Thursday, November 04, 2010

My House Guest From The UK - Part III - Cultural Viewpoints

Do you see this form?

This is a tournament entry form for an upcoming event for my kid's Tae Kwon Do school.  This money that was transacted per this form started a long debate between me and the two Jamaican women that I am housing under my roof.  (my wife and her girl friend from the UK who emigrated from Jamaica.  I had better say "our roof" ).

I mentioned to my wife that this represents yet another $100 + dollars that she is forwarding to the TKD school that is run by South Koreans.  I am NOT hating on them.  They have  a valuable service that is attractive to many American families.  This functions as a "rites of passage" program and greatly assists in the discipline for the children.  It also is good exercise.   They have afterschool care for an extra fee.  They charge money for testing. For the "do jung"(?) - the outfit - and for the belt.   They have a steady stream of income heading their way.

Even the tournaments are great.  (They run the concessions at the tournaments and make money off of that).   I have seen some young girls who were in a shell, crying because they could not break the board as a yellow belt blossom into a more confident individual by the time they became a red belt.

The source of my debate with these two Jamaican women centered around their belief that only Koreans/Asians could ever run a high quality TKD/Martial Arts school per their culture and ethnicity.  (I could not believe what I was hearing).

They argued that when one seeks out Chinese food or Italian food, the presence of a Mexican or an Englishman preparing the food degraded the authenticity of the end product.

I rejected this theory.   It is the PRODUCT that is most relevant, not the person preparing it.  I called them "racial bigots".   If an Englishman and a Chinese person were standing side by side in front of their own stove and they followed the steps in a recipe to create an Asian dish - according to their logic only the dish prepared by the Asian person is authentic.

Per their own thinking a Black person who has a 4th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and then used his mastery to open a TKD school could not possibly deliver a product as good as an "authentic" Korean.  (Yes I was getting incensed by this time in the conversation).

I then asked my friend from the UK - "If a White Englishman said that 'no Black will ever become the Prime Minster because this is a job that requires 'Anglo cultural skills' would you accept this as a reasonable statement or would you call it 'bigoted'?".   Of course, just as anyone who doesn't have a good answer and is never challenged on how they think - the reply was "That is not an equivalent example.  That's different".

This was ironic because I had listened to her for almost 2 weeks talk about the structural racism that the UK is bathed in.  Indeed many Whites over there believe as I have depicted.  The point is, however, she can't see that she believes in a similar manner.

I gained a lot of insight of how my wife thinks by the presence of a person who was born and conditioned into the very same system in Jamaica.  This is the "British Colonial system".   Though I acknowledge some very positive attributes of Jamaicans and it servers many of them well as they venture into America - there are still some points of indoctrination that work against them.  I exposed one of them in our debate.

This was one time where I got to distinguish between that which is an individual personality attribute of my wife and that which is culturally engendered by her world experience.  I am not attributing a positive or negative spin to it per se.  I am just noting my new awareness of it.

I was forced to call up my good friend and former roommate.   I reminded him a girl from Kenya that he had dated nearly 20 years ago.  Back then he told me about how much her views had been shaped by British colonialism.  I told him that from my recent debate I now realized what he is talking about.  It influences their world view and the systematic way they think.

Cultural Consciousness

The fact remains that "Tae Kwon Do" is not a 'genetic' attribute.  It is an art form that was developed over time.  It was fused into an organized form of martial arts by a group of people who decided to formalize it and DEFEND it to protect its authenticity.  It is only the RITUALS of TKD that make it so. There is no racial component.   (Though I ain't made at the Koreans for making good money off of selling it to Americans.  Good money!!).

To say that this art form can't be practiced and mastered by another group of people who make it as their own, retaining the INTEGRITY of it and doing an equal job in perpetuating it is the same time of ignorance and bigotry that we as Black people suffer from and fight against.

TKD is in effect a "culture".  All cultures must be:

  1. Delineated - define what the character of the culture is.  Block out what is not
  2. Propagated - distribute this consciousness upon other - particularly the young
  3. Enforced - prevent any who seeks to hijack and alter the culture from "using the name" 
The RACE of the person is not a relevant attribute to the "culture".   
It is only a consideration of the CONSUMER who agrees to purchase the food in the little white cardboard box with a metal handle on it.

1 comment:

Olive said...

I think I understand what your wife is saying, or at least, what she is observing.

The races/ethnicities have evolved over time, according to their needs, physically and mentally. If there is no need, skills cannot be honed and the abilities are not passed on. Soon the phenotype (genes) even change, selecting themselves in or out for survival of the fittest, as do the memes. Memes and genes work together.

Eastern Martial arts is a physical art form developed in ancient times perhaps because of need of protection. For a small statured people, to fell a larger, stronger enemy with quick, wiry, lethally delivered blows. The equalizer to be able to go up against a larger, stronger man or men, and to be highly organized about it.

Black slaves in Brazil developed capoeira, honing African martial arts moves into a dance facade, (as to not put their slavemasters on guard) but they were really developing speed, strength and skill to fight. It has a flavor.

So I feel that ... the essence of something, say a food recipe, can be cooked in the exact same way by a Jamaican, an Englishman or a Korean. And that Jamaican or Englishman may cook the Korean dish better than the Korean. But there is more to individuals, and more to groups than this,and if all there was to life was to following a pattern, a 1-2-3 and it's assembled, then life would be easy (and boring).

Theirs is a culture of respect and organizaton unique to them, honed by their culture and history. A reverence for the aged and those who have worked hard to master a skill. You can get a feel for the Essence that is there, "incorporate the memes," learn the physical skill and be successful at it, but you may or may not get the exact same end-product. How could you? We are all unique. You cannot copy Sweden (another article of yours I read with interest), but you can deduce what makes it successful, and figure out how to apply it to your own situation. And your situation will perhaps be a success, maybe one day even more of a success than theirs, but in a different way, with a different flavor. You get a feel of the essence that makes it successful, along with your own needs and goals.

Don't know if I'm making sense, but ... I basically I believe anyone can do anything they set their mind to do (within their natural abilities). But we are not all "equal" (except in the eyes of the law, at least that is what we expect to be enforced) and the results of our efforts may not be the same for many different reasons. They may not be as good, or they may be alot better. Or just different (and alot better). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what you happen to need/want at the time.