Friday, November 17, 2006

Crack'ed in Pokhara

By now you have gathered that I did not think much of Pokhara. I found myself wondering "what the hell is the fuss all about?" You know the feeling. I was just talking to a Pakistani doctoral candidate and she said that seeing Cairo and the Sphinx made her wonder too what the fuss was about.

The bus ride to Pokhara from Bandipur was enjoyable. People get on and off the local bus. It stops every five minutes it seems. For this reason, it took a little short of five hours to travel just under 90kms. But like I said, you see stuff on the local buses that you miss on the air-conditioned tourist-only buses. At each stop there are folks who sell peanuts, water, and cooked food through the bus windows. Sometimes they board the bus till the next stop, all the while pestering folks to buy. And people do. So the bus always smells like an eatery of sorts.

If you don't fall asleep, and I never do (too much of a control freak), there are interesting towns all along the way. This picture is typical of the little towns that dot the way between Bandipur and Pokhara.

At the bridge entry that leads into Pokhara this little house sits precariously between the bridge and road. The man in the picture did not seem too concerned as he went about household chores.

Don't get me wrong dawg, the Phewa Tal (in Pokhara)is the second largest lake in Nepal and it was cool. It is said that the Annapurna Range of the Himalayas are often reflected in the tal when the water is calm. Honestly, I did not stick around to check it out, or the World Peace Pagoda built by the Japanese. I was not feeling peaceful!

I gazed at the mountains from the store fronts set up for tourists before rolling to Tansen. There were not too many around though. Folks say that since the ‘unrest' many tourists, Americans in particular, have taken Nepal out of their travel plans. Now is that not just heart-breaking? And yet there were enough of them to piss me off more than just once.

Ok, so what specifically pissed me off? I was walking down the main street in Lakeside East where my budget hotel was located when I stumbled across a white woman sitting alongside a group of Tibetan craft-makers/sellers. They were sitting on the edge of the road where passers-by could see their wares. Nothing unusual about the scene except that the white woman had adopted an Indian-Nepalese accent of sorts and was dressed like she just stepped out of Kipling's racism. Her husband/partner was standing close by with an infant in his arms.

I did not really want to know the context but the scene stuck out like a sore thumb. In a very real sense it looked and felt like Saturday Market in Portland. There you can find all kinds of 'liberated' folks who have adopted 'exotic ethnic identies',or collages of appropriated eastern 'influences', as an identity.

My attention was thus informed by 7 Portland-induced years of amazement and resentment at the intrusion that folks like this woman wage without a second thought to the racism perpetrated. My ears burnt as I listened to her patronizing and sick attempt to sound like a Mother Teresa of sorts. She was gesticulating like a bollywood star to empasize her contrived effectations. She looked stupid and sounded whack. I thought "damn where does one have to go to escape these folks?" Their reach is everywhere and the "small world" they operate in is a damn Disney factory that spits out images they can relate to no matter the nuances of culture, history, or politics.

I remember telling my students in my Racism class at PSU that in the 'post-colonial' age the purpose of whiteness is to construct the Other as irrelevant and invisible. I am not of course assuming for a moment that the Other exists independently of white imaging. The shame is that as whiteness demands disfigurement of the people it Otherizes, it also perpetrates a wider identity genocide. The full effect is erasesure of those outside of whiteness.

This is dangerous territory made worse by the power of market capitalization that enforces disfigurement into 'commonsense' in a Gramscian sense. See link for information on Gramsci:

For this reason I am not surprised at the child purchases that Madonna and Angelina have been doing. I read yesterday that Angelina and Brad want to adopt an Indian child. Why not? It would fill out the racial/ethnic collage they have constructed as a family. I used to point to the American store CostPlus as a great place to get worldly ‘ethnic' crap when furnishing your apartment/house. CostPlus seemingly scours China and Taiwan for artefacts that symbolize frozen images of culture the world round (well the Disney version of the world). So Amy and Brad can be Disney-worldly without actually ever leaving Portland or Beaverton;) See CostPlus World Market website at:

Angelina and Madonna saturate the world as represented by the stories that cover them in the South African and Indian media. As 'global ambassadors' and close friends of the 'I am the world pimp', Bono, they can choose to assemble living CostPlus artifacts to compliment their image as product. Buying a multi-racial/ethnic family is live cosmetic-ethnic arranging (a by-product of liberal multiculturalism gone mad). This arrangement ploy is a kind of product differentiation. It helps Angelina sell an image of contrived inclusivity (unnatural selection if you like). And it sets her apart from her peers in an industry that posits Hollywood and whiteness as 'commonsense'. Finally, it also releases her collective guilt (a prominent marker of whiteness).

The kids are therefore hardly central to this essentialized arrangement. Makes me think of all those people who will only adopt pedigreed dogs so that they look cool in the park. Buying a Black/brown child is not unlike buying a pedigreed dog. It is a lifestyle choice with apparent market value. All that collecting of melanin-soaked skins is an ordering that can only be conceived of inside production-line whiteness (like collecting colonies in the not-too old days). The arrogance and self involvement that would posture this racist nonsense as progressive is power for the course. The inherent racism is however not too far from the surface.

In the not too distant future we may need a kind of Berlin Conference to administer the "scramble" to buy Black/brown kids. I wonder if African and Asian sales-people will be represented at this latter day Berlin Conference? We may even have to produce a child-colony map with geographical markers to point to where Madonna or Angelina (and others) have adopted 'free-slaves'. Maybe Bono would agree to play the role of Kaiser this time. The map here shows colonial thievery in Africa by 1913. See the link below for a discussion of the 1884/5 Berlin Conference that led to Africa's fragmentation:

Just yesterday (November 16, 2006) in Mumbai Angelina's bodyguards roughed up parents of the kids at a school where she was filming. The parents are livid because her bodyguards referred to them as "bloody Indians." What these parents obviously did not realize was that they were standing in the way of Angelina's world ... a world where 'Disney ethnics' should bow humbly and allow the conquerors to rule. Dammit don't these people watch the Simpsons?

Some of these thoughts on appropriation and resistance ran through my mind as I made my way to a restaurant in Pokhara for my evening meal. I sat down and ordered pizza made with yak cheese. Can't say I liked it but the popcorn (don't ask) and french fries were OK. While sitting there I noticed a white man sitting alone at the other end of the establishment. At a later point a woman with an American accent walked in and the waiter asked her where she would like to sit. She was standing about a meter from my table. She said "I would rather join someone at a table" ... she looked at me and immediately started walking across to the white man's table.

Now don't get me wrong here, I did not want company and not that of a white American traveler for sure. But I thought back to the debates on Black men as rapists in the era after slavery in the US. I remembered how Angela Davis covers this mania in her earlier academic work. I am still impressed by the way she handled the racism underneath the "myth of the Black man as rapist." See this link for a background on Angela Davis:

My Blackness not apparent in Nepal, the next best category I fit is that of predatory Asian man (just a slightly reworked stereotype anyway). The Asian man in Nepal and India preys on unsuspecting white woman who are thought to be sexually available. It is for this reason that Lonely Planet, and other guides aimed a western toursits, advise female travelers to wear a wedding ring. A wedding ring it is said will make Asian men believe that the woman in question is not avaliable. Additionally, they are advised not to make eye contact by lowering their gaze and to dress like the locals.

Your boy Ridwan, the globe trotting rapist, was that lascivious Asian beast in a restaurant in Nepal.

Given the choice that night to sit at a table with a sista/brother, or a white American tourist, I would chosen the former. My decision would be based on a well-worn history of racism and not some fake warmed-over post-slavery induced angst about the safety of my vagina (if I had one).

It really amazes me how some 'liberated' white women posture a politics of feminized political independence while still being so tied to white male genitals. I seethed that night but there was also the revolutionary recognition that what I knew was a conscious politics. What she perpetrated was a privilege born of brutality and bred in ignorance.

In my recent personal life I have also come to understand that when dealing with whiteness, the beast of privilege and ignorance does not die easily, if at all. It is for this reason that my political consciousness does not expect whiteness to be anything else but racist.

Even as I write these lines, I know that some of my white colleagues and friends will scoff at my audacity and point out that I am guilty of a misplaced reverse-racism. Whatever! The first step to undoing the ties that binds whiteness is to recognize the binary attachment of privilege and brutality to its essence. If anyone is pissed at these revelations it would be wise to look closer to home.

Truth is, I would hardly have to convince any person of color that race profiling is a mainstay of white identity. In fact, if one removed whiteness from being white what would be left? There is in essence no such thing as being white without the historical acceptance that whiteness is central to the identity. In this context, a white person cannot simply deracialize their identity. Being white, and accepting the historical marker of being white, is akin to being responsible for all the ills perpetrated. This makes it impossible to reform whiteness.

The alternative is more difficult and dangerous. Discarding white identity is the only way out. But, discarding the identity is more than appropriating someone else's culture or identity. The choice to discard must be more than just a reworked whiteness. What that will look like is not my business because I am not white. I refuse to be drawn into further service by providing models for white deconstruction. I do, however, know what it must not look like.

This then is why I was pissed off looking at that white woman trying to act like an Indian/Nepali in Pokhara. There is a conflict ridden history there that is a war whether recognized by its perpetrators or not.

As for the woman in the restaurant, well hell who expected it to roll any other way? Brothers everywhere know what it means to be marked as a sexual predator whether at rest or not. Some will remember me saying that in the world of whiteness, a brother who is not busy raping a white woman is simply resting for the next round.

This depiction sits well with the so-called 'radical feminist' Susan Brownmiller who argues that a Black 14 year old, Emmitt Till, consciously perpetrated sexual abuse against a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, when he whistled at her in public. For this 'innate-rapist' intention Till was brutally murdered by the town bubbas.

Mamie Carthan Till, Emmit Till's mother, spent her life seeking justice for her murdered son. In the face of denial and judicial obstruction, her attempts met with failure and the men who killed her son were not convicted. The "myth of the Black rapist" is a permanent feature of American life. So is the denial that ' free and rational' America contains such a scourge. See this link for background on Emmett Till:

The "myth of the black rapist" is exactly that, a myth perpetuated as an act of domination by whiteness (I am, of course, not talking about rape as an act of violence against women). American history is littered with examples where Black men have been lynched because they were deemed sexual predators. Frederick Douglas (pictured here) was among the first to illustrate the connection between the "myth of the Black rapist" and white political interests.

The Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riot in 1921 is a devastating illustration of how the "myth of the black rapist" has been used to oppress and curtail the movement of both Black men and women. The race riot started with a falsified rumor that a young Black male, Dick Rowland, had raped a 17 year old white woman, Sarah Page, in the elevator of the Drexel Building on South Main Street in Tulsa. Though Sarah page refused to file charges against Dick Rowland, local news reports embellished the story. What ensued was a 17 hour race riot directed by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists against Blacks living in the racially segregated suburb of Greenwood. Some reports say that 300 Blacks were killed and more than 10 000 were left homeless as a result of the race riot. Even the Oklahoma National Guard was accused of assisting rioters. Today investigators are still working on uncovering mass graves where Black bodies were dumped. And not surprisingly, the case for reparations remains largely unresolved.

Now what kinda liberation is that?


Anonymous said...

the woman was white and so was the man.

the woman was the babysitter and was allowed to give candy to the children by their mothers. The mothers were happy to have a babysitter so they could enjoy some peace from it all. The woman is a mother too and knows how good it feels to pee uninterrupted.

the woman has a vagina and it has been raped, so the comments were really traumatic. the man was white.

the woman spoke up and it cost her dearly. she demanded equal pay. she was told to take a social business ettiquette course. she refused. she was fired. she lost her home, her safety, her daughter's stability, her life. the men were of all colors.

privilidge is taking a picture of a man crouched by his home. he did not notice. probably thought just another tourist who has no respect and can take pictures of me whenever he wishes.

read on on

Ridwan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ridwan said...

Ok so I said that some white person would step up and wage the war for whiteness. Above is a comment by Linda Petruski (whiteness woman), a former student of mine at PSU, who is taking it on herself to battle to save the integrity of white women and to prove to all the world that Black men are rapists, deceivers, and generally ANGRY!

(Linda this is my blog and maybe you start your own. But since you have decided to make this ugly you should be known right? ... I won't silence you ... you have a right to be heard ....and known ... so post some more here so the sistas and brothers who have oppressed you can know just how 'beaten' you are ... also, I will reserve to put your email address here if asked to do so by the respondants, you know, so you can tell 'em in person.)

This my readers is what she sent to me as an attachment. My hands are bloody from beating white women it seems.


How dare you frighten me with your words of hatred and anger. How dare you make me bow down to your masculine self and beg forgiveness. How dare you traumatize me with fears I have known and felt which created the isolation that I must exist in to stay safe. How dare you made me feel you would have strangled me, beat me, killed me if you spoke your words to my face.

I know you. You are masculine and by virtue of your entitled privilege of being born with a penis; has the right to beat me, shout, yell, interrupt, condescend, ignore, rape, murder, dispose, and all the other things that your masculine self does to my feminine self. “You know what’s great about women?” “There is always another one ‘round the corner.” “All ya got to do is wait for another train…it always comes.” I have more synonyms attached to me that all came from you: Cunt, bitch, smelly, ugly, diseased, bloody, manipulative, crone, not to be trusted; as you lie on top of me and whisper, “I love you.”

Do not talk to me about oppression. You know not what you speak. Do not tell me you wage war against whiteness and think that your black masculine self is immune from the role of oppressor. Color does not matter. I know you. I have been oppressed by every race, color, religion of every man. Do not think for one minute that you fall outside of that category. How dare you see me as disposable as so many of your “masculine brothers” do.

Do not dare say to me, “but you are white and middle class and were born with the privilege of whiteness and the power it continues to have on my people”. Do not go there with me. Ask one of your sisters. (I assume you mean Black as in color of their skin; as in you don’t belong sister, you are whiteness). Ask them about oppression. Listen as they choose their words carefully, deliberately, analyzing your facial expression to see if you are getting angry, or if they have to brace themselves for words designed to silence them; humiliate, speaking softly and “feeling the pain”.

My mind and body can create things that your mind and body can only imagine. It is not because of me being white, but because I am feminine. I could “think outside the box” (stupid expressions masculine’s have) before I was ten. My safety and survival depended on me learning quickly.

Do not say to me you understand your sisters. I know what you do not. I speak with women everyday because it is safe. I can speak the unspeakable only with a woman. I know that she will cry the tears for me because I learned that if I cried in “the land of masculine” I would be seen as weak. I would hear men say amongst themselves, “I guess she’s on the rag.” “What she needs is a good lay that will calm her down.” I spoke up and it cost me dearly. I spoke up and demanded to be heard. I spoke up and it cost me my home, my safety, my daughter’s stability, my life, my identity. “Do whatever it takes to get the client,” one boss said to me. “I’ve been drinking too much, can I stay with you tonight?” another one says. I spoke up and demanded to know why women were not earning the same as men. I was immediately silenced, ostracized, did not belong to the club anymore (never wanted to be a member, refuse to pay the dues). I was told that I needed to take a class in proper business social skills. I refused. I was fired.

My dignity, my body, my mind, my spirit, my character all gone. Taken from me little by little from every man I have ever encountered. How dare you think you are above all that.

I pray this is the last time I have to speak up and say this (although I already know it will not.)


How many times have I said, “You just don’t get it.” How many times have you heard this said? You bastard. How dare you. “My God,” you think to yourself. This woman is mad, crazy, needs to be medicated. You would be right. I take the medication that should have been prescribed for you. Fuck you.

Guess she told me huh? A disease I say ... incurable it seems? I wonder who it was that owned Black women, their wombs, their offspring, their lives?

Ridwan Laher
Nelson Mandela Chair and Professor of African Studies

.... oh I am just reminding myself that I exist as an individual too ...

Ridwan said...

I wonder how many of Linda's former white professors have been called on their racism by her (if she understood what racism means). Or, how many, if any, she has told to "fuck off" like in her comments here.

As a black man, no matter "the content of my character" I am always just a nigger/kaffir/coolie to racists.

I will not allow any racists to post to my blog. So hang it up. Racists are not welcome here.

And now you are known again by many who know you already.

Ridwan in Rajastan

Ridwan said...

During the course of teaching my "Racism" class at PSU I encountered students who, like "whiteness woman", could not discern the differences between individual rape and rape as poltical domination in racism.

Those who questioned the merits of the debates were however cordial. I have never experienced the venom that "whiteness woman" levels.

But I recognize that she is representative of some white women who refuse to accept their role in the racism.

I am not even arguing that white women suffer under patriachy. But that does not excuse their role in racism.

A thoughtful activist would be able to separate these areas.

It is a shame that Black women are made invisible in these exchanges. I am somewhat guilty of this in my post "Crack'ed in Pokhara."

It must also be understood that the "myth of the Black rapist" is also tied to the reduction of Black women as sexually deviant.

Black people as sexual deviants is a mainstay of racism that must be contexualised in the white ownership of Black bodies during slavery.

However, in both the US and South Africa it seems more convenient to just ignore or deny the role of rape in racism.

It is also a shame that the plight of Black women who were systematically raped under apartheid was mostly ignored at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

There are important discussions that must be had if we are to fully understand the issues I have raised.

It is however entirely unacceptable that in so doing I have been called a "bastard" and told to "F-off."

And this from a mature student (probably older than I am) who is graduate of the Department of Black Studies at Portland State University. Go figure?

I recognize that there is a lot of pain in "whiteness woman's" life. This pain is of a personal nature and obviously connected to the men she has known intimately.

I am not one of those men.

I will not accept her attack on my character as part of the debate that is needed.

It is for this reason that I have barred 'whiteness woman" from posting her racist comments on my blog.

I intended this blog for my family and friends. To have them read such a vicious attack on my person is troubling to say the least.

I am closing all commentary with this post.

Peace and Struggle.

Ridwan Laher,
New Delhi