Words Left Unsaid
Two days ago during one of my classes we discussed the Structural Adjustment Programs; policies enforced as a way to get indebted countries (mostly former colonies) to repay loans given to them by international financial institutions (dominated by former colonial masters). Needless to say, these policies set many African nations back in such a way that they have still not been able to recover. During the class I brought up a question which I hoped would irk others and make them feel as pissed as I was about the fact all thought it is just that, a fact- already done, already past. My question?
Why were these former colonies paying debt? Why were they even considered debtors? Did these former colonial masters forget that for decades they had looted the resources of these nations, benefited from the free labor of their people, grown empires off their backs, won wars over their dead, raped their women, and minimized them in every way possible. How then could they consider that whatever money they gave to the “new nations” just granted independence was a loan? How can you loan to someone you have robbed? If anything that money should have been an attempt at compensation.
And the new leaders, taking the money under the term “loan”, had they no sense to think about it. Had their memories been wiped out so suddenly that they would borrow anything from people they had just fought and died to be free from?
That is our history.
Two days ago, uproar ensued on social media and the media in general as yet another act of racial discrimination occurring in the USA was widely broadcasted. The death of Mike Brown and the police officer who shot him for “feeling threatened” is not going to go through fair trial. “He was a thug” some say, “He attacked the police officer”. That may all be true but when you think about it you wonder why the thug had to be shot rather than arrested. Are their lives worth less?
Some people say African Americans make everything about race, yet while claiming racial injustice curse themselves shoot themselves hinder their own progress. Similar things have been said about Africans “who blame the Whites/West for everything but are corrupt and dictators who abuse their own and practice genocide etc. Likewise the thought could be warped to criticize women who seemingly blame patriarchy and men for everything but are the ones who hold the knife that does female genital mutilation and when given the power abuse it.
The above two instances made me think about this. Think about why the anger at the West is still there, why I could still feel furious in a classroom in the very heart of the United Kingdom years decades after SAP had been done, done when I hadn't even been conceived. My musings turned to why the dichotomy of black and white still exists in one of the world’s super powers despite the progress they have made. Why does the pain of slavery, the murder of Dr. King, the lynching still make the youth of today who never witnessed it boil such that people still play Malcom X’s videos with alarming regularity on Youtube.
Why is there still anger within us as women who were born in the 21st century far removed from the days where we had no one to fight for us, no way to vote no alternatives in our wardrobes and no permission to move an inch without a man. We have all come a long way right? Why is the pain still there as fierce if not more so?
I have a theory, bare with me while I play it out. Growing up most of us were taught the magic words; please, thank you, and sorry/forgive me. More often than not the slave, the colonized, the oppressed and the disadvantaged have been the one saying these words rather than receiving them. Particularly the word sorry.
This word will not change anything immediately. It would not undo what was done. But they acknowledge the wrong was done. It begins the healing process. It gives the due to the wronged and marks the correction of the wrong doer. We ask the guilty in court to make a plea deal. Several plea deals should have happened in our history. There were many words left unsaid. And those words and the acknowledgement they hold leave a vacancy in us that shall not be filled till they are uttered.
We never got a sorry for the slave trade. For the bodies, our bodies thrown over ships into the ocean like waste. We never got a sorry for the abuse the slaves went through for years of hard labor and rapes. For those killed fighting for freedom and for what was right. Remembering them with Black History Month is not enough if the sons of the wrong doers never told the sons of the wronged “We did this and we are sorry, how can we make it up to you?”
We never got an apology for the fact that our continent and its people were divided, partitioned like assorted candy in a goody bag to be split amongst spoiled children, mindless of the values, mindless of their past.
We never got a sorry for the Kings and Queens who were cut down trying to preserve their sovereignty or for the minerals we robbed of, the cultures we were forced to throw away in favor of another’s. We never got a sorry for involving us in your wars for the lives of unwilling soldiers. The poppy just won’t do. We never got acknowledgement (not to talk of appreciation) of the fact that our resources our labor made these countries what they are today by hook and by crook. We never received apologies for the self-hatred you sowed within us with policies like “Indegenat” or for the disunity you bred with “Divide and Rule”. We study it in our history books, you don’t. You have conveniently forgotten, we can’t. Because every day we wonder: “Why are we like this? Why can’t we be better, do better”. Then we realize you had the advantage. You literally seized the advantage.
And the church for all its preaching of repentance has yet to repent, for the women it hung, imprisoned and abused. For the pitting human against human and continuing the work of Babel. The church has et to confess for the number of wrongs done, for the number of wrongs encouraged sealed with a Pope’s seal. The Church has yet to acknowledge the role it played in as accomplice to rape and witness to injustice. And don’t they say you must confess to be saved?
So, to return to my question, this is why we still rage, why we still hate, why we still pain. The wrong doers got away. And you can't forgive the person who never asked for forgiveness even if they now send you money in terms of foreign aid , or if you now have access to schools only men could gain entry to and even if they have now given you a month to remember your ancestors. Yes they gave us “independence”, they stopped segregation and a woman now can have a room of her own. But the healing was never done. They never acknowledged their wrong and now they insult us by saying we are undeveloped/thugs/weak as though they did not know where we began from. As though they didn't know the odds.
Those words left unsaid haunt us.
And then you hear of the fact that former French colonies still pay taxes to France or hear on the news that a young black boy was just shot in broad daylight for playing with a toy gun, or read that police women in Indonesia are being forced to undergo a defiling two-finger virginity test. And you wonder have we even come that far at all?