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People of Color? Really?

Do you ever wonder why we call ourselves the names we call ourselves? I don’t mean the names our parents gave us at birth, that was done from a place of love and a hope they had for and in us. Rather I’m talking about the labels that were imposed by outsiders and terms that we hang on to and see ourselves through. Take for example the label “people of color”. Every day, I see “black” folks and people of browner complexion labeling themselves and being branded as “people of color” or “PoC”—I used branded for a reason. I want you to ponder on this for a moment, especially if you happen to be a person who identifies with these label. What would you do if a “white” supremacist called you a “colored guy” or a “colored woman”. This is of course a rhetorical question; to be called colored is as offensive as to be called the N word itself.

Here comes the red pill moment. What is the difference between being labeled “people of color” and being called “colored”? They both mean the same thing. Let me pause here and warn folks, if you are someone who hates to be introspective and feels a level of discomfort in asking questions about the labels which we have been given, you should think twice about reading further. There are plenty of other websites that pander through paternalism and indulge in identity politics; you won’t find that at the Ghion Journal. My role is to challenge conventional wisdom not accept the indoctrination of the sytem. I’ll pause until the next paragraph to give readers time to consider if they really want to press forward and bump into ideas that might lead to cognitive dissonance.

I’m glad you stayed around! I stated in the previous paragraph that pushing on and reading the rest of this article might induce cognitive dissonance for a reason. There is nothing in America that engenders more angst than discussing the issue of race. If social security is the third rail of politics, race and identity are the live wires that burn anyone who dares to grab hold of these thorniest of topics. But if we are to make progress as a nation, heal historical wounds and mend from the original sin of America, we can only hope to do so by having much needed conversations about how we view ourselves and how we see others. And we must have these conversations without reverting to collective judgement and without leading with animus—what we need is a truth and reconciliation.

Consider this article an attempt to be a catalyst for change and what I hope is a spark that can start a dialogue between friends and strangers alike. However, before we have these dialogues about race and identity among each other, we should really inspect within and ask some difficult questions. Questions like “why are we people of color”? Colored according to what and colored by who? Why is it that we just blindly accept the labels we are given? If we refuse to accept the N word, then why are we accepting the word black to define us? All of these words, from black, to nigger, to people of color, mean the same thing—they are trying to say we don’t have light in us. They are all labels meant to “otherize” us and splinter humanity among artificial constructs and manufactured color lines.

I know one thing to be true, we are being severely led astray by our supposed leaders. Malcolm X warned a long time ago to be leery of the bourgeoisie class. He noted how the “elites” have sold their people out in order to garner fortunes for themselves and gain acceptance from the very system that is kneecapping the masses. Take a look about us and you will see the “upper crust” of society, especially the pundit and politicians who are pushed by the status quo as “leaders”, peddling antagonism and victimization as a business model and monetizing injustice. I write this of “black leaders”, but this same scenario is true of leaders within most demographic and grievance groups. After all, Donald Trump used the playbook of identity politics to get elected by following the platitudes and empty sloganeering perfected by Barack Obama. The political-media-entertainment complex is dividing us so we can conquer ourselves.

The politicians we keep elevating as gods and the media personalities we keep idolizing are could give a damn about us. They do an excellent job of feigning concern and pretending like they care about our issues, but they are just acting in ways that would impress the hell out of Tom Hanks. Did you know that the politicians and pundits we keep watching on TV and reading about incessantly in the press take acting lessons? Remember how Bill Clinton used to point with his thumb for emphasis when he gave speeches? Notice how every politician after Slick Willy started following in his footsteps? That is because some political consultant, working with polling companies, arrived at the conclusion that people get defensive when they see an index finger being pointed at them. This is how much they have perfected the craft of acting. But these same people who cry crocodile tears when the cameras and klieg lights are on are getting paid by the very system they are raging against. Do you think people who are getting paid handsomely by the status quo really want change?

It’s high time that we stop correlating the advancement of the few to be some type of bellwether society at large. We have been so trained to see life through the prism of identity that we keep conflating the successes of the “first black president” or the “first woman CEO” to be an accomplishment for the whole. Having the “first black president” did nothing for the rest of us; the “black middle class” was demolished under Obama and continues to get walloped by the policies of Donald Trump. We are decaying as a nation as more and more of us keep getting sucked into financial insolvency. Do you think having “the first woman president” would have helped the plight of working mothers across our nation who struggle to keep up with the rent? When are we going to stop clapping for the rich and famous while giving away our wealth to the 1%? Are we not better off reinvesting in ourselves and building up the communities where we live?

Let us stop relying on the elites to deliver change for us and let us deliver ourselves. We can have these conversations about race and identity on our own instead of waiting for the next political messiah to lead us. Obama got elected promising to have an adult conversation about race, I think it is safe to assume we can stop waiting for the conversation we have been waiting for. I know what I write is hard to digest for some, but growth will never take place unless we experience discomfort first. The video below is a discussion about race and identity that I wish pundits, professors and politicians would lead us to have. But the intelligentsia won’t have these conversations because they are getting paid to keep us stuck in anger and dependence. So I’m doing my part to get the conversation started among us. Watch the video titled “We are Not Black” (click here to watch the video directly on YouTube), and you will see why I keep putting quote marks around the words “black” and “white”.We keep getting riled up into anger about issues like cultural appropriation, but I submit to you that the bigger focus should be on the imposition of identities. These labels like “black”, people of color and the endless identities which have been imposed by nefarious oppressors are not about culture; they are really about destroying our history and heritage. Most importantly, these labels are malicious attempts to segregate humanity based on traits that don’t define us. Here is to hope and change, not the type found on bumper stickers and slogans meant to get counterfeit politicians elected. The hope I speak of is the one of redemption and healing; the change I pray for is for us to change how we view ourselves. We are not people of color, we are people of people and we are all one irrespective of our differences. #PeopleOfPeople

None is greater than the other; we are all greater when we love and be kind to each other::

The Ghion Journal is a reader and viewer funded endeavor. We disavow corporate contributions and depend only on the support of our audience to sustain us. The tip jar is earmarked to go directly to the writer, this is being done to attract more writers and to ensure that they are getting a fair exchange for the work that they are contributing to the Ghion Journal. The “contribute as you can” model was emulated from one of our favorite restaurants in Fort Collins Colorado called FoCo Cafe (read a business case for kindness). We thank you in advance for your kindness. Watch the video below where I discuss race and identity and how terms like “black” and “white” serve to elevate culture but devalue us as humans.

History’s Malevolence

The middle ground is treacherous
Preaching unity to all sides dangerous
I mean trying to find a universal language
Creating consensus out of chaos
Is often laden with insults—profoundly onerous
It’s easier rebuilding the tower of Babel

But lend me an ear brethren and sisters
What if I told you history was malevolent
Facts rewritten by victors and conquerors
In order to split the masses into opponents
Propagating propaganda to prolong injustice

What if I told you that the Civil War
For example to pick one of many instances
Was not truly about slavery
It was about the economy
Forcing one ideology over another
The powerful versus the feeble
A clash of aristocrats and the prosperous
Who duped the powerless to fight each other
Most “white folk” in the south
Were struggling as indentured servants
Deteriorating in barrenness

Now the powerful spread lies
Fracturing society into encampments
Pains of the subjugated
Being used to hide intentions of a system
In the process pitting one against the other
Racism is about power
But they deceive you into thinking
That fellow victims are racists
To obfuscate the true malevolence of bigotry
Hiding the hands of those who bleed society

What if I told you
That poor “white” folk in Antebellum
Had more in common with “slaves”
Than they did with nefarious “slave” owners
And only a fraction of society, the wealthy aristocracy
On both sides of the war irrespective of location
Thrived in the midst of hardship

The multitudes on both sides
Living in destitution and squalor
As they teach that Lincoln was the “Great Emancipator”
Educating us to elevate a president
To the status of God for “black people”
Maybe you should read Lincoln’s speech
“A House Divided”
And you would realize that history
Is full of utter bullshit
Injustice only prospers
When the people are splintered
And feed into the propaganda of the system

Did you get mad, think of me as a sellout
As if I was dismissing the horrors of slavery
Or diminishing the pains of its legacy
Do you think I am trying to erase Jim Crow
Will you accuse me of negating
The terrors of Reconstruction
Or do you understand
That the ancestors of “black” and “white”
The children of the masses
Irrespective of color
Are besieged in poverty and squalor
At this precise exact moment
For the Civil War is still raging
As they pit races against each other
Trying to instigate strife and friction
As they manipulate society
To rupture into racial warfare and hostility

Think about this for a moment
Who shares the burdens of the broken
Of “black folk” who shiver in Chicago?
Is it the bourgeoisie Congressional Black Caucus in D.C.
Is it the “first black president”
And the jive talkers like Sharpton
And his ilk who live in Manhattan partying in the Hamptons
Attending soirées in Martha’s Vineyard chalets
Or do poor “black” folk in the cities
Have more in common with their brethren
The impoverished “white people” in the Appalachians?

It’s always easier to speak to individual grievances
To impassion flames instead of spreading light
Insults follow the ones who preach universal justice
Applause given to those who demagogue incessantly
See history is meant to cleave people
To teach that others are dissimilar
But in truth the lives of most are unbearable
Slavery has taken on a new concept
Where debt has become the new bondage
And poverty is the new shackle
Most of us are ensnared in irrespective of identity
More and more falling into this depraved captivity

When it comes to historical injustices
The sins of a diabolic few
Cannot be blamed on the masses
I mean Mussolini’s army not too long ago
Terrorized my native land Ethiopia
As mothers and children
Innocent civilians
Perished by the hundreds of thousands
Charred up by chemical weapons
A holocaust visited upon my ancestors
But I can’t blame Italians
For the horror of a murderous cabal
For there are masses in Italy
Suffering just like the masses in my country

This same message I preach to my fellow Ethiopians
Those who are blinded by tribalism
As they insult their countrymen
Letting animosity overcome their emotions
This is the reason Ethiopia is shattering
And why tyrants rule with iron fists
Injustice making us forget our common heritage
Making us disregard that we are one people
United by one common struggle
It’s always easier for the powerful
To pilfer the citizenry and fleece us blindly
As long as we are distracted by differences

To “white people”
This message I reiterate
So called “minorities” have identical struggles
The same burdens that you go through
So why get mad at the meager means
Of those who are broken by poverty
The pittance given to those caught in bleakness
Instead of being outraged
By the thievery being undertaken by the few
The billionaire class who we worship
As they swindle our life savings

History is mendacious
Truth subverted into propaganda
Instead of dwelling on past pains
And residing in separable grievances
Why don’t we unite as one people
If you want to end injustice
Stop monopolizing pain
And understand one thing

We are all in this together
Or we will suffer forever fractured
This is why I keep using quote marks
Around the words “white” and “black”
Because these labels are pernicious
They prevent us from realizing our cohesion
For we are more than labels
We are humans united by the same purpose
History is full of lies and divisiveness
It’s in our hearts we find humanity’s oneness

~ Excerpt from Serendipity’s Trace, a book I wrote last year about our common struggles and connective hopes. Click HERE to find out more about Serendipity’s Trace. ~

Check out the latest Ghion Cast where I discuss how patriotism is used to mask the greed of corporatism and how injustice is being committed against veterans and the least among us as the rich keep getting richer.

Teodrose Fikre
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Teodrose Fikre

Founder at Ghion Journal
Teodrose Fikre is the editor and founder of the Ghion Journal. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses taught Teodrose a valuable lesson in the essence of togetherness and the need to speak against injustice.

Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, 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. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Teodrose Fikre
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