"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, December 28, 2020

Black Lives Matter, Core Whiteness, And A Discordant African Love Affair

A lot is made of ‘diversity’ these days, and those communities characterized by a mix of races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations are considered highly desirable.  Yet in most cases even the most progressive-minded young adults after a few years of social experimentation end up with their own kind.

A boy like that who'd kill your brother,
Forget that boy and find another,
One of your own kind,
Stick to your own kind!
A boy like that will give you sorrow,
You'll meet another boy tomorrow,
One of your own kind,
Stick to your own kind! (West Side Story)

Image result for Images West Side Story

Separatism is only natural, and it is an effort for a Nordic to marry a Congolese – too much history, too much racial baggage, too much physical, social and cultural difference.  It is one thing to subscribe to the progressive notion of inclusivity, racial harmony, and universal compassions; and another thing altogether to live in an unfamiliar hot, tropical, uncomfortable African noon.

Gunnar Svensson, a first generation Swedish American  had met Sephora Kasongo on a trip to Kinshasa.  He was a loan officer for the World Bank and she was a doctor at the Tschombe Adventist Hospital.  Theirs was not a conventional love affair because he had a predilection. What would  a black, African woman really be like? Beyond the Black Lives Matter movement, progressive ‘inclusivity’, and racial integral harmony, Sephora would be the real thing.  Making love in a floating river boat on the Niger making their way  slowly through the clogged, scented, tenacious water hyacinths, to the beat of drums on both sides of the widening river, and to the whining of mosquitos on the deck of the ‘Congolese Trader’ was as it should be – the realization of diverse inclusivity.  

How many of Gunnar’s friends could display such credentials?  They might be on the front lines of BLM and on the racial barricades of Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, arrayed against the white, racist, capitalist manipulators of humanity; but they were not in bed with a dark, full-bodied African woman floating into Conrad country. They were neophytes, pretenders, intellectual wannabees. It was he who smelled the rank rot of Niger vegetation, felt the swell and ebb of the river, and made love to his Congolese lover in such a darkness that she was indistinguishable from the night around them.

Image result for images dark congolese women

Their love was sincere and serious.  There was indeed a personal intimacy between them.  They had found what they thought was a convenient, happy middle between North and South, a union of likeminded if intellectually different people.  Sephora had studied in Brussels to complete her medical training, but she had never wandered far from surgical gowns, anesthesia, and recovery rooms.  She had been in Europe but in so cloistered a quarter that it might have been Siberia.  She returned to Kinshasa to respect and professional promise, but as African as ever.  

Gunnar loved her for this incidental Europeanism, her dutiful respect for Jesus, her religious flirtation, and for her profound African sensuality. In Africa there were no age limitations on sexuality, no prim and proper conventions of propriety. Although in Belgium sex had been neutered by Flemish Puritanism, and despite the attempts of Flemish friars to convert their colonial charges, Puritanism never took.  Congolese might have been outwardly dutiful, praying to Jesus, but inwardly animist, dismissive of colonial, regressive European religion, morality and traditions.

Image result for Images King Leopold Belgium

Gunnar and Sephora returned to America and were married in a Universalist ceremony presided over by a luminary of the black church – the Reverend Anatole Hiram Johnson, pastor of the Sixth Baptist Church of Louisville, frontline soldier in the armies of Martin Luther King.

The couple were celebrated, feted, and honored.  They were the love children of the progressive movement, a totemic image of cross-cultural and bi-racial harmony.

However the blush soon faded from the bloom of the rose, and they fought like any other couple, but because of their diverse cultural backgrounds, they could never find the right, final coup de grace.  Her virulent insults challenging his masculinity and will were like sonnets in the Summer breeze.  His blatantly racist damnation of her pagan, primitive, unremittingly tribal past went unnoticed, mere caterwauling like the howls of the jungle griots in her native village. It was an unwinnable marital battle, a cinematic War of the Roses without common ground.  Gunnar and Sephora ended the day tired, worn, depleted, and exhausted.

Husbands and wives fight all the time, night and day, years on end.  They put up with nonsense, insult, and injury for no good reason other than ‘the  children’, longevity, or some indefinable socio-religious notion of duty; but there is nothing to compare with the violent recriminations of a completely odds-on cultural argument. Sephora invoked demons, horrible ancestors, the spirits of Evil and the malevolence of cousins; and Gunnar attacked her with irony, insult, and high-toned but low-blow spite and venomous recriminations 

So this was what multiculturalism was all about, Gunnar reflected.  No mutual respect, no consideration of alternative values, no compassion, and certainly no giving in.  Sephora was unevolved. Gunnar was an emasculated, will-less, baby; an infant with a stiff dick, an insignificant cipher.

Image result for images book the heart of darkness

‘Perhaps I should have been more modest in my aspirations’, Gunnar opined.  ‘Black, but transplanted, Americanized, malleable, understandable woman of color’.  

I overreached”, he concluded.  “I should have stuck with women of my own kind, of radical intentions and ecumenical tastes.”  The motherlode, the heart of darkness, the impenetrable dark African interior was too much to chew.  Better home cooking first.

Gunnar’s progressive friends dismissed his African adventures.  The fight was here and now, Selma, Trump, and the Pettis Bridge.  A Congolese woman whose forbears were slave traders and whose heart lay desultorily in Europe and the white world was irrelevant, a supernumerary in the struggle, a non sequitur. 

Image result for images african shamans

Gunnar and Sephora settled in Oakland and had two children.  He, despite his multiculturalism had hoped that genetic sequencing would be short-circuited and that the babies would come out looking at least something like him, but when they turned out African to the core, he realized the mistake he had made.  Of course San Francisco  was generous, accommodating, and accepting; but he was not prepared for progressive censure. 

He had spent most of his adult life condemning systemic racism and the nefarious white, elitist, capitalist oligarchy, so he was nonplussed at the slights of patronizing friends.  They, white parents of blonde, blue-eyed children, felt no incongruity in their insular privileged world and their championship of minorities.  When it came to one of the movement who had put his money where his mouth was,  they were diffident, disinterested, and indifferent.

He and Sephora agreed on nothing, collided on most everything. There simply was no way to reconcile the yawning divide between the offspring of griots, witch doctors, and shamans, and Scandinavian, thin lipped, righteous pastors 

She moaned and howled in Lingala, swore in it, invoked gods and goddesses of the jungle in it, but made her demands in English.  Gunnar was to toe the line, although he was unsure of which  toe and which line.  Diversity fell apart on their wedding night and never recovered.

“Multiculturalism has its limits”, he admitted to his critical friends.  “Look for the soft, giving, middle ground”, for which he was ridiculed and censured.  Stay within the Upper West Side, he thought, make it down to Washington for an occasional march, and fly the flags of BLM, just don’t dip too deeply in dark waters. Best leave black people to fight their own fights, spend a few nights in their trenches, but keep your distance and your own counsel

Image result for Images Flags BLM

Marrying a Congolese woman, Gunnar thought, would be his ticket to the top progressive spot; but little did he know that cross-racial marriage was looked down upon by the American Left just as it had been 100 years ago.  It is one thing to support the cause of civil rights, to march over the Pettis Bridge, to sit in in Selma, and to get gassed in Meridien; another thing to marry into it.  One must keep one’s own racial counsel.

Sephora left Gunnar, took the children and whatever she could fit into two steamer trunks, and left on Air Afrique for Kinshasha.  Good riddance, Gunnar said to the surprise of his friends. Politics were one thing, but personal delinquency and illegality quite another.

He never considered Sephora or his children his own, he realized, ‘Diversity’ and ‘Inclusivity’ had cheated him

Because of Sephora’s flights into Eastern Congo and her resulting total anonymity, Gunnar knew that he would never be hounded with child support or alimony.  He was free and clear; and before long he married  Bente Pedersen, a Danish beauty, and within a year had reddish-haired twins

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