend,
© 2012 by Oana
For those of us who haven’t read Quentin’s article yet you can find it here: http://www.authorsinfo.com/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=289&Itemid=635
Dr. Will Moreland’s interview can be found here: