By PAT WATSON
Scattered across the world is a minority that many of us say we admire. They are the ones who are not in any way invested in what other people think of them. They are the unusual ones, since the nature of human psychology is that for the most part we respond either by accepting or rejecting the ways we are reflected by other human beings.
Now, there is just not enough space here to go into all the various ways this aspect of our psyche manifests itself, but there are many glaring examples.
Take hockey fans for example. There is a manner in which they are considered as being, especially after a play-off game. The police reflect that by preparing themselves for possible vandalism and hooliganism following any game. It is expected, because that’s the story about hockey fanatics which they enthusiastically reflect.
There are so many stories that we tell each other about who we see any individual to be. Those who are not anchored in a distinct sense of self or who are overwhelmed by the narratives that they then internalize, clothe themselves in those reflections and thus carry on their daily lives informed by them – sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.
Reflect to a child that he is valued and loved, and chances are high that he will embody that reflection. Conversely, show that same child that he is feared, that he has to be watched by controlling forces wherever he goes and that reflection can then become his self-identification – unless or until he ‘finds’ himself. And, that can take some time. Some young people, frequently young Black men in disadvantaged environments, don’t live long enough and therefore do get enough time to find themselves.
Among those who have the advantage of time to find themselves, there are many impressive men and women. We see so many of them represented each week on the pages of Share. That is evidence that a place exists in our psyches that rings true despite the multiple distorted reflections we project onto one another.
It is therefore instructive to understand that most reflections are also revealing of the reflector. As a wise man once said: ‘When you judge me, you are really judging yourself.’
This being the season of Lent, it allows for a focused time to engage in some personal reflection. How often do we take the time to answer the question, ‘Who am I really?’ and ‘How much does my sense of self depend on what others think of me?’
For children this would be a difficult process, but for adults meaning to lead emotionally balanced and healthy existences, it is very helpful to take the time to ponder.
A further note on self-acceptance…
One of the benefits of social media is that it offers a window into what is going on among people, informing us of the word on the street without it being mediated by mainstream news organizations. For example, there has been some buzz in the past few days about the murder conviction of dancehall artist Vybz Kartel (Adidja Palmer), in Kingston, Jamaica. Kartel was found guilty of the 2011 murder of an associate. However, one question that has been raised is whether without any hard evidence – even the body of the murder victim has not been discovered – Kartel is being convicted for his hardcore musical stylings or for having committed the sin of skin bleaching. He has even promoted his own line of a product for that purpose.
This skin bleaching activity seems have taken off recently and it really is a head-shaker. Apparently, it is very popular in Nigeria, and a number of celebrities in the U.S. entertainment scene have been outed as doing the same thing. Of course, it is just a matter of time once celebrities get on the bandwagon that imitators will follow.
Colourism – assigning social status based on the level of melanin – has plagued Africans in the Diaspora from the time of slavery days when some were privileged for their closer resemblance to the controlling forces. Today, the phenomenon of White hegemony is observable in this latest fetish. But when considering how much religion influences Black culture, it speaks in contrast of a mass of individuals who reject God’s work as not being good enough.
Pat Watson is the author of the e-book In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.