FORGETTING THE PAST
I have lived in England for most of my life due to circumstances but I pride myself on not adopting the ?Western way?. I studied in North Yorkshire and Oxford - before coming to London - and these are predominantly White towns. I suffered racial discrimination constantly, but I feel it has strengthened my character and made me more aware of the need to remember where one is from. However, in saying that, I don?t think we should dwell on things passed. Instead, we should accept and begin to move on. I went through a phase where I was very resentful of White people. That was until I realised I was being just as ignorant as hypocritical as them.
Naomi Foluwale Shinkaye
West Dulwich, London
Ed: It is true that sometimes it doesn?t do to dwell on things passed, but we are not dwelling ?on things passed?. We are fighting for our position in the present time. Do you really believe that Black people no longer face institutional racism? We must continue to push until we are truly regarded and treated as equals in this society and indeed all over the world. Then, publications like ?Black Perspective? would outlive their usefulness. I look forward to that day.
On February 6, the Good Morning show (with Anne and Nick) on BBC1 hosted a representative from FORWARD, a London-based pressure group with a mission to eradicate female circumcision world-wide. In the last decade, many people in the western world have been presented with similarly horrific news reports about millions of African children and young women being forced to undergo ritual circumcision. In fact such has been the outcry in Britain that the practice of what is now called Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been banned in this country and an international campaign, directed by groups such as FORWARD has been mounted to stamp out the practice globally.
We, and I mean those of us African women who are well aware of the practice and/or have experienced it ourselves, remain silent. Many of us find ourselves in a catch- 22 situation which leaves us powerless to respond to primarily western media and public conjecture about the practice and its effects on women - that is us, the so-called ?victims?.
I believe that the entire ?FGM? issue is one of critical importance to all Africans - men as well as women. The controversy surrounding female circumcision directly affects Africans living in the Diaspora - our rights and dignity in Western countries. Additionally it raises serious questions about the continued significance of initiation ceremonies to the integrity of our diverse cultures.
Streatham Hill, London SW2
Ed: Although I do not hold any strong views on this, I admittedly have sympathies with the views of the abolitionists probably because over the last few years, they have been able to argue their case in an organised and concerted manner. On the other hand, the only argument I seem to have heard from the anti- abolitionists is that female circumcision should be kept because it is ?our culture?. This is a very emotive and dangerous line of argument. The only reason why anything should be sacrosanct is if it is intrinsically good. Perceived cultural importance alone is a wrong defence for anything. EVERY society tends to have some negative aspects of its culture that must be jettisoned in order for that society to progress. Afterall, it was part of the Calabar culture to kill twins (or one of the twins) because they believed that twins were evil!
I would also like to point out that I do not believe that this issue is one of the West Vs Africa as you have tried to argue. ALL the anti- circumcision campaigners I have met have been African, both in Africa and the Diaspora. I also do not see it as ?relevant to ALL Africans?. Female circumcision is not and was never practised in the part of Africa from which I come.
The above notwithstanding, We would welcome any clear and logical arguments supporting Female circumcision. As usual, we would leave our readers to judge, having heard the other side of the story.
I have ties in England as I am the great-great granddaughter of Dr. John Craven/s of South Carolina. I read a book on the Craven Clan which told me a lot about England and the prominent name of Craven there; Earl of Craven, etc. in the l600?s.
I am researching Dr. Cravens trying to find out more about him and his ancestors here in the US and also in the UK. Please send me the articles. Do you have anything on genealogy in the magazine for African-Americans who are looking for their roots? I think that would be a good thing to have, since England did bring a lot of slaves to America.
Ed: I assume that ?Dr Cravens? is a white English man. If this is the case, then you should have no problem locating the family tree. In England, records were meticulously kept from that period in question (1600s). With respect however, this magazine is Afro-centric and we are more concerned with tracing the Black/African roots of the enslaved peoples. This is more important to us because whilst the White British people have always kept good records for themselves, most Black Britons cannot trace their African roots because after being shipped on slave vessels to the docks of Liverpool and Bristol a concerted effort was made to strip us of our language, culture and identity. Our identities were destroyed while they preserved theirs.
Black perspective is not and will never be interested in tracing anyone?s white roots. Is it not a better idea to try tracing your African roots? We would give you all our support in this.