NPR has a section on their online site called, “Code Switched: Race and Identity, Mixed”. I found an article within this section called “‘Half Asian’?’Half White’? No – ‘Hapa'”, by Alex Laughlin. Hapa is a word that originated in Hawaii to describe mixed-race people, and is short for hapalua, meaning “half”.. I thought this was an interesting example of what we have been covering in class about what it truly means to be mixed, and the struggles associated with finding a balance between them. This internal argument of feeling inadequate and not belonging to any race is a common theme as we’ve seen in Yun’s Signifying “Asian” and Afro-Cultural Poetics and in Lord Invador’s song, “Rum and Coca Cola”, just to name a few. Laughlin delves into his own identity, half Korean and half white. He says, “If I were to volunteer my identity though, I would tell you I’m hapa.” It was also mentioned that haps was once regarded as a derogatory word, but today it is just another word. “In identifying as haps, Ive found a way to normalize my in-betweenness.” I was reminded instantly of the word “coolie”, and Singh’s Per Ajie and I am a Coolie. All three of these readings emphasize changing one’s perspective on being mixed, instead of being ashamed, being proud. Laughlin interviewed Kip Fulbeck, a mixed white and hawaiian artist who said “I think [hapa] is a much more interesting and accurate word than ‘Amerasian’ or ‘Eurasian’ or any words that are two words combined, because I don’t think of myself as half Asian and half white. I think of myself as a whole.” Beautifully said.
When reading Patel’s work, and learning about the First Indian Memorandum, I was particularly interested about the idea of integration through marriages. I instantly began to think of the music video we viewed, and how the leading female was contemplating whom she was going to marry. She knew that messages and consequences would follow, no matter if she chose the Indian man, or a man from a completely different race. I think both of these cases show how powerful marriages are, and how the act of marrying someone from a different race is so controversial. I would argue that these notions have not changed in contemporary times, and many people face backlash when choosing to marry people from different races, religions and backgrounds. I find it very impressive that the people behind the memorandum at that time had the awareness to see marriage as a distinct tool and factor of integration.
Reading about the Indian/African conflict that occurred in Uganda was very reminiscent of the Indian/African conflict that occurred in Guiana. In both incidents the Indian population was manipulated by British colonists. In Guiana Indians were used as indentured laborers and in Uganda they were used in the commercial bourgeoisie to “keep the African out of the marketplace” (Mamdani 31). In each case, racial conflicts arose based on which race inhabited that country first, and which race had more rights to the land. This goes back to the idea of givers and takers, and the intentions of colonizers to remain in control. In Uganda, a large proportion of Indians were denied citizenship after a certain period under the rule of Amin. Also in each community creolization and integration was intended. Creolization was very successful in Guiana, however in Uganda less creolization occurred. We see the stark similarities between both countries whose economies have their origin in the colonial period.
After reading a chapter titled “African American Family” in my Africana Studies: A Survey of Africa and the African Diaspora textbook, I was left with some questions regarding the relationship between black men and women. “In accordance with the official 2000 census count, black men are 2.82 times more likely to marry outside of their race, predominately to white women, than black women are to marry outside of their race” (392). This statistic resonated with me because previously noted in this chapter was that black families were dominantly matriarchal. After reading this, I came to the conclusion that since during slavery “woman assumed authority over the children while the father, fear and relegated to the fields…” (386). Given the fact that black women were responsible for raising children and served as concubines to their slave masters, they in a sense acquired more power and privilege than the black men during this era in regards to having more access to resources and having the privilege to reside within the residence with the master. Given this history, I wonder if this is one of the prominent reasons why black men have a preference for white women opposed to black women. Do they think that black women are too strong? Do some black men subconsciously resent the independence and resilience of black women, for it forces them to question their masculinity?
I thought the film “Mississippi Masala” was very interesting in that it highlighted some of the struggles that people of Indian descent faced from being displaced from Uganda, and having to start a new life in a foreign country like Britain or America. I also enjoyed watching how the different generations (Mina and her parents) handled the transition, as it reminded me of the other film “Coolie Pink and Green”, where the father wanted his daughter to stick to the traditions that they kept with them living in the Caribbean. It is somewhat similar to how Mina and her parents interacted; with her mother wanting her to marry the other Indian man, and her parents not being supportive of her going out with a black man. It was similar to how the protagonist from CPG wanted to be with a man of African descent, and her father did not approve either.
As an education major, I was particularly interested in the education section in the First Indian Memorandum. As I read it I immediately began thinking about and relating it to The United States and the civil rights era, when issues of segregation and schools were very prominent. I noticed how the Indian peoples tried to show how they have made significant contributions to education and the schools throughout Uganda. Similarly, they attempted to convince the nation that Indian teachers were well qualified and were achieving at their professions. This was something going on during the civil rights era in The United States as well, as many African Americans tried to show how crucial they were to the field of education. Also, black teachers were very under appreciated and overlooked at the time, as we see with Indian teachers in this document. There were countless cases of employment discrimination because teachers were black, or when schools did desegregate, many times black teachers would lose their positions to the white colleagues. In speaking of desegregation, the memorandum states that desegregation would be very beneficial for integration. It is interesting to see the Indians placing a strong emphasis on desegregation. In The United States, Brown v. Board of Education paved the way for integration as it deemed segregated schools as unconstitutional. In seeing the outcomes of Brown v. Board, not all were positive by any means. So I take that and connect it back to the Indians, and would challenge them by saying not all of the outcomes of this desegregation you call for, will be positive for you and your people. However, in both cases desegregation was a seen as a strong mechanism for integration, and as I am more familiar with The United States, I can say that it did work well (a slow process nonetheless) for those reasons in many cities.
The love story between Mina, an Indian-Ugandan woman and an Demetrius, an African American man in “Mississippi Masala” contextualizes the historical texts we have been reading in class about racial discrimination in Uganda. Taking place during the time of Amin’s removal of Indians in Uganda, Mina and her family are forced to resettle for the tumultuous time in Mississippi, which highlights the impact of this policy we read about. While in the U.S., Mina along with the her father, struggle to balance and understand their identity within integrating into the U.S., their ancestral background in India, and their lives in Uganda. Mina falling in love with Demetrius is a unique example of interracial mixing that sparsely occurred in Uganda. In class, we read about how seldom relationships between Indians and Ugandans occurred and how it was seen as taboo from the Indian perspective. Mina’s family’s reaction to her relationship with Demetrius highlights this notion upholding racial purity rather than accepting mixing. Another interesting element of their relationship is their similar roots and them identifying with multiple cultures. Despite being of Indian descent and upholding Hindi culture, Mina is Ugandan and celebrates being African. On the other hand, Demetrius is American but is of African descent. Their coming to terms with their individual identities and each others’ highlighted many relevant and pressing ideas about race and identity that we have discussed.
Why are we always trying to fit people into boxes? This is something that I have been thinking about. When a person is dark-skinned, we are quick to generalize them and call them black regardless if they are from the caribbean or even mixed of other ancestry. In Mississippi Masala, I was constantly confused with why the family of Demetrius kept referring to Mina as Mexican. She had a brown complexion but that doesn’t call for her to be assumed as “mexican”. That is so wrong and racist. I guess this is how America is. There can’t be in between? It’s either you’re black, brown, or white. There is no in between. And if a person looks mixed, we are quick to ask them about their parent’s races and then broadly assume that mixed person to be one race over the other based on how they look like. So for example, if a mixed person has one white and one black parents, they are assumed as black according to the one drop rule. I have always wondered though what a person would be called if one parent is latino and the other is black, since America loves to categorize people into one race over the other despite a person being mixed.
Mississippi Masala is one of the movies many marginalized groups can relate. Having lived in Ghana, a person is always expected to marry not only a person from their own race but also from their tribe. If a person makes a bold decision to do neither of them, automatically they will face a significant amount of backlash from both their parents and surrounding community. It always seem as if love is not important when it comes to marrying but rather reputation/self-image of the family after marriage. I can understand why a specific race and/or tribe would prefer their children marrying only within their race or tribe. The family wants the addition to the family to be someone who can understand their culture and sympathize with their struggle and perhaps be involved in preserving their culture. They don’t want someone who might make their children to stray away from their culture and assimilate into the one of the person they are marrying. Their culture might get lost. I was in shock when Jay didn’t want her daughter to marry Demetrius especially when you would think he would be very open minded since he had grown up in a diverse environment. It happens a lot too to many families. Some families are surrounded by so much diverse people and interact with them but once it comes to marriage, they quickly expect their children to marry within their identity.
Local leaders in Gulu, Uganda are being asked to implement sensitizing measures into their judicial system. The need for this is dire, with the rise of violence over class and land struggles creating more cases that make their way into the court system. Our class reading by Mamdani illustrated just how important having land was for the economy, and how in order to stimulate the economy, resources must be cultivated and traded. In order for that to happen, people need access to land. One magistrate, Selsa Biwaga speaks to how overwhelmed the circuit court system is with the sheer number of land-related cases, “I have about 600 cases to hear and 90 percent are land related. But there are people who come to court when they are very negative about mediation.” Biwaga emphasizes how expensive it is to have a case heard in court, and how this could all be avoided through mediative means. The issue over land arises from the clash between traditional and legal understanding of the Acholi people. Since they follow a “customary” land tenure system for ownership, different clans own certain parts of the land. Violence ensues when clans both want a piece of land. Can such a traditional system such as this really be solved through mediation? Or do laws need to be set in place for how the judicial system goes about designating land? This system was introduced in 2013 and it is now 2018 and there is still evidence of land disputes. What more needs to be done?