To kill a Mockingbird

I woke up today with the words of this aria from ‘Margaret Garner’ singing in my head:

When sorrow clouds the mind, the spine grows strong;
no pretty words can soothe or cure what heavy hands can break.
When sorrow is deep, the secret soul keeps its weapon of choice:
the love of all loves.

We all have days like this, I know. But I decided to write it out, and not live it out. Inspired by Amazon, the bookstore (though the jungle, far away from uncivilized folk, is equally appealing in my current state of mind) celebrating the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s classic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. A transforming book when I read it nearly 30 years ago; and sadly, still resonant, relevant and poignant today in the themes it deftly illuminates.

On 18th June 2011, to say ‘I woke up in a rage’ would have been an understatement. I was as angry as a bull, fenced in with a crowd of people baying for my blood for no good reason at all; other than I find myself in their disillusioned nightmare, and they think they can. As a bejeweled jokester prances and swings a cloth hiding the sword meant to pierce me into submission, whilst screaming ‘Toro! Toro! Ole!”. I am getting more furious by the second. I am about to do what any sane ‘bull’ would do. Charge, with all my might.

So what has this bull raging? Simply this. The astounding bigotry of Chris Evans, watch this (at 0.11 secs) and tell me you are not outraged!  How dare he be able to say this on day time television without recourse to a disciplinary, or more aptly, his dismissal. Then, we witness – on the same evening no less – the small mindedness of Cameron Diaz on The Graham Norton Show with the statement ‘It is the blond hair and blue eyes that tricks you’. Err, excuse me, so only brown-haired and brown-eyed people are usually from the ghetto? And they ALL gesticulate like gangsters on The Wire?  Wow. Then, she goes on to say, ‘But then you hear me talk and you go…what is wrong with this person?’.

Indeed, what IS up with her? What in the FRUITCAKE is she talking about? If anyone can speak of the diversity in what is so often bunched as a ‘mass’ under the umbrella of ‘ghetto’ – she can! Be a role model for those still there, desperate to get out. Don’t dissociate and dismiss. So what if you’re a hispanic who lived in the ghetto as many do in the States. Hilary Swank grew up on a trailer park and you hear her talking about sacrifice, hard work and perseverance as her key out to becoming an Oscar-winning actress. Or, perhaps there lies the difference – one is a character actress, tackling serious films; the other content with tongue-in-cheek eye candy roles. It is simply sad.

I  just to want to tell her this: “Cameron, I was a skinny African girl who went to private school in Kent, then to state school in London where I should have been ‘killed’ according to ‘the rule’, but wasn’t. I am very well spoken. I have NEVER had a fight in my life. Nor have I ever felt the need to defend myself against ‘the ghetto’ that you so wonderfully posture with your gun-toting and slang banging articulation. Damn it Girl. (AND GET OFF Bear Grylls, he is married and not interested, goddamnit!!). It’s embarrassing to watch how uncool you really are. Oh and by the way, the only time I ever felt the need to defend myself was actually in LA, from a white dude – an Upper East Side New Yorker –  who decided he wanted me out of the scene of all-white actors having lunch by calling me a ‘pickaninny’. My response was less defensive and more ‘Is that the best insult you can think of to dismiss me from this table? Don’t be daft, love’.”

No, he was not expecting cool, calm and collected. But rather, the idea he had in his mind of provoking (as most bullies do) to then achieve  a reaction, to prove his bizarrely misguided position.

To be clear, conjuring justifications and ‘miseducations’ to aggrandize a tired, insecure, no talent, nincompoop has no place in the 21st century, anymore than it did in the 17th century. GET OVER IT. We, People of Colour, are so bored by the monotony of your discourse we just want you to shut the ‘fridge’ up. Better yet, just go away. You are ridiculous. For instance, the very idea that somehow it is inoffensive to associate a person (and therefore a race of people) to Chocolate (see ‘Cadbury’s and Naomi Campbell‘); to pimps; to gangsters; hoodies; uneducated lay-abouts is enough. All this and a lifetime of race biased propaganda in the media, politics, economics, the work place – you name it, we’ve experienced it – has me out of sorts huffing and puffing my way to my key board.

So I ask you all, what are we celebrating in the 50th anniversary of “To Kill a Mockingbird”? How far have we really come in the politics of race, gender, hate mongering and bigotry in our society when a daytime presenter can say, without flinching, words of hate to a guest on his show? When a movie actress, who is a role model (whether intended or not) for our children, can posture like an idiot; as is the general accepted view to be understood of those who live in the ghetto. Please note, no one is ever really ‘from’ there other than the limitations society imposes, by default, of being associated to it in any way. Surely, every negative stereotype and dismissal of those living in those areas should be our shared mission to eradicate, and not actively reinforce.

I don’t know about you but I am tired of this prejudiced mode of thought, words and actions it effects.

Tell me your thoughts. Reinvigorate my faith in our capacity to reason, to apologize, to be compassionate. Show me we have come farther than the story told in “To Kill a Mockingbird’. Help me celebrate this book for its wisdom and not its relevance today. Let Harper know that we have moved on /are moving on because we can walk in someone else’s shoes and ‘know’ them as we ‘know’ ourselves to be sentient, beautiful and enlightened. Let me know, in the words of Ms Hill that ‘Everything is Everything’.

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