By PAT WATSON
It is a difficult truth that some people spend much of their lives fighting for one thing or another. They fight their parents, then their siblings. They fight other people in their neighbourhood. They fight for food, for a job. They have to fight because no one gives them a chance.
These are familiar personalities in Black and economically disadvantaged communities.
In fact, what results from this daily struggle is that such individuals are always in combat mode. They are ready to fight you if they think you are looking at them for one second too long. Or accidentally step on their shoe in a crowed bus. They do not know themselves if they are not involved in conflict of one kind or another.
Some people are so accustomed to this state of strife that if they aren’t already in a fight or a feud they will create the circumstances to have one.
Some are so used to living in a hostile environment that they cringe at any gesture of tenderness. Try to give them a pat on the back, or a friendly hug and the experience is confusing to them.
If, on the other hand, you are a person who loves the peaceful way, this tendency to deliberately create chaos where there is none may seem confusing, but we each have our own existential framework for what is ‘normal’. For some of us, disorder, apprehension and conflict are normal.
This frame of mind is not born of a particularly conscious decision. Among contributing factors, it can come with living the formative years in an unsympathetic atmosphere. As we look around, it is evident that there are many carrying the burden of a life fuelled by conflict and anger, and an underlying sense among such persons that they are always victims of circumstance.
Furthermore, the decision to disconnect from a siege mentality takes effort and focus, so that one has to remain aware of how much one functions in combat mode. Certainly, some things in life are absolutely worth fighting for, but not everything in life has to be a fight.
One case in point is the Africentric Alternative School. Getting such a school established in Toronto took almost two generations. That was a worthwhile battle that was long fought by parents, educators and others concerned about the academic failure of nearly half of the Black students in this city. There was a lot of push back from conventional minds. Yet, with perseverance and strong groundwork, the battle – though not the war – was won.
What is now necessary is to see to it that the gains are not lost.
Nevertheless, some people are still fighting that battle. A term for this is ‘overkill’. For those still up for a fight the questions to ask are: What are we really fighting for? Are we fighting because there is truly a need to? Or rather because this is, if truth be told, all we know?
A truthful answer would entail some self-searching, and not the usual rationalization, nor self-deception which comes with that old battle armour, pride.
This is important because the usual outcome of fights is that someone gets hurt. In the case of this very important school where a battle has been simmering, allegedly stirred up by a few parents against school staff, those ‘casualties’ would be children. So wouldn’t a fight there defeat the purpose of its existence?
It is time therefore to seek some perspective on this matter. Putting the children first will provide the right focus.
A note on the return of the 60s…
Something about the 60s just won’t let us forget it. We just keep turning back the dial. Have you noticed what was popular ‘back in the day’ is again on the rise? Those big Afros that were a standard of the 60s and early 70s are showing up increasingly on the streets. Former Governor General Michaëlle Jean is front and centre with hers.
Making the scene complete are the big hoop earrings being worn by the ladies to complement those ‘fros. If we listen carefully we might even hear Nina Simone singing “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”. And before long we’ll be lining up to watch the prequels or the sequels to Superfly and Shaft.