Color Conversations: A Rational Discussion about Race, Imposed Identities, and Social Constructs

by TEODROSE FIKRE  Ghion Journal Dec 23, 2018

To advocate solidarity is not to deny the existence of injustices. However, I humbly submit the only way we can ameliorate the legacy of hatred that has, and continues, to crater the lives of millions is through compassion and inclusion. It might feel good to rage at the injuries of the world and let our spirits be infected by antipathy for others, but in the end we will only be consumed by the very bitterness we inject into the ether.

I write this given the political and social conversations of our time where fire and rage have become norms. Countless millions who are buckling under the weight of economic uncertainties and financial anxieties are being splintered into categories and conditioned to validate their burdens while concurrently dismissing the pains faced by others. This is a most ingenious way of creating dissension among the people; by manufacturing differences, the establishment is able to fabricate conflict.

The sources of iniquity are greed and hubris, as such the struggle is between the profiteers and the rest of humanity who are being profited from. To hide this fact, the people who rule either through a velvet fist of false choices or with the iron hands of coercion have spent centuries creating identities and forging ideologies. Race, gender, orientation, religion and an endless sea of categories have sectionalized society into the ghettos of self-centeredness—justice transformed into just me. 

Perhaps I see these things differently because I was born in Ethiopia where ethnicity did not take precedent over nationality—community was bigger than individuality. Though people of various tribes and beliefs struggled, we were always bonded by Ethiopianism. It was this sense of togetherness and unity that enabled Ethiopia to defeat Italy in the Battle of Adwa and why Ethiopia was never colonized. Sadly, our source of power was systematically dismantled over the past three decades as tribalism crept in and displaced our commonality.

Who dismantled our national identity? The very same powers who foment discord around the world and destabilize nations continually. Foreign agencies armed and financed an ethnic based revolution, the TPLF routed the heinous Derg regime only to perpetuate terror by other means. Their crowning achievement was the implementation of “Ethnic Federalism”, an Apartheid like system that fractured the nation based on tribe and placed a premium on ethnicity above nationality. Along the way, centuries of mistreatment and grudges were amplified but always through the prism of factionalism. Today, Ethiopia is dealing with tensions that are threatening to engulf the country in a fire of ethnic conflict.

If this sounds familiar, that is because this same blueprint has been in play here since the inception of America. Though some have it harder than others, at the core most people’s lives are made unbearable by policies that cater to a few while the vast majority are either living paycheck to paycheck or languishing in abject hopelessness. Where the Ethiopian government implemented Ethnic Federalism, the ruling class in America use identity politics. The aim of both is to get folks of different shades, beliefs and walks to fight each other instead of uniting to defend their common interests.

People think they are making a difference when they let firebrands and zealots stir up their emotions. What they don’t realize is that the people who are agitating the public and extolling the virtues of militancy are being enriched by the very system they are raging against. The establishment love people who inject animosity and point fingers at others who struggle just like them. Meanwhile, these mercenaries bite their tongues about the principals who weaponized their capital to purvey strife globally.

It takes no courage or originality to speak to people’s passions and stoke resentment. But those who traffic in antagonism are not interested in healing wounds, they are lining their pockets by ripping open old scars and keeping us mired in self-defeating acrimony. From each group a demagogue and to each group grievance; it’s a manifesto of “divide and conquer” that has successfully turned us into a nation of crabs clawing at each other instead of clawing at the barrel that is oppressing all of us.

Proximity to pain prevents us from realizing when we are being toyed with. Donald Trump rose to power by manipulating the frustrations of his base the same way that Obama ascended to the White House by playing on the hopes of his followers. Alas, their supporters don’t realize that both men are pawns of the same system that is repressing humanity.

Until we stop letting identities and ideologies divide us, we will keep bickering over crumbs while the economic pie shrinks for all of us.

Malcolm X was beloved by the establishment as long as he preached the sermon of enmity. As long as he was being divisive and he used terms like “white devil,” he was embraced the “elites” and was beloved by mainstream voices. The minute he moderated his tone and pivoted to beseech inclusion, he became radioactive and was eventually silenced. Same thing happened with Martin Luther King, he was lionized as long as he stuck to Civil Rights, he became a clear and present threat to the status quo when he started to talk about human rights and put the spotlight on economic inequalities instead of just talking about racial injustice.

The Yellow Vest protesters in France put the fear of God in Macron and the French government because they galvanized around a common cause instead of protesting along individual grievances. The yellow vest became a powerful icon for this reason, it allowed Parisians to put aside their differences by rallying around an external symbol instead of focusing identities and ideologies that divide them.We should take note. If we want to affect change in this world, we better stop playing into the hands of those who profit from our dissolution.

Martin Luther King once said that hate can’t drive out hate, this sage advice is something we should heed or else suffer the consequences of social sectarianism. We can talk about injustice without marginalizing the pains other people go through. For example, the video at the bottom of this article that talks about race and identity and details the tribulations faced by “African-Americans,” yet does so in ways that fosters unity instead of furthering resentment. It is my fervent hope that we all step back from vindictiveness and instead have conversations with the intention of mending our planet.

The first step to truth is to know when you are being lied to. This caste system of identities that has been imposed on humanity is one that is meant to cleave neighbor from neighbor and perpetuate strife around the planet. Sadly, over generations, we have been conditioned to not only accept these toxic labels but to have pride in the very brands that were given to reduce our significance. They have us fighting racism, sexism, and an endless sea of isms by focusing on individual acts as we accept the wider system that subjugates all without regard to our petty difference. Redemption arrives when we free our minds from mental slavery and understand our common humanity.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

~ Malcolm X

The title of this video is jarring given the way we have been conditioned to accept imposed labels, but those who watch the video are moved by it. Watch it in full and share the video with others, let us start this conversation with the intention of hearing each other and healing our hurts. 

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