Wendy Cheng previews my upcoming book: Dream of the Water Children

cloyd - COVER - FINAL -v2

A Black-Japanese Amerasian reflects on life in the present, with the traces of wars and their aftermaths. 2Leaf Press is pleased to announce the publication of Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s first book, DREAM OF THE WATER CHILDREN, MEMORY AND MOURNING IN THE BLACK PACIFIC, in June 2016. In Dream of the Water Children, Fredrick Kakinami Cloyd delineates the ways imperialism and war are experienced across and between generations and leave lasting and often excruciating legacies in the mind, body, and relationships.

READ The Preview Here:   http://2leafpress.org/online/preview-dream-of-the-water-children-wendy-cheng/

MY BOOK – Coming Fall 2014

1 - Web Version

My Book will be released this Fall 2014, by 2Leaf Press!!

Introduction by Gerald Horne

Foreword by Velina Hasu Houston

Cover Art by Kenji Chienshu Liu

Here are just a few preview comments about the book:

Fredrick Douglas Kakinami Cloyd has written a profoundly moving and thought-provoking book. He courageously challenges our neat categories of identity, going beyond broadening our understanding of mixed race to touch what is human in all of us. This book will shift readers’ perceptions and assumptions and may change many lives. Above all, Cloyd is a master story-teller who honors and respects memory.

–Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, historian and writer

This is a mature book that moves fluidly, as the mind moves, untroubled by traditional distinctions between writing considered to be academic vs. creative, memoir vs. personal essay, sure-footed in unexpected ways. This genre-bending book is not “experimental writing.” The author knows what he wants to say and he knows how he wants to say it, seeking, in his own words, “restoration and reclamation” for silenced voices and histories never erased because they have not yet been written. Dream of the Water Children demands that its reader rigorously consider the constructed nature of memory, identities, and historical narrative. And it is also an enormously kind and passionate chronicle of a son’’s long journey with his mother. To read it is to marvel, to learn, and to discover anew what surrealist poet Paul Éluard said: “There is another world, but it is in this one.”

–Patricia Mushim Ikeda
    Buddhist teacher / activist
    Oakland, California

Can be read as a ghost story, a meditation on how to disassemble the heartbreak machines; a catalog of copious tears and small comforts. This is a challenging example of personal bravery and filial love. It puts the “more” in memory.

–Leonard Rifas, Ph.D
   Communications, University of Washington

2Leaf Press Book LINK: http://2leafpress.org/online/dream-water-children/

Race-Nation-Gender-Class-Nation: Forget it. Never Forget it

Pat Parker (1944-1989), poet, teacher and activist, wrote this poem: For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend  and had this wonderful line:

The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black.
Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.

For any social difference that exists in any society, we can place it there, in the space of “Black.”   In any case, color-blindness, gender-blindness, mixed-space blindness, sexual orientation blindness, socio-economic class blindness, neighborhood blindness, body-size blindness, nationality blindness etc. etc. —  we have to pay attention to how quickly we may subsume, make invisible, refuse (ignore), make trivial, something that makes a difference.  Sameness is too valorized in the globalizing society.  It’s not about any particular choices we have in holding on and letting go—-because even this is an action and a series of action (holding or letting go, that is), that come from political positionings that rely on privilege, luck, ability, amount of trauma, fear, violence, and a host of other things that come from oppression and social constructions of society.

Let us not forget how completely and utterly different we are from each other.  This way, we truly understand diversity.  If we “understand,” then perhaps we do not understand difference at all.  We just consume, co-opt, and bring into our own history and culture and language and values, that OTHER.  This is a violence to that Other.

But in saying they are different, do we automatically become AFRAID?   Or do we automatically become ANGRY?  Do we automatically IGNORE?  Do we assume we can translate, communicate?   Yes we can communicate, but understanding its partiality is important.

Honor you.  Honor me.

In our difference.  Utterly different.  Utterly ourselves.  Yet somehow, we are related as humans, as that who has experienced pain.

Perhaps other things.  But do not assume equality.

Be human.

There . . . . . .  Can we allow difficulty, struggle, powerful connection and dissonance?

First International Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference! A Success!!

The First International Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference was held at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois in the USA on November 5-6, 2010.  According to reports (sadly I could not make it because I’m too poor!) — all programs were packed and/or standing room only and provided a vibrant atmosphere for community-building, alliance-building, critical discussion and thought, and efforts to think and re-think racialization in the context of issues of identities, gender(s), sexualities, class, nationalities, allegiences, fissures, parallels, disjunctures, and their relation to geopolitics, dominant narratives and the trope of the self.

From a privileged standpoint, and especially in the United States and the global north, issues of race, racism and racialization are couched only in the realm of identity and access to higher privilege, a sort of normalization of the current world system.  The question of social justice was raised by certain keynote speakers and others within various presentations and discussions, asking people to think about how the creation and process of racialization may repeat and maintain the current systems of domination, in the world.  How can a ‘mixed race pedagogy’ begin to address and actually begin and thoroughly intervene into the maintance of current traumas, violations, genocide, and invisiblization that passes for security, comfort, safety, and nation along with a privileging of being ‘mixed race’ and or monoracial?  How does ‘race’ and the process of creating racial categories and re-ifying ‘race,’ carry the impetus through which racisms could be practiced in our lives and between communities and nations?  How does NOT speaking about race also create further demarcations that make racism ‘normal’ and ‘tragic’ and ‘sad’ and ‘natural,’ thus portraying it as an aspect of life that has nothing to do with our own realities and/or ignorance and refusal?  How can these dynamics be shifted?

Congratulations to the conference organizers: Camilla Fojas, Wei-Ming Dariotis and Laura Kina, for pulling off what I gather, was a highly successful and promising event that we hope will become an annual event!!!!

More information can be seen here:


Excellent reflection on the conference by Laura Kina, one of the organizers of this conference:


Comments on Joss Whedon’s blogpost regarding Women in society

This post is dedicated especially to those who struggle to live in a world dominated by heterosexism, patriarchy and its various violences (i.e. everybody).

Link to Joss Whedon’s excellent post follows my commentary.

Joss Whedon is perhaps most famous for his show-runner/creator role in the US for television shows such as ‘Angel’ and ‘Buffy the Vampire-Slayer.’ He enjoys a large cult following globally. I feel he is an excellent producer/writer. In a blog post he wrote May 20, 2007, entitled: “Let’s Watch a Girl Get Beaten To Death,” he speaks strongly about heterosexism and the control of women in the world. His words are sparked by the broadcasting of the stoning-death of a 17-year old Yezidi Kurdish girl from Iraq.

Dua Khalil Aswad, a 17-year old Yezidi Kurdish girl from Bashka Ninawa in Iraq, was stoned to death on April 7, 2007. Her death was broadcast on the internet via recordings from a mobile phone. Her stoning has been said to have sparked several ‘reprisal’ attacks and massacres by Sunni Muslim fundamentalist extremists against certain Yezidi villages. Dua Khalil was a girl from the Yezidi culture/worldview, which pre-dates Islam. Much like Alevism, Yezidism has also been a persecuted religion by certain more fundamentalist Sunni and Shi’a groups. The division between Sunni and Shi’a has also sparked some violent antagonisms through history. Let us not forget that fundamentalism and extremism create these licenses to torture and kill. For women and children, this is even more pronounced.

Fundamentalism and extremism exist everywhere and in many forms. In the US and Europe, most of it is hidden behind closed doors and plays out violently in domestic spheres hidden from the public or inter-personally, and in the more poverty-stricken neighborhoods where most news programs and citizens of wealthy countries do not spend much energy or time. Much of it plays out unseen to the public in policy-making wars in government. Exclusions and dominations are everyday aspects of our lives.

When I was doing research on Kurdish groups in Europe, the United States, and in their traditional homelands in the Middle East, I often questioned my Kurdish friends on ‘honor killings.’ I was always mindful to not blame or speak from a feeling of being ‘better’ as an American or Japanese, which is always the risk in bringing these things up when one is ‘a westerner.’ In most cases, most Kurds think of honor-killings as horrendous and needing to stop. In many cases, Muslims who did not agree with honor killings, were correct in understanding that certain tribes, pre-dating Islam, practiced these killings, much like certain tribes in Christian areas. Those traditions have been carried on in certain families and Islam cannot be the blame. In a few cases, there were those who were quite open with their anti-female attitudes and told me that if they are dishonorable, they should be punished. They sounded the same as some of my American friends who felt that all gays should die or that the ruin of the world was when women were allowed to vote and work alongside men. One can imagine the non-heterosexual boys and the girls who are being raised by these men. We, the other people, know what goes on.

Intensifying the questions and investigative energy that I acquired when asking my Kurdish friends about honor killings, various kinds of anger and blame had to be side-stepped in the name of academic research and my own willingness and desire to get through to depths beyond the superficial and the spectacular of such horrific actions as honor killings in society. In the west, sudden gun-shooting rampages, Columbine, and daily rapes and tortures unseen and unreported, are also questions I have spent the last decades on deciphering. I do not believe in original sin, so the sickness of humanity, as far as I know, is not because we are born sick and twisted and violent. Things develop. But things also have pre-texts, histories, traditions, legacies. We are born into these. My thinking/feeling is that as long as they have been developed in history, they can also be undeveloped, shifted, constructed differently, albeit most of the time, in slow trajectories through our small, urgent, and sophisticated actions.

When asking leaders of certain Kurdish, Islamic, or Persian organizations regarding the traditions of honor killings, they were quick to blame ‘poor’ and ‘uneducated’ people on this. It was interesting, then, to discuss how, in certain cases, their own family members practiced this on a sister, or a niece, or another female member. In some of my friends’ cases, they may have grown into certain middle-class wealth but originally came from poor villages. Others, had come from wealthy families where perhaps one or two of the boys participated in honor killings. In some cases, I have also heard of honor killings against men, most for being homosexual. This points to another aspect of the violence of our societies. Our heterosexism also plays into the ignoring of male-targeted violence and publicizing anti-woman, anti-girl violence. The invisible killings of gays in culture, whether spiritually or physically) and male-to-male violence are normalized and therefore unattended to, while in the western nations there is a certain glorification of our horror at violence against girls and women. This system keeps everything in tact.

When speaking of these intense issues of violence, what we hear cannot always be assumed to be ‘truth’ or ‘lies.’ It is difficult, at this juncture, to get a feel for when things were down-played or made to ‘sound’ democratic and caring, when in fact, they did not believe their own words in wanting to dispel honor killings; or whether they truly wanted it to end. After all, I was an American and they wanted to be seen in the best light. I have questioned US Americans on their gay-bashing weekends where they tortured a gay boy behind a bar, and they were sometimes apologetic but I did not believe them. I am sure in some cases, they did change their thinking on this, but one can never be sure in the reality of face-to-face politics. However, in knowing most of my Kurdish friends and being with their families, I am certain that they held nothing back in their belief in the respect of women, simply by watching the consistency between their actions and beliefs while I spent time with them and to watch how Kurdish girls and women responded to them.

One Kurdish political figure I interviewed, became angry with me for questioning her (yes she was a woman) on honor-killings among the Kurds. She accused me of being an American who always wanted to present Middle Easterners in a bad light. She said she was tired of it, and began to name events and attitudes of the Americans that would qualify as the same–the denigration of women and its structural elements in the present world society. She was a strong woman who worked among the Kurdish and Middle Eastern elite and worked for human rights, gay rights, women’s rights, and Kurdish rights in the diaspora and in the Middle East. She was right in the sense of the ‘honor killing’ concept to be barbaric, yet propped up differently in the West and often ignored. Women in the US are often killed ‘spiritually.’ Internalized oppression also plays into how women play these dynamics out themselves.

This brilliant political woman, also told me that honor killings was a general Islamic problem in certain areas and was not a ‘Kurdish problem.’ I found this comment to be half-true. Yes, it is not a Kurdish problem. I responded back: “But Kurdish girls, women (and some boys and men) are dying from this. So don’t you think Kurdish leadership should work on it within the Kurdish community?” She agreed but she said that it is at the risk of being accepted by the West. In her logic, she said that if they began to work on it as a Kurdish issue, the four countries that rule the Kurds at the moment, as well as Europe and the US, would use this as a way to demonize the Kurds in world politics, just as they were trying to form more Kurdish empowerment in the community. The West, she believed, would quickly allow the Arab countries to continue what they do, while they could get more oil from them, while blaming the Kurds for honor killings and strengthening Turkey and the other Middle Eastern countries in their efforts to annihilate the Kurdish culture. I would also add here that for Yezidis, Alevis, Dersimians, Christians etc. who are also Kurdish, there are even worse pressures to consider. Mainstream Sunni and Shi’a Kurds would also join with Turkish, Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian mainstream Muslims in the denigration of them as ‘other.’ There is, in many cases, violences visiting them from other Kurds because of mainstream Islamic domination. In my experience, this was intense, as well as meeting many Muslim Kurds and Turks who felt that religion should be about peace and that those forcing violence on non-Muslims were wrong. In working on sexism and violence against women, as well as against gays and lesbians and non-heterosexually identified peoples in conflict zones, how do we respond?

She is right about the political strategy, I feel. But also, she was side-stepping the honor-killing issue. In the middle-class oriented culture of state-making, and elitisms, the honor-killings continue to work in many societies. It is not just a moral sexism issue. It becomes geopolitical, which holds racism and nationalism to be at play in this.

It is indeed easier for a westerner to criticize quickly and to not think of history and relations when intervening. Certainly we must criticize honor-killings and violence against women. But as a westerner, we must be respectful of painful family histories and politics. We can easily get someone killed even for speaking with us about these issues. We are easily racist and nationalist in having condescending attitudes toward those who practice honor killings. It has been a long road of violence. When a culture or community faces annihilation by western nations, dominant local nations (n this Yezidi case we can speak of the Middle East and Central Asia, as well as diasporic communities around the world) how can we intervene without the communities feeling encroached upon (western racism and moral high-grounds)? Do traditions easily change by our wishes in other communities? If not, do we just let things be? How do we work together? How can we empower stateless communities such as the various Kurdish cultures including the Yezidi, who are also oppressed by local communities? These are not easy answers. We must work urgently yet compassionately. Understanding histories and power-relations and thinking creatively would be a good start.

Photo of Du’a Khalil Aswad

In the West, women are, on the most part and often, still acting as objects of patriarchy and violence. This also allows male-to-male violence to be seen as ‘normal’ and ‘boys-will-be-boys’ continues unspoken and rarely paid attention to. At the point when the gun shoots, or the knife is wielded or the fist is thrown, it is too late. Hundreds and thousands of hours have constructed that moment. What I mean to say is that what people consider ‘violent’ is just the final act. Violence is in words, thoughts, motions, worldviews. Women also play into their own subservience through internalized oppression. Just today, I heard the ‘I’m sorry’ by women twenty times!!! For just stepping past me in the elevator or some other act I consider everyday. I consider this to also be a form of internalized oppression, internalized violence.

I remember a woman-friend in college who was always speaking of men being violent and macho and that just once, she would like sensitive caring men in her life. However, one day when she saw a man crying because his dog died, she called him a ‘fag’ for crying. I pointed out to her that a sensitive man was perhaps the last thing she could take. What would happen to ‘womanhood?’ When women take the place of the man in an already-patriarchal and violent system, do they become like men? What would be the requirements for de-violentizing our society? What would be required to live differently in a world not propped up by our own internalized oppressions and legacies? Our fears? And as we, perhaps, back-down from dreams and actions toward change and hope, we re-create the violences and oppressions. What are our choices? Can we respect women while disrespecting men and boys? How does this need to be shifted?

Joss Whedon’s excellent post from 2007, is an excellent example of admonishing ourselves to step-up, step-forward; not succumbing to brutalizations that happen through us in the largely heterosexist-dominant world systems into which we have been born. We have the power to change things. We must.

Read JOSS WHEDON’s excellent blog here:


For more information on Du’a Khalil Aswad: wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning_of_Du%27a_Khalil_Aswad

Yezidi / Yazidi people/culture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yazidi

Joss Whedon blog: http://whedonesque.com/

Slavoj Zizek on Charity & its collusions with oppressive results: A commentary

Slavoj Zizek (1949 –)  is a very popular Slovenian-born political philosopher, change-agent, and cultural critic.  Like most of the better cultural critics and revolutionaries, he cannot be locked into, or defined as representing any one branch, sect, ideological framework of any discipline, yet he is most definitely political/cultural in orientation.  He also invokes psychoanalysis as a gate through which he can link dominant cultural actions with psycho-social factors as well, although his psychological analysis seems to be closely linked with his understanding of Jacques Lacan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Lacan).  I, as you know, do not think of one philosopher or idea as all-encompassing and ‘good’ or ‘evil.’  I think of everything as multiple (remember Chimamanda Adichie‘s talk on multiple stories?) including our ideas and trajectories of action, which come from our world histories and our relations with each other’s histories, thoughts, cultures, and power relations.  I enjoy listening to, and reading Slavoj Zizek.  Many of his best works are within panel discussions or partnerships where he can discuss with others.

In this video, he presents his ideas on the idea of ‘charity,’ being a prioritized ‘good’ action on the part of a globalized dominant Christian narrative and now moral value, that has spread as a tactic of giving and compassion in the eyes of the media and political interest.  If you recall, I have mentioned that I feel and think that things are contradictory.  Within a contradictory reality, we must think of how our actions will have effects and choose accordingly, understanding the complex arrangements and further contradictions that arise from our actions.  Instead of being paralyzed because we are NOT doing ‘good’ or that we may do ‘bad,’ our analysis and knowledge and discussions can lead to better actions that take into account, the multiple stories that arise from our actions.  This, may then, lead to more ethical choices and diverse contexts through which we may analyze what road to take, what decisions we must make, and what processes we use to reach those determinants.

Charity has been viewed as an action that a benevolent and privileged group, family, or person—and now in the case of nations, the ‘good and benevolent nation’ would do in order to be seen as positive for the world to become better, or perhaps enjoy rewards in shape of arriving at a ‘kingdom of heaven.’   In any case, Slavoj Zizek presents a wonderful case for the collapsing of the idea of a ‘charity’ into our nation-state system, whereby charity is not totally what it seems.

Feminist and postcolonial and post-structural analyzers of economic development concepts, have long understood the uses of charity and ‘giving’ as a tactic of powerful nations to control the weaker nations (see the book: The Development Dictionary: The Guide to Knowledge as Power. Edited by Wolfgang Sachs. Published by Zed Books 1991).

With this in mind, Slavoj presents the idea of how our middle-class, comfort and ease-seeking mainstream societies of dominant nations, globally, would want to be charitable without lifting anything but a finger with a checkbook or a vote.  In other words, by being able to be charitable in a very immediate sense, without any contact with those we give to, or without any thought of how those recipients may be affected, we collapse buying as a consumer with the knowledge of our charity.  In buying a certain product, and having that product have a percentage go to some poor family, we feel good about ourselves.  Slavoj also questions if we actually do feel good, or that we are just doing it because it is available for us to do it but do not wholeheartedly believe that this is actually happening.

Slavoj does not mean, as he states, that we should NOT give and be charitable.  He asks us to see this as a contradictory affair, where the charity has oppression attached to it and that while we give, we must think of new and more just and ethical ways of caring for each other, beyond the consumerist and very alienated way of so-called ‘giving’ that we have inherited and reproduce.  It is attractive to our lazy middle-class ways, and also being satisfied with what we ourselves want (a cup of coffee, etc.), and we can ignore whatever else is happening in this case.

How can giving be bad?  Well, there are may ways to ‘give.’  I would say that Christian charity is born of privilege.  First, it may have started out as a moral act, but soon it became much more political.  In a sense, as I have mentioned before, the giving is actually quite condescending.  It is very self-centered and really not about ‘the other.’  It is about ourselves getting to heaven, doing ‘good.’  SEE GOD, I AM GIVING…….I AM A GOOD PERSON……..I’m trying to get to heaven…..See me.    I feel sorry for the person I give to, and may even get a sad look on my face, showing concern.  This may also be quite enraging for the receiver.  In the case of economic charity and the giving machine, the giving is never just giving.  The news that we watch about how the US gives to New Orleans after the Katrina hurricane, or how we give to the Iraqi children during war, or how we set up Offices in Japan after the Atomic bomb for victim relief……are all also fronts for more cruel and cold acts of crime, in some cases, by the American government.  These are no longer secrets.

There has been much lost in this charity game.   We must become more courageous and take our lives back, and in so doing, we take the ways we care for each other back.  First, I think, we must get through a century of fear and isolation that has guided and stunted our identities so that we no longer approach things as mysteries and different.  We must ‘know’ and recognize and be able to define so we can control.  So, I think Slavoj is correct in saying that charity is, in many ways, damaged.   Let us examine how we participate, but we must also not withhold giving where we need to, as we have no other system to give to those far away and the necessities of our privilege in the US or the UK or in Japan, or other first-world nations, can be used to give in whatever way we can.  And as Slavoj suggests, we must , at the same time, be discussing and implementing new ways that may disturb the current mainstream system of oppressions and perhaps pave the way for new systems not born of reactionary patterns born from our current situation, breathing life anew.

Slavoj Zizek overview: http://www.iep.utm.edu/zizek/

Chimamanda Adichie – Single Story Perception & Understanding

Nigerian novelist/writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s writings are among the many good works that present stories of difference.  In the video here, she gives a fantastic talk about how multiple stories of one subject, are important in how we may interact/not interact with that subject; perhaps in a more thoughtful or just way, ideally, than approaching a subject with a single story in conscious/unconscious mind.

This is an important point which I, in its basic way, agree with.  We are multiple, we are not singular.  Our stories have multiple points and trajectories, multiple positions from which we come to life and how our stories are told to self and other, can determine many attitudes and opinions and processes.  If our multiple-ness, is taken into account, then perhaps there is more patience, more reflection and pause, more of a place from which to engage other, perhaps understand positions in relation to culture and oppression, resistance and heritage, privilege and sorrows, joys and questions.  Single stories do cut-off history, cut-off political positions brought on through histories, cut-off the circulation of the realities of life and its movements in time and change.  Multiple stories may open avenues in taking these into account.

This being said, I have a critique of one aspect that may come up in listening to, seeing, and engaging this talk which is so eloquently spoken.  It is what I have mentioned before in my blog posts, and through which I speak on practically every post.  It is this question of how to accept/not accept: Difference.  I do not say that Chimamanda Adichie means one thing or another, but I am certainly opening up a discussion about how she approaches the topic of difference.  She says that people often have single stories and this closes a ‘fuller’ understanding or the realization of the similarities between people, communities and cultures.  She then goes on to say that people have more similarities than differences and there is an assumption that this is ‘better’ or that it is a fact of life that there are more similarities, which means this is more positive.  I am not sure that she means this exactly, but this is certainly one way in which Chimamanda Adichie speaks to the difference/similarities dynamic.  I say that this ‘similarities and differences’ polarity is not eternal, or a set of natural ‘facts’ and that this similarity that is so often prioritized in the world, is not positive necessarily.  To put it another way, I think that valorizing similarities is an act that can legitimize violence based on difference, with the matter of sameness and similarity being measured and applied as criteria for treating someone or a group or thing, with respect or dignity.  This is a problem with liberal thinking as well as conservative in the United States.

The measure of similarity and sameness should NOT be a criteria for measuring respect or how we treat someone or culture or community or history, or how we approach avenues for engagement and/or understanding.  Not understanding should be just as much of a pleasure and accepted space.  In fact, the reason there are more similarities today than ever before, is that there is less diversity.  One can go to any scientific journal and there, it is no secret.  There are extinctions in progress, as well as less species of most of the beings on this earth, as human beings increase their numbers.  There is less diversity not just because of over-population.  I say there is less diversity because of neo-colonization– i.e. globalization, which is an extension of colonial expansionism and what goes along with it in the nation-state system:  homogenization.  Everything is become more of the same.  This sameness has been constructed through history through the colonization of minds and lands, cultures and ideas, killing, torture, coercion and manipulation and exclusion through laws, textbooks, military weapons, covert agents amidst cultures, educational policies, judicial systems, and everything else we know to be our reality.  Assimilation and exclusion have worked hand-in-hand in order to create national cultures in the global system.  This is a continuation of the colonization process.  Difference can only be understood.  It cannot be different and not understandable.  This is the reason we must experiment on people and animals, develop stories around them that make scientists and counselors wealthy and create medicines and psychologies that deem certain things abnormal, inexcusable, sad and assimilatable, or wrong.  Learning to question ourselves and others become wrong.  It is now normal to think of everything as right and wrong, good and bad.  We either know, or are embarassed to say we don’t know.  Or we just repeat what our elders and teachers have taught us, or our parents, or our own reactions to what they’ve said because we have hated them.  In any case, our perceptions of reality do not accept difference as well as we would like.  So if we are to follow Chimamanda Adichie’s path, we come to the same tactic of exclusion and marginalization.  There is not acceptance of difference if we only look for and fetishize ‘similarity.’  Looking for a mirror in others is a sure way to the death or invisibility of both yourself and other.

You can do your own experiment. For instance, go through the history books of practically any culture group through history and pick out pictures of soldiers and their uniforms over time.  So start with pictures and drawings of how soldiers in Turkey or in Guatemala or in China or England looked in the 12th century, the 14th century, then the 17th century, the 19th century, the 20th century early and late and in the present.  See what the uniforms look like for each country.  You can do this with several other aspects of life as well, such as clothing, in general, or food, etc.  The affluent people from various cultures around the world starting in the 12th century to the present should confirm what I get at.   It will not be the ‘same’ in every case.  But there is certainly a pattern.  And do we excuse this as ‘evolution’ and ‘progress?’  Shall we now have to look at who used these terms ‘evolution’ and ‘progress’ and address and analyze for ‘what purpose’ these terms were used and how they were used to subjugate and annihilate?

So I disagree with the tone and assumption that Chimamanda Adichie brings in speaking to the issue of single versus multiple stories.  I like how she approaches the subject and explains it.  I do not agree with her notions of making sameness and similarity a criteria for harmony or a reason to let alone and not molest or control.  Isn’t that the reason colonization was justified in the first place?  Why genocide is justified from its beginnings in massacres and to the present day?  Is our understanding a criteria for killing and maiming, manipulating and giving permission to change the other?  However, I do not condone unethical behaviors and traditions so do not say I condone things like female circumcision and other such things.  However, I do not believe that not understanding someone or some culture group or tradition or history, means that we must.   In order to do this, we must co-opt ‘the other’ into our own understanding.  There are differences.  Why are we so afraid of non-difference (irreconcilable differences that is further than what we think about as ‘different’)?  It speaks more about us than of the other.

So this wonderful talk with fantastic, lucid points about history, education, power, and relations, is as is everything, multiple.  I only take issue with the will to incorporate other into an understanding that allows us to be at peace with difference.  In that instant, we are even further apart and alienated.  And in our present climate, this would give a legitimate go-ahead for a take-over and a make-over; violence as some normal activity.  It is a something we need to de-colonize in our thinking.

In relation to the subject matter and analyzing content while appreciating, we must also look at where this video rests.  It rests in the TED site.  If one has so much money behind it, so much corporate connection, then we must also think of it as towing mainstream thoughts in some ways, perhaps in subtle ways in more of the radical thinking.  Let us not be mistaken, this is not a radical change site.  It gives comfortable, informative, interesting, and safe thoughts.  For instance, for as much great things Al Gore has done in warning the public about Global warming, he does not touch his constituency, his ‘group’ and friends, who have been the ones to engineer the human quotient and engines to the destruction of our ecology.  Until he himself becomes radicalized, he keeps himself and our elites and our patriotisms comfortable, continuing the invisible domination by elitism and privilege without a shift in thinking.

And with all this, I highly recommend this wonderful talk that pushes mainstream thought to the edges of history, colonization of the mind, forgetting, education, nation-state and cultural/historical difference.  Critique is not about excluding and putting down, it is about analyzing its various positions, approaches, assumptions, possibilities reached for freedom and creativity, aspects that need further investigation, etc.  Enjoy, think, appreciate, change!

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie website:  http://www.l3.ulg.ac.be/adichie/

TED (technology-education-design): Remarkable Talks site: http://www.ted.com/