The older I get, the more I value the wisdom of my father—may God forever keep his soul in peace. There were times I used to complain and go into woe is me mode; each time I did this, he would sternly tell me to be quite and to focus on the things I could fix. Our debates used to be epic; out of anyone in the world, I credit my father first for being my mentor when it comes to debates as he drilled it in my head at all times to never make a fool of myself by not having my facts lined up before I opened my mouth.
Back then I had the smarts but I was severely lacking in the wisdom department. Each time I debated my father, I came out thinking I won even as I stewed in the end when he refused to let me bend his ear with talk about victimization and the ideology of others owing us something. His stance was simple; you can’t change injustices of the past so why spend time crying over milk we can never get back. I was convinced he was wrong; I was sure I was in the right. Ironic, time has shown me I had it in reverse and it was me that was walking in the lane of foolishness.
I realize now the utter folly of protesting against injustices of the past as we continue to slow stroll to self-nullification. I’ll be perfectly honest; I am sick and tired of hearing people talking about past injustices. This does not mean I do not acknowledge historical wrongs but damn man how much longer will we keep our eyes on the crows of the past which serves only to averts our pupils from the sparrow in front of us. Protesting has become an ends unto itself as people partake in “us versus them” rhetoric yet few are willing to do anything to flip the paradigm of iniquity that is mugging the masses.
I get irritated the most when people complain about cultural appropriation. So the hell what if some French actress wants to lock her hair, if some dude from Scandinavia wants to wear a dashiki or if Whole Food starts to sell Ethiopian berbere spice. First off, we should take it as a point of honor that others want to emulate our culture instead of portraying us as gangsters and pimps in movies and videos. Moreover, instead of being upset that Starbucks is selling Ethiopian coffee, why not go to coffee shops like Sidamo Coffee and Tea (link) which is owned by Ethiopians. We keep lining up at Starbucks to sip lattes as we concurrently complain about cultural appropriation—this is the height of absurdity! Instead of popping bottles and living lives of utter consumerism, why don’t we become entrepreneurs and innovate within so that we stop being imprisoned by debt and materialism from without.
All the screeds and tempests in teapots do nothing more than distract us from the bigger issue. I don’t give a hill of beans about cultural appropriation; I’d rather focus on cultural misappropriation that we commit on our own as we accept hateful labels given to us and destroy our heritage by calling ourselves names like black, nigga, African, and habesha. Words are powerful and as I noted in the video titled “We Are Not Black” (link); we do ourselves and our children a disservice when we accept the dogma of others without questioning and in the process become the property of those who gave us those pernicious labels in order to diminish us and dehumanize anyone who came from the continent of what we now call Africa.
Did you know the continent was once called Ethiopia before Scipio Africanus committed a genocide that would make Hitler blanch and renamed it to Africa? We call ourselves African to honor Scipio as we disregard the name Ethiopia that all from the continent should be called. So what is more grievous, some actress wearing a dress from Ghana or us calling ourselves African which is the equivalent of Jews calling themselves Hitlerian. These things might get dismissed as trivial by those who don’t understand the power of words, but those who know how powerful words are should pause and really think about what we call ourselves instead of protesting about what others call us.
To be honest, the issue is beyond just names and labels we call ourselves. Instead of taking control of our destinies and building up our communities through reinvestment and supporting businesses in our own community, we keep on waiting for a pale Moses to save us. I’m not saying this of everyone for there are plenty who are working hard in their neighborhoods trying to make a difference and many who support businesses and entrepreneurs instead of shopping at Walmart and buying Frappuccinos at Starbucks. But damn if there are not one hundred reactionaries for every one solutionary who have turned protesting into an art befitting of Raphael and Picasso.
We doth protest too much, I say as I channel Shakespeare. Maybe instead of protesting and getting riled up about our culture being appropriated, we should ensure that we treat our culture and our community with appropriate deference. All else is hollow and empty gestures; protesting is nothing more than a circle jerk which feels good when act out but then leaves us nothing but emptiness and despair in the end. There is no profit to be had by staying in victim mode and there damn sure is no redemption by railing against the unfairness of the world. The world is not fair. Tough! Let us figure out how to harvest a lemon farm out of lemons instead of puckering and protesting about the sour dispositions we have been given.
Here is an idea, instead of buying something from Starbucks today, go down to a local business owned by someone who lives among us and buy your lunch from there. While you are at it, instead of ranting about some bankrupt politician or another who is contribution to the injustices of the world, how about we remove a log of injustice helping a homeless man by buying him food and encouraging that person by spending a few minutes with him to let him know that he matters. And perhaps instead of sharing some TMZ buffoonery on social media, at the risk of sounding self-serving, how about you share this article as this is a publication that is owned and operated by someone who is walking the same journey as you. Let us focus on appropriating power for ourselves instead of complaining how others are appropriating our power away from us. The change we have been waiting for is within. #MisappropriateBehavior
People fight against inequity that’s a thousand miles away from them as they overlook injustice right in front of them.
If you appreciate this write up and agree that we need to focus on what we can do instead of focusing on what others should do for us, share this article on social media using #MisappropriateBehavior
Check out the Ghion Cast video below that talks about how our ancestors in the past defeated tyranny because they united as a people instead of complaining about an oncoming invasion. This message in the video can be applied anywhere injustice is committed against the people by the tyranny of those who want to take at the cost of the many. Check out the video below the Adwa Ghion Cast to see how we can pay proper respect and homage to our people. Remember, Ethiopia is the entire continent as well as a country #message
This is how to pay APPROPRIATE respect to our culture.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
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