Blog

The topic of saying things and revealing yourself

                                                                     I

It was just the two of us, at intervals of kisses, trying to understand each other. Soon we began to foster the basics of politics and race into our conversation. Kisses had to share a room. Wait longer to shower. We were both black and British. But she was secretly ahead. Kept it from me because men grow uncomfortable when outsmarted, they told her. Across the road from us was the home-time flurry of private primary school kids and their parents. Both of us watched, part broody, part parading our youthful freedom with mid day drinks and the smiles on our faces. “other people's kids have an odd way of making you feel young if you don't have any, and old all at once. Like, I could be that little boy over there's child to be's granddad.” “I know, as they grow into youthful adults, you're bones are getting progressively brittle.” “I barely see my godson,” “oh, but you must. My goddaughter is a measure of how well I've done in life. In two years, she can now walk, talk and feed herself. Those are huge milestones. 'What did you do in those two years?' she asks me without even knowing.” We both laughed... Then I said, “those children are so cute in their 19th century uniforms... I really think white kids are the cutest. I look at pictures of me as a toddler and see this mesh of features not yet formed. I had to grow into them.” After a moment's thought, she replied with actual curiosity, “so white babies are cuter than black babies, you're saying?”

And there it was, a slice of self-hate revealed to the tiny world we were building. There was no going back. My head used it's furrowed eyebrows to nod at her question. The muscles of my neck – the splenius capitis – felt odd so I rubbed it. “I see.” She sipped tea and politely looked away as I dealt with my nakedness. There was silence.

 

                                                                      II

  We sat. A comfy sofa each; chatting, never minding the TV. In fact, she reduced it's volume as we were deep into pebble counting the rosary of race. We were on the age of social media and it's explicit portrayal of police brutality. “It's like watching road kills become road kill.” She said. “It's the only way the West can believe race issues exist”, I said. I meant white people. “It does raise awareness, but what about the more ubiquitous racism that happens just by wearing the wrong lens?” I took the high radical route. She took another. Explained, with slight torment, she has close friends who are white. How can she be so militant and stay friends? I say it is easy to be friends with someone who is racist unknowingly. Just like you can love someone who hates themselves unknowingly. But it's funny how we find it hard to befriend the knowing racist or the 'all-knowing' radical. She half attacks the growing number of 'militant' posts on social media and then, blended perfectly, went on to highlight the sort of elephant in the room in all the police brutality situations. “It's not just the police brutality, but the men not complying.” I responded, “so if all these men complied to the point of giving up their human rights, they wouldn't have been killed or brutally attacked?” She nodded then turned to the TV. The TV's volume seemed to increase of its own volition. She looked at it as one looked disappointedly at a reflection of their thoughts. I sat back and tried to think of things to say that the silence hadn't already had a handle on.

                                                                    III

I peddled hurriedly across the road to meet him and it came to me all at once, wearing baggy black tracksuit bottoms and a dark blue nondescript jumper, that the passing traffic may have discerned our handshake to be one between the dealer and the customer. He was stocky and brighter dressed. We laughed at the thought and it was perhaps this that spurred our next conversation. I saw a billboard of a white model less dressed and made a comment. Perhaps a sexist, male gaze one. He then brought into the conversation, “beauty is equal in all skin colours, but when it comes to average looks, white women are better looking. On average,” then he added pointedly, as in actually pointing at me, as if I were a part of his gut instincts about to put his summary to task; “and you know I'm right!” “I don't think, living in this country, we've truly seen the length and breath of beauty or averageness in black women. Perhaps go to sub-Saharan Africa and exploit the beauty there. The UK currency and your skin colour would make it easy. Many surprised white men do it.”

Written by Chima Nsoedo

A MONTH ON RACE: The Polish Tenant Stripped Bare.

stripped bare

                                                                                  I

She said, after peering down at my laptop screen, “you keep reading these things about race. You're letting it effect you,”   “whether I read or not, it effects me," I replied.

“People make fun of my polish accent, I don't take it seriously,” she added, still standing over me. “it's not the same," came my response, all too familiar with such comparisons, "and by the way, if you did take is seriously – I wouldn't be sitting here telling you how better to react.”

She sighed floating back to her cut of lamb on the stove. “But there's no racism anymore,” she seemed forced to add. “Beyonce and Kanye West rule the world!”

I turned to my screen. Not fully resigned, but not wanting to go on. For both of us the day was already long in the tooth. We needed to eat and have some sleep. Not this.

 

                                                                                        II

The meat sizzled on the pan at medium heat. She wondered around the centre of the kitchen, head down focused on her cradled tablet, one ear plugged, the other free and facing my sat down, flat pack posture. Both of us whirlwinds about the internet.

“Is Rihanna black?" She startled me with, still staring at her tablet. “Yes,” “fully?” “I think so,” “she's not mixed?” “I'm not sure actually...” I said looking at her, openly expressing my disinterest. In the silence my honesty created, I felt bad. “My sister shares the same complexion and she's not mixed,” “Hmm,” she utters, unconvinced.

...My sister is the same complexion. Or is it that my sister's nose and lips aren't as pointy and thin for the comparison to be made? Is it that my sister shows up to the world carrying her hair the way it grows? Then I look at the tenants nose and it too isn't as pointy as Rihanna's, her her lips not as full. She hadn't an accurate line of things you could attribute to a race except her skin colour.

“hmm,” she reused to turn from me and acrobatically open one of the cupboards. Out came a pan. No other questions followed.

During the fry up, I google Rihanna's ethnicity to found she did have mixed ancestry; from Scotland and Ireland. Then I thought; couldn't the tenant just have googled it herself?

 

                                                                                            III

Our final discourse. One that only I could perceive as having a thing to do with race. We had already stripped away social constructs of relationships in this conversation. We had pushed boundaries on gender differences – sort of. Then; at that slippery juncture where trial blazers sit too comfortably, she summed up her divine right to get the man and relationship she desired by pointing out her obvious attractiveness. Fingers bending back towards her, scanning from her head to her chest. “I-am-pretty.” As self assured as I-Am-Caesar. The drum of war that didn't com from a confidence within - I had thought - but from a handle gifted by societies trusted and epicurean staple. A society that pitched long blond hair and a tall slim body as the pass go to beauty. She bottled the hair and killed herself in the gym for the other.

'I-Am-Pretty', because hordes of men with money matched her on dating websites and lavished her on dinners. Pretty because those billboards she passed on the way to work were like mirrors held up for her so whenever she declared, 'I-Am-Pretty', the world would reply, 'Yes-You-Are'.

'Yes-You-Are'. Pretty enough to not ruffle the fabric of the work place and make her Eastern European accent incidental to herfabric matching looks.

I wonder how pretty she'd feel if such stabalising clarity was swept from beneath her.

Hmm.

 

Straight from the "D". (The diary)

I have partnered with the aurora to write. As the goddess of dawn rises so too does my word count and forced half diligence.

 

Great lines! Great lines! My bad knee for a great line! The thesaurus by my side, the committed google search closer. This is terrible writing but I'm told it must be done. Better for it to manifest here than on a page I wish to publish...

Five minutes passed. Five minutes I committed solely to my thoughts rather than the page. The sun had upped, never once losing time. I play some progressive electro music from a Japanese band I cannot pronounce. They make me anxious. A work colleague (wanted to call him a friend – anyone who shares the news of their parent's death while actively steering clear of emotive words should always be considered a possible friend) put me on to them. They made him anxious, he said. Made him feel as though he is already late for a function he needed to attend. Then I remembered I had milk warming on the stove. Old school. bun microwaves.

I met the milk slightly overheated. The creepy white skin developed on the sides of the pot when the bubbles settled. What do they call that? Lactodern, answers Wikipedia. I am not writing now, I am eating warm porridge. The washing machine taps it's feet and turns its stomach. Thank god for washing machines. Thank god they get so much done for us and display all the giddy hallmarks of having a great time doint it. Then I wonder about the creators of the machine and their philosophy on work ethic. Then I wonder on the philosophy god had when creating such an orbital universe. Then I wonder whether we resemble god in any way. Are we god's eyelids or strand of hair? Are we just mixtures of rock and ice in his churning stomach? Do we exist in god's stomach?

The washing machine's spin has all my attention now. Inside, there is a little nick of rubber missing at the bottom of the protective door frame. This has caused water to drip from beneath the closed face. I watch as a thread of grey water slides down and into a tin which I have placed beneath the washing machine to contain the spill.

My gaze becomes sinister and turns to the top of the trembling machine where two standing vitamin bottles and a shower jell bottle wrestle gravity to remain upright. The tremble takes them closer to the edge. The two vitamin bottles fall – and deservedly so. The tall thin shower jell bottle has survived and to my surprise remains upright. There is less than a minute on the timer, the machine's turn is now slow drawn. The clothes lean on the glass door like young children long weary from the fun of rough play. I look to the table which is to my right and for a second it taps it's feet as if it were standing on top of a washing machine. Then I find the mirror and catch my torso slumping saggy against the pull of the open notebook, weary from the endless cycle of rough play. 

Written by

Chima Nsoedo

The vesselisation of the body for life

The issue surrounding abortion or terminating pregnancy has become news again now Trump and his party of senators filed a legislation that eliminated funding for planned parenthood. This move withdraws state funding of abortion clinics and makes it a state decision to even allow abortion clinics to run.

So if the state you live in says no, you'll have to jump on a bus or a plane to a state that'll have you. A little like what people with unwanted pregnancies have had to do in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Ardent pro-lifers believe this ban/elimination of abortion clinics will make egg bearers think twice before they... have sex? And If they do get pregnant and are beyond the pill's reach, the pro-lifers expect this ban to make them come to realise that the sanctity of life carries more weight than freedom of choice and quality of life. That in the end once the baby is born, all will work out well.

The sanctity of life campaigners and the act of banning abortion turns those who can give birth into mere "vessels" for which life form must pass through at all cost. Yes, there are rules stipulating when abortions are allowed such as physical or mental stress to body or in the traumatic incidents of incest or rape...

Imagine having been raped and then having to report it to the police, then having to report it to the clinic before they can terminate the pregnancy for you. Imagine the extended trauma it'll take to confirm the minutia.

Being a vessel deletes all experiences, social status, self-awareness and self-care. As if pregnancy wasn't public enough, banning abortion literally gives a person's body up to the state. It's like a very very intrusive version of Theresa May's spy laws. In any pro-life belt there are pro-life stazi ready to report wanna be aborters or those who have done already. Because serving time is what they deserve and because, after travelling to another country and going through such an invasive procedure, they owe the world absolute silence when dealing with the stigma.

Now if they had had the child, the sea of pro-lifers would've provided a steady bed of support and love and aid and...

would they?

The pockets of pro-lifers do not fill with cash once abortion is abolished. Most will have to continue with their own struggles and leave the struggling parents to deal with this new life all by themselves.

Pro-lifers have this maniacal suspicion that scores of carefree people would callously jump at the chance of having an abortion once it is provided for by the state. Some might argue that such a scenario is better than having scores of people giving birth in the most undesirable situations where the future seems very bleak.

Perhaps pro-lifers need to research the times when child birth was a huge killer of women and there was little to no contraception or medical advances to deal with the complications of birth. How life-saving would it have been for the technology of family planning to have existed for that generations?

The idea that potential parents should continue making life threatening sacrifices to preserve the sanctity of life is tantamount to sending fields of soldiers to die for a sovereign state. 'Taking one for the team' as it were. There are countries that look upon people who want to terminate their pregnancy the same way deserters were once looked upon at a time when conscription wasn't an option.

Struggle and die at childbirth or struggle to raise the child and have the world award you with the badge of parenthood. And your son, if you have one of those, would get suspended from school for fighting someone who mentioned – not your real name – but your generic nom de guerre.

Those who can give birth have been given many super hero qualities. Such as innate maternity, innate survival instincts, innate ability to stay at home day in and day out raising the child mostly alone. But nobody speaks of abortion as a human instinct that has been aided by the advent of modern technology. The world has struggled to gift that kind of power to those who can give birth. We'd rather gift those who can't give birth the safe spaces to order wars and build walls.

And whilst the leader of the free world is shabby, inexperienced and childish in every way, pro-lifers demand that every person with the potential to bare a child must be extremely organised, intelligent, moral, unstressed and have or grow a deep will to have the child.

This fails to surprise when history books and monotheistic religions are full of bloody wars between a specific gender, but very brief or miss out on the other type of bloodshed amongst the lives of those who carry 'sacred life'.

The right to a state-funded abortion is as necessary a human right as the right to a free education. Because we exist in a world of near misses and uncertainties and having such institutes available is the least our community can provide. Contraception isn't yet 100%. here's a list of 24 reasons for the 24 week's abortion period. Facts rarely mentioned by the pro-lifers who prefer to send their message across using emotive statements and joining together contradictory words such as 'unborn' and 'child'. (the age of early childhood is 3 to 8 and early infancy is from birth to two years old).

Would it be unfair to compare the campaigners and law makers who take away the rights of child bearers with people from indigenous villages who are pro-FGM? Another routine that vesselises the human body. Would it be mad to compare pro-lifers to people who arrange for their young daughters to marry an older man? Making them vessels for a business transaction.

The well attuned NHS 'Choices' page on abortion describes the level of autonomy 'vessel' need to be given worldwide regardless of religion or morals;

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 10.00.58.png

Soon, I hope, there will come a time when abortion is talked about as freely as other political issues, without the burden of shame already present because of our ability to bring life to the world, but exacerbated by the current narrative of world psyche. And abortion clinics will be designed in the same considered manner as ante-natal clinics. And it'll be a criminal offence to camp outside these clinics whilst child poverty is on the rise. 

Written by
Chima Nsoedo