How do I even begin to explain how devastating the loss of Nelson Mandela is, not only to South Africans, but to humanity? I am still struggling to arrange my thoughts, still shaking with tears.
In the days to come, people will speak of Madiba’s kindness, courage, strength, his boundless love, and wicked sense of humor. They will start to sound like cliches. In fact, those words already feel inadequate because Madiba was an impossible man.
Impossible in the sense that no one should have gone through what he went through and come out the end as the beacon of hope and goodness he was. Madiba was a born a prince. He grew into a handsome, virile, strong young lawyer who loved, perhaps with too much voracity. He was a boxer and a natural leader. Then he went to prison. He spent 27 years in a cell so small, I could hold my short arms out and was almost able to touch the walls. He was forced to endure hard physical labor in limestone quarries: work that permanently damaged his eyes and lungs. He was subjected to psychological torture. Guards would lock him in a room with a bed and refuse to allow him to sleep in it. They censored and withheld letters from his wife and children. He was told, every day that his life was worthless, that he was utterly unloved.
Most men would crumble under such abject inhumanity. Most men would slink out of prison, broken and defeated. Not our tata. Not Madiba. Madiba walked out of prison beaming. He walked out defiantly happy and turned to those who would have him be otherwise and forgave them. Let me make this clear: South Africa was on the brink of what could have been a devastating civil war. Many people helped to prevent this from happening, but it was Madiba’s simple act of forgiveness that lead the way and stopped the bloodshed in its tracks. And yet Madiba’s act was not so simple when you consider that many have suffered less than him and were unable of finding the courage to put personal pain aside in favor of doing what is right. Madiba had true vision for his country, and more importantly, was more interested in executing that vision than personal gain. It is because of President Mandela’s leadership that South Africa did not become another Congo or Rwanda or Uganda. It is because of him that my family and I are able to go back and feel safe and welcomed in our home.
I and other South Africans refer to President Mandela as “tata Madiba.” Tata means father in Xhosa. I, and millions of others, feel as if we have just lost our father. Never has a leader deserved such an endearment more. The world lost a great soul today, but South Africa lost our father.
My religious beliefs are such that my views on the afterlife are foggy. But if anyone deserves to go to a heaven it’s Nelson Mandela. Madiba is free of a body that was causing him nothing but pain. If there is a heaven, he’s there with Stephen Biko, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Hector Pieterson, Miriam Makeba. He’s there with his great granddaughter, Zenani. He is free.
Ndiya kuthanda, Madiba. Hamba kakuhle.
I will be loud and vulgar and angry and me. So change your ways or shut your racist mouths. Use your liberal rationality to unlearn your contempt for me and my people, or shut your racist mouths.
I am not going to eat myself up inside anymore. I am not going to eat myself up inside anymore. I am not going to eat myself up inside anymore.
I am going to eat you.
Some of us are monsters.
You do not walk out of the darkness unchanged. If you look in the mirror and still think human, fine. Hold on to what you will. But some of us have never walked in the light. I have no desire to file down my teeth and clip my claws just to make people comfortable. They are all I have ever known.
your aunt gave birth
to still cities
hiroshima a cyst in her stomach
mogadishu a lump in her breast
everyone in your family
told her to
you won’t find a man who wants
to kiss an atlas
dont map out stars on your back
where you gonna find
a man who wants to join
your constellations with his tongue
push out falestine from under your
let damascus drip from your neck
and wash out the havana of
your dreams are too large
they make everyone around you
hold their breath
what man wants a woman
covered in continents
teeth small colonies
stomach an island
what man wants to
watch the world
from his bedroom
face a small riot
hands a civil war
with an immigrants story home
behind your ears
a refugee camp
a body littered entirely
with ugly things
doesn’t she wear the world well.
— warsan shire
I see this all the time when people call out cultural appropriation and racist bullshit in the US or other western countries.
"Oh but look at netizens in Korea, they think it’s cute!"
"Chinese international students at my university don’t even think this is such a big deal."
"Look at these comments from Japanese twitter accounts, they love it!!!!"
"Do people in Malaysia even care? Stop making such a big deal out of this. We blow everything out of proportion."
That. Is. Not. The. Point.
First of all, this is analogous to “my *insert poc* friend thinks it’s okay, so it must be” except you’ve extended it to the entire fucking foreign country. And no, it’s not okay. It is not okay because those individuals don’t even LIVE in the country where this is all occurring. Japanese people from Japan did not grow up watching their parents get made fun of for their accented English. They did not grow up having American classmates scrutinize the breakfast or lunch that they bring from home.
This is not about the international community. This is about the Asian American community here. WE are here. WE have grown up here being bullied by the rest of you for our food, our clothing, and the traditions we attempt to celebrate with our loved ones. WE are the ones who had to feel ashamed of our parents or grandparents for not being “American” enough. WE are the ones who hated our “flat faces” or “slanted” eyes or “smelly” lunch food.
AND THEN. After all that we have attempted to do to reject our culture to become more like you, YOU have the fucking audacity to TAKE what you’ve TAUGHT us to reject, and USE it to raise your NON-Asian self to the next level of approval from your peers. And suddenly, everyone loves what you’ve done our culture. YOU are the expert, not us. Our culture is so cool. Our culture is so fashionable. But only when it’s not on our hands.
So when Asian Americans are telling you that it’s racist, and you try to trump our words with those from across the seas, shut up. Seriously. Shut up. Our parents when they came here were from across the seas, and you didn’t give a shit about their words when they came here. You did your best to silence them with your hate. My heritage is from across the seas and you had no problem criticizing me for it when I was growing up. So why is it okay for Katy Perry to parade around like that? Especially since there were so many (TOO many) inaccuracies in her portrayal too?
Stop missing the fucking point.