Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Austria & Germany: Black Women Speak Out Against Racism and Discrimination in Europe

Yesterday I had a brief conversation with a young Nigerian male friend of mine and as we were talking two young African women passed by. I could see that his attention was focused on the women’s bodies instead of what I was saying and I chided him about how attractive the ladies were and asked if he knew them. He stated that he did not and added “I don’t like African women.”

Normally I would have jumped down his throat for making such a stupid comment but instead I took time to try and explain to him why harboring such feelings is wrong and that what he was telling me was a lie. I reminded him of the everyday prejudices and racism that he and other black African men experience not only in Germany but all across Europe and around the world. I went on to explain that black women and women of color face even greater obstacles than black men in being accepted and respected in modern European society simply because they are women.

I asked him “Do you dislike your mother or your sisters?” He replied that he of course loved his mother and sisters. So I responded, “Every time that you see a black woman walking down the street you think about your own family, that that woman or girl is someone’s mother or sister and should always be approached with the greatest of respect.”

I cannot say that he got the point I was making or not, but I began to wonder how many other young black African men in Germany think the same way as this guy does? It goes to show that discrimination and prejudice against women of color in modern European society is not only a black/white problem but is much more complex than some experts on the subject would have you believe. Fortunately the voices of more and more black women and girls in Europe are beginning to be heard as they make their impact felt in literature, news and entertainment media, education, and European politics. This month I want to draw attention to the work online by some courageous women of color at the heart of Europe today who are choosing to speak up for their civil rights by sharing their thoughts and ideas and experiences.

Last weekend while the eyes of the world were focused on the unfolding events in Myanmar (Burma) or some other hot news story there was a quiet gathering of women (black, white, and black & white) in Austria to discuss issues that affect the everyday lives of black women and girls in Europe. The Black European Women’s Congress 2007 was held from September 27th thru 29th in Vienna under the patronage and sponsorship of Frau Barbara Prammer, President of the Austrian National Assembly (Parliament). The BEW congress was organized by the Vienna-based organization AFRA and the Tiye International foundation of The Netherlands. The International Herald Tribune published an AP (Associated Press) article about the conference titled “Black European women at Vienna conference urge recognition, equality”. Here is an excerpt from the September 29th AP article:


Black women play a crucial role across the EU and deserve to be recognized and respected, and have equal opportunities, organizers of a black European women's congress said Saturday.

The three-day gathering, which ended Saturday afternoon, drew more than 80 black women from 16 European Union countries, as well as from Switzerland and the United States.
The conference was deemed the first of its kind by the co-organizers, the Vienna-based, nonprofit International Center for Black Women's Perspectives, also known as AFRA, and Tiye International, a Dutch umbrella NGO aimed at promoting equal opportunities for effective participation of black and migrant women. It was held under the patronage of Barbara Prammer, the speaker of Austria's parliament.

"I think one of our messages is that we don't want to be invisible," Hellen Felter, director of Tiye International, said at a news conference at a Vienna hotel.

Conference delegates — including activists, academics and other black women of all ages — focused on themes such as identity and empowerment, challenges faced by the young, political participation and access to the labor market.

AFRA Director Beatrice Achaleke said black women looking for jobs were often discriminated against because of their skin color, negative stereotypes and the general population's unwillingness to accept them.

"It doesn't matter if I speak German perfectly or not — we have to take into consideration that we are a visible minority," Achaleke said.

End Excerpt

Adrianne George of the award-winning Black Women in Europe blog (Sweden) attended the congress along with other Europe-based female blog authors such as Victoria Robinson of BlackPrint (Hamburg, Germany). Adrianne has published a series of posts about the conference (in English) while Victoria will soon be writing about the congress “auf Deutsch” (in German). Hopefully more articles and posts and essays from other BEW Congress attendees will be published online in the near future in a variety of European languages.

One of the most popular series of articles published to date at Jewels in the Jungle was our group project for Black History in Germany and Europe* (see related articles listed below). One member of that 4-person-plus team of amateur historians and academic hacks is herself a woman of color, an African-German woman named Patricia (Trish). I have known her for perhaps 5 years and we share a deep interest in world events, history and cultural studies, new media technologies and citizen journalism, and lots of other stuff.

Trish submitted an article for our black history series some months ago that did not make the original submission date deadline so I have sat upon it waiting for the right time to publish it here at Jewels. Now is that time, particularly in light of the Black European Women’s Congress 2007 in Vienna and the growth of excellent writing online by some of Europe’s outstanding women of color, voices that have been ignored and marginalized by the European and international press, the news and entertainment media, academia and broad sectors of European society for decades. “The Silence of the Lambs”, an expression that I have often used to describe the hesitant and weak public voice of Europe’s black population, is finally being broken and Europe’s women of color are leading the way.

Trish’s essay is about the need for recognition and acceptance in German society with a special focus on how the German news and entertainment media must work harder to honestly portray the everyday lives of African and African-German women and men who live here. This essay is of special significance today as the 17th German Day of Unity holiday approaches, a day set aside every October 3rd to recognize the contributions made by world figures and ordinary citizens to the re-unification of the two Germanys irregardless of their nationality, ethnic origin, or the color of their skin.

Aren’t We Germans Too? (Original essay written in German)
Trish S., Universität Bremen - July 2007
Edited by BRE @ Jewels in the Jungle – Sep 25, 2007

Between 300,000 to 500,000 African-German people are living in the Federal Republic of Germany today, and I am one of them. Born and raised in this country we regard Germany as our home and see ourselves as citizens of this country. Yet we still find ourselves in situations where we must explain repeatedly where we were originally born. For example, some people compliment us for our great fluency in the German language and then are disappointed to learn that our proficiency in the language stems from the fact that we are German, that there will be no exciting or romantic adventure story about how we came to this country.

At other times people advise us not to be too sensitive about the colour of our skin. But how is racism and racial stereotypes not supposed to have a big impact on my life? I have grown up with racism and prejudice in Germany, it has been a part of my life since my childhood and even today as a 30 year-old woman I am still confronted with it. It is irritating and ever-present like a TV soap-opera bad guy who always returns when you least expect it.

Of course the reality is that racial prejudice and discrimination cannot be easily erradicated in modern German society. There will be no dashing African-German film hero who overcomes one obstacle after another to emerge victorious on the silver screen. We Germans first need to give long overdue recognition to our black German film stars and TV personalities and promote their work to German and international audiences. African-German (Afro-Deutsch) men and women working in German film and television today mainly play supporting roles where the character is wrapped in strongly embedded cultural stereotypes: an illegal immigrant, a cleaning woman, a singer (Jazz, Blues, Soul, Reggae- never Rock), or a dancer.

In German film and television productions one must search hard for a realistic and accurate portrayal of black people. It seems nearly impossible for many German production companies and filmmakers to understand that a leading character in their productions can be both black and German and also be fluent in the German language. Instead, cinema and TV producers and directors here almost always choose to convey an air of the exotic and other-worldliness around dark-skinned German characters in their works, as if people of colour born-and-raised in Germany cannot be portrayed as an ordinary “typical German”.

If one were to believe this “perfect cliché world” image of the country distributed by the vast majority of German entertainment media industry and news media then foreign audiences would think that there are only a small group of black people living in the country who spend their days hiding from immigration officers, selling drugs, dancing, rapping or singing gospel music. That is if they are not busy dealing with the agonizing decision to remain in Germany or go home___ home being Africa since all black people are from the dark continent.

I sometimes ask myself how life in a world of racial stereotypes and clichés would be for the people who propagate these negative images of blacks in Germany (role reversal). The Sarotti-Mohr, a logo character for a famous German chocolate brand, has been around for quite a while. How would it be for Sarotti and his friends die zehn kleine Negerlein (a popular German children’s story with racist characterisations of black African children)? Attempting to fill out immigration forms and not knowing what to write down as your racial origin or to be regularly confronted by police officers asking for your identification papers and yelling at you in such a rudimentary form of the German language that it would shock any decent German citizen.

When my neighbour’s mother thinks I’m the cleaning lady because I carry the vacuum cleaner from the cellar to my apartment it won’t ruin the rest of my day. I can also live with the insult when someone at the confectioners orders a so-called “Negerkuss”, and then when they realize I am standing right behind them they hastily change their order to a “Mohrenkopf”*(1).

It is irritating but it does not come as that big of a surprise to me because although there is still a great deal of racism in our society few Germans want to appear to be racist. As long as the true underlying problems that support racism and prejudice in our society are seldom openly discussed in a national dialogue, racism can and will continue to grow and spread in Germany. The attitude of some of our political and civic leaders seems to be that if we don’t talk too loudly about racism and prejudice in our society, then it might just disappear on its own.

Unfortunately it (racism and prejudice) does still exist in Germany today. There have been several instances while watching a program on German television that I have asked myself, “How long it will take until we (black Germans) will be respected for who we are and accepted as individuals?” Moreover as citizens of this country with a long history here that goes back much further than the end of the 1st World War. Anton Wilhelm Amo, one of the earliest known Africans to live, study, and teach in Germany, came here in the 18th century as a child slave from Ghana. Amo went on to become a noted philosopher and professor of his day, teaching at both Halle University and Jena University. Until this day, I have never seen a report about him on German television such as ZDF’s popular education series “History”.

It is necessary that we as Germans begin to move beyond the common belief that being German is synonymous with being white. This means there are many challenges ahead for African-Germans and other people of colour living in Germany as we struggle for acceptance as equal citizens, equal as we go about our daily lives and being honestly portrayed in the media and cinema. As long as loopholes in German law exist for the continued propagation of racial stereotypes in our society there will be an awful lot of work to do.


*(1) Editor’s Note: the expressions Negerkuss and Mohrenkopf refer to a chocolate-covered marshmallow confection created around 200 years ago in Denmark. Literally translated from the German language the word Negerkuss means “Negro’s kiss” and Mohrenkopf translates to “Mohr’s head”. David’s Medienkritik, a German press and media watchdog blog authored by David Kasper and Ray Drake, delves into the subject of Negerkussen in their May 2005 post titled “German’s aren’t racist” (see comment threads). Andrew at German Joys goes even deeper into the subject of Negerkussen and other "politically incorrect" Negro memorabilia and long-standing cultural traditions in Europe with pictures and everything.

Related articles and online resources

International Herald Tribune
Black European women at Vienna conference urge recognition, equality, 09/29/07

AFRA – International Center for Black Women’s Perspectives (Vienna, Austria)
1st Black European Women’s Congress 2007, Sep 27th-29th (Vienna)
First European Women’s Congress in Austria itinerary (Afrikanet)

The European Commission
2007 European Year of Equal Opportunity for All official website
2007 European Year of Equal Opportunity for All - Ambassadors

Politics and Government of the European Union (Wikipedia)
Lisbon Strategy explained (also see Lisbon Agenda or Lisbon Process)
Europa Glossary – Lisbon Strategy
European Commission - Official website of the Lisbon Strategy
European Union – Employment and Social Affairs – Social Inclusion

Johannes Gutenberg University – Mainz, Germany
Black European Studies Program (BEST)
Team members, Program Overview, 2005 Conference Reader

Afro-German (Afro-Deutsch) entry at Wikipedia

Black Women in Europe blog authors of note

Black Women in Europe by Adrianne George (English)
(author is an African-American woman living in Sweden)
Vienna Declaration following the 1st Black European Women’s Congress 2007
Kongress Schwarzer Europäerinnen: “Wir wollen uns vorwärts bewegen”
A Closer Look at EU Parliamentarian Brenda King (UK)
Video of address by Brenda King, UK President of Specialized Section Employment, Social Affairs & Citizenship of the EESC

BrauneMob e.V. website and blog (German and English)
(an online community for African-German youth and adults)

Victoria Robinson’s BlackPrint blog (German and English)
(author is an African-German woman living in Hamburg, Germany)

Black Girl on Mars by Lesley-Ann (English)
(author is an African-American woman living in Denmark)

Spiegel Online International - (English edition of a major German weekly news magazine) Article about black women filmmakers and actresses presenting their work for the first time at the Berlinale International Film Festival 2007

Black German Film at the Berlinale
African German Filmmakers Hope to Open Up “New Perspectives”, 02/09/07

More info about African-German and African-Austrian TV/film actors, producers, and directors

Black Artists in German Film Foundation (Berlin)
SFD – Schwarze Filmschaffende in Deutschland (Wikipedia)
SFD official website (presently offline): http://www.sfd-net.com/home2.html

Berlinale International Film Festival (Berlin, Germany)
NEUE BILDER schwarzer filmschaffende in Deutschland
(NEW PERSPECTIVES – black artists in German film)

Black Artists in German Film (SFD) founding members
Anna Benza-Madingou (writer)
Phillipa Ebénéi (writer)
Winta Yohannes (director)
Nataly Kudiabor (producer)
Araba Walton bio (actress, singer)
Nisma Cherrat bio (actress)
Carol Campbell bio (actress)

Arabella Kiesbauer*(2) - African-Austrian Actress and Talk Show Host
Arabella Kiesbauer bio (Wikipedia)
Arabella’s official personal website

Note*(2): Arabella Kiesbauer is a talk show host well-known in Germany for her daily show “Arabella”, which was awarded the Bavarian Television Prize in 1994. She has also appeared in the feature film “Das Superweib” (1996) and in the popular German television series, “Kommissar Rex” (2004). On June 9th 1995, the daughter of a German mother and Ghanaian father was the target of a racially motivated crime when she received a letter bomb. She was not injured.

DW World - Deutsche Welle Online
New Face on German TV Highlights Dearth of Minority Presenters, 04/25/07

Spiegel Online International (related articles and special features)
Integration of Foreigners
German Media Too White, Says Government, 12/20/06

The Germany Survival Bible 2006
(a special feature guide to understanding Germany today)

Racism Alive and Well
After Attack on Indians, Germany Fears for Its Reputation, 08/22/07

The World from Berlin
Stamp Out Racism -- It’s Your Job!, 08/24/07

Poll Shock
Spiegel poll shows Social Democrats trail neo-Nazis in Saxony, 09/07/07

Stones of Remembrance
German Artist Commemorates Black Holocaust Victim, 09/04/07

Spiegel Special Feature archive – Right Wing Extremism in Germany

Jewels in the Jungle / Atlantic Review “Black History in Germany and Europe” 2007 blogathon archive

Black History in Europe? An Introduction to the Invisible Ones
Black History Month 2007 in Europe: Updates
Black History Month 2007 in Europe: Amo’s Ghost
Black History Month in Germany at the Atlantic Review
Black History in Germany and Europe: An African-German Educator Speaks Out (English version) (German version)
African History in Europe: Blacks in the Renaissance Part I
African History in Europe: Blacks in the Renaissance Part II

Atlantic Review blog
Rise in Racist Crimes in Europe, 08/28/07

German Schools and Universities Don’t Teach Black History, 08/22/07

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Black Women in Europe said...

My brother, thank you so much for this thoughful and insightful post! You continue to be a source of inspiration for not just my blog, but for my life in Sweden.

Several AfroSphere bloggers Village, Eddie Giffin, James), have reached out to me and are in support of what we started at the Congress in Vienna. I ask that you all continue to spotlight the efforts of Black Women in Europe to elevate our presence and cause at the EU and EEA levels.

As always I look forward to your posts and diligent work for Afro Europeans.

Blackgirl On Mars said...

Thanks for this very insightful post, and of course, for the mention! I found this piece very interesting, on several fronts.
The opening conversation illustrates our level of self-hatred. Many of us, although of color, have been conditioned and socialized to hate ourselves and each other. Many of us continue to perpetuate this self-hate because we do not know better. When someone, a Black man, can look at a Black woman and say, "I don't like African women", it says a lot about how he feels about himself.
I have to say that I disagree with you when you say that "Black women and women of color face even greater obstacles..." I disagree because as women, we have access to worlds that are denied, historically, to Black men. For example, my being married to a Danish man gives me certain access and privileges as long as I uphold the status quo. This is an access I would not have if I were to be married to a Black man. Although this access is granted through certain social negotiations, and so is not truly "powerful", it is one that Black women have had at our disposal throughout history, for good or for bad. Black men, on the other hand, have been systematically kept out. Look at the States, for example, and compare stats on how African American women fare in the job market as opposed to African men. I am not saying this all has to do with gender, per say, but as women, we are perceived to be less threatening to the status quo. Of course this is not a clean-cut assessment, nothing really is, but I do think that needs to be kept in mind. But we all really need to get away from this “who had it worse than who” rhetoric anyway.
It's a complicated statement to say although I can appreciate your sentiment.
Isaac Julian, the British filmmaker/artist once wrote that you can not tell someone’s politics from their skin color, gender, sexual orientation etc. And I think we need to remember this. The point is that that brother you spoke to obviously has no sense of our history, which sadly, seems to be case with many of us of, both of African descent throughout the Diaspora and others. Lee Robinson, who spoke about Pan-Africanism here the other night mentioned something. He said, “Why is it that we learn almost nothing of the 300,000 years of African history, but European history, which is about 10,000 years old at best—is the norm?” Education, socialization, controlling images…we need to get hip to the program.
I also take issue with your coining us as “The Silence of the Lambs”. For me, the lamb as a symbol is too passive, too shrouded with victimhood. I certainly do not identify with victimhood. I wouldn’t say that we are hesitant and weak either—the problem is, we are expecting the status quo to publish us, give us more authentic images of ourselves when they are not, frankly, not interested in that. Why should they be? The world works for them—it’s us who have the problem so why don’t we do something about it for ourselves instead of expecting them to suddenly receive the epiphany that hey, we are HUMAN too?
I used to get pissed off when I witnessed whites in Blackface here, or heard about chocolate with stupid names that reflected their narrow views on Blackness. But you know what? I really don’t care anymore. You know why? Because it reflects their own ignorance, that is why. What do you expect from people who have profited from dehumanizing their own brothers and sisters on this planet?!? We are blessed, every one of us, no matter what shade of skin with life…the true victims are those who walk around asleep, believing passively beliefs that perpetuate inhumanity.
I loved Trish’s essay. It’s funny, because although she is writing about Germany, you know what? It could be the U.S., Denmark…anywhere where you find us. And again, I say, why are we expecting them to treat us like humans when they never had? Or when we can go around and make comments like, “I don’t like African women?” We need to wake up and realize that we don’t control these broken images of ourselves, so we need to create real, positive ones for ourselves and not least of all for our beautiful children. That is my mission. And many others as well.
We need to organize and let the larger world know that hey, we’re not going to sit around and accept the continual dehumanization. Do you realize that is is the NORM to dehumanize us? And I agree with Trish that Germans don’t want to be perceived as racist…again, plug any other European citizen in there where she uses Germans… Race and racism is like the big elephant in your house that no one talks about. To do so immediately casts you as unsophisticated…and as a result there are no real discussions going on about race. And since there are no real discussions going on about race, we are moving no where in terms of examining our own racism…
The fact that Africa in this essay is referred to as “the dark continent” shows how unaware many of us are of the way our socialization as a minority has colored (no pun intended) our very language…
Well, ok…see, you got my wheels turning.
Thanks to you and Trish. It makes me smile to think that there are many others who are thinking the same thoughts.
Go in peace and LOVE,
The Lab….

Villager said...

Remarkable post! I am very proud of Adrianne George and the other members of the brand-new Black European Womens Network.

Adrianne is also a member of The AfroSpear ... a group of progressive Black bloggers.

BRE said...

Thank you to Adrianne and Villager and to LAB (Lesley-Ann) for your comments and very kind words. I'm not sure if Trish has had a chance to read this post and comments yet but rest assured that she too is thankful for your feedback.

Lesley, I am especially grateful for your detailed and informative responses to several issues raised in this post. I and others must take some time to carefully think over what you have said (written) here and hopefully engage in further dialogue about these matters throughout this month and beyond.

In addition, I welcome comments from European (old & new) readers who write in either English or German and would like to add their thoughts and opinions about the issues raised in this post. Of course comments in other languages are also welcome but it may take more time to translate them for release to the comments thread.

Michael Fisher said...

Well Bill, I find it extremly curious that a Black oman's congress does not mention the word "racism" in it's official German language declaration, but only the word "Sexism" followed by an "etc". Moreover, the German and Englsih versions of the same statement are completely at odds. I asked your friend Adrienne about that and then asked a few follow up questions which she chose not to publish in her commentary. I found that a bit strange as well.

In any case, here it goes:

If you would be so kind and answer another question for me.

Why is the English version of the Statement non-reflective of the German statement?

The German statement starts out thus:

"1. Identität und Empowerment
• Trotz vorhandener rechtlicher Rahmenbedingungen existieren weiterhin unterschiedlichste Formen von Diskriminierung wie zB. Sexismus."

The guaranteed accurate translation to English...

"Despite existing legal frameworks there still exist most diverse forms of discrimination as, for example, Sexism."

The official English version says:

"Despite the legal framework, forms of multiple discrimination, including gendered racism, continue to exist."

Why is the English version saying something completely different from the German version?

What is "gendered racism"? I don't understand the term.

Why was the term "gendered racism" instead of the English word "Sexism" used for the German word "Sexismus"?

Also, why was the term "racism" never defined in the statement?

Arienne replied that the term "racism" is defined in the relevant EU statue, but I could not find it.

I don't quite see how one can fight something and hope to improve things without defining the problem.

Also, I'm curious about your assertion that that black women have it worse in Europe than black men. What do you base that statement on?

By the way, noted that you took the Assault off your blogroll. Figured that would happen sooner or later. No harm done. We still love your work.

BRE said...

Hello Michael,

I presume that you are referring to the differences in the English & German language versions of the Vienna Declaration from the Black European Women's Congress. I have not carefully scrutinized the declaration but now that you have raised these points I will go back and re-read that declaration and try to give you my inputs.

That said, it would be more appropriate for the people involved with that congress to address the issues you have raised about the official declaration, particularly the participants who live and work in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland and who have published posts and articles online re: the congress.

I still owe a response to LAB's (Lesley-Ann) detailed comments as there is quite a bit there to reflect upon and to discuss amongst people who are truly interested in these issues. Lesley-Ann is a Trinidad-American woman living and working in Denmark in case you didn't know that.

Lastly re: deleting your blog from my blogroll, please note that I regularly rotate new blog authors in my blogroll, so don't take it personally. I incuded The Assault on Black Folk's Sanity on my blogroll some months ago to assist in exposing your writing and your ideas and thoughts to people who visit Jewels in the Jungle. If I didn't think your work was good and valuable for my own quest for knowledge and understanding as well as that for my readers, I would not have listed your blog in the first place.

Michael Fisher ladies and gentlemen, Yale University Class of 1970-80 something. A genuine firebrand and controversial author in the blogosphere and an accomplished professional in the international music industry. You may not like what he has to say or agree with his approach to sensitive social issues, but you have to give him credit that he uses sound research and credible academic sources (that many of us would never think of) as a basis for many of his arguments.

Michael Fisher said...

"firebrand" and "controversial"? Ok. If you say so... :)

In any case, thanks for your reply.

By the way, as to Schimmelmann. Not only should the Schwarze Deutsche demand the bust in Hamburg to be removed, but they should, as our Jewish brethern, demand reparations. Starting with Wulf von Schimmelmann whose personal wealth is rooted in his ancestor's slave trade.

As soon as you raise this demand you'll find the response coming from both private and governmental channels highly elucidating.

As you know, I have long maintained that Germany, yes, modern Germany was and remains the epicenter of racism and white supremacy, now, in particular, in racism's most refined form.

Black folk in Deutschland ought to refine and clearly define their understanding of racism.

BRE said...

Wulf von Schimmelmann, CEO of Germany's Deutsche Postbank AG, is related to the 18th Century transatlantic slavery logistics baron Heinrich Carl von Schimmelmann? How did you find that out? Let me take a look (Wikipedia.de)... darn Mike, you're right!

Of course the von Schimmelmann fortune was (probably) totally wiped out during the many wars and crisis the family faced since Heinrich's economic heyday back in the 18th Century. Wulfie-boy earned every red cent of his present-day wealth through hard work and study, or at least that is how his bio reads:

Wulf von Schimmelmann, a member of Accenture's board of directors since October 2001, is CEO of Deutsche Postbank AG, Germany’s largest independent retail bank and among the largest commercial banks in the German market. He is also a member of the board of directors of Deutsche Post World Net Group.

Here is the link to the German language Wikipedia entry for Heinrich Carl von Schimmelmann. Various statements from German academics, politicians, and members of the black community in Hamburg addressing the controversy over the Schimmelmann Denkmal in Hamburg-Wandsbek can be found toward the end of the Wikipedia article.


Michael Fisher said...

"Of course the von Schimmelmann fortune was (probably) totally wiped out during the many wars and crisis the family faced since Heinrich's economic heyday back in the 18th Century."

Bill, no disrespect, but how long you been in Deutschland?

BRE said...

How long have I been in Deutschalnd? Too long, Brother, way too long. As I often tell some American tourists who ask me the same question, "I'm the last American POW in Germany!" They always laugh when I say that, as if they fully understand what I mean.

benin said...


I love this post. agree with the first commenter a little bit though on Black women, whether in Africa or in the West. She said that they are able to sometimes be in a position to benefit more from the comfort level that mainstream society accords to them. This is sometimes true.

However, only to the extent that they don't begin to push back with an agenda that is overtly beneficial to them. The bottom line is that more still needs to be done for African women.

Where the lines sometimes get blurry though is when the inevitable occurs and their gains surpass their African male counterparts. If that male counterpart isn't mentally strong enough to deal with this, then one might be able to expect small erosions of the social fabric which hold some African societies together.

Something interesting that I have observed through my church is Kenyan male elders in Atlanta counseling their young men on how to embrace and cope with the social and economic gains that their Kenyan women counterparts are making, instead of fighting it. Openess and honesty and humility are the tools that are advocated, by the elders to their young men, in working with the trends of today. Likewise, the women have similar meetings and focus groups dealing with the same topic. I say this to point out that it if embraced properly this can be something that can actually strengthen African communities immensely.

BRE said...

Thank you for your comment and insights Benin and welcome back to the blogosphere.

The point you bring up about the difficulties African men have when African women take a leadership role in business, the community, and the family is a good one. However it is not just a problem for black African families and communities but a problem for almost all racial and ethnic groups here in Europe and elsewhere. In most societies men (and boys) do not like women being in charge and they are very, very slow to change their attitudes and behavior toward women.

It's great to hear that the Kenyan-American community in Atlanta are engaging this problem through dialogue and social groups and I hope that similar efforts are taking place all across America.

blackstone said...

Thanks for bringing awareness to this subject to me and many others. I did not have a clue about the issues currently being faced by sisters in Austria and Germany and i thank you again for spreading the word.