Wednesday, November 25, 2009

African Albinos and the Bliss of Ignorance

As if skin politics between pan-americans weren't enough of a challenge to both those who struggle with the burden of having to cope and those who still deal with the guilt, we now have to witness yet another type of ism where skin pigmentation, or the lack of it, is the latest battle of the shades pitting African albinos against Africans who may lack compassion but still have their melanin. This actually started a few years back when parents were abandoning their albino babies, caught up in the hype that lack of pigmentation is a curse. But it quickly got even more twisted when witch doctors wanted the children's legs, arms, noses and ears, believing that albinos have mystical powers. And then it gets stupid, with the wealthy buying these body parts as charms. As a result of this bliss of ignorance, thousands of albinos are still in hiding today, including a few hundreds protected by Red Cross. According to Tanzinian stats, albino limbs are being sold by witch docs for $200 and a corpse could go as far as $75,000. It isn't so much the cadaverous vibe of it, but suddenly Tanzania is facing one of its worse periods in history. A slow-stewing genocide that hardly gets reported. Culprits are being arrested and jailed, however; some of them hung. And most likely from pressure from the international community, if not the Internet. But the individuals who are providing the dollars for more albino parts and bodies; the industry that's pushing the bliss still needs to be halted or Red Cross will have to shelter even more innocent children.

We have albinos in Harlem and Bed-Stuy, but we don't call them albinos. We call them Mark, Joanne, Dwayne, and Samantha; and the skin shade issue is irrelevant. That's the difference I see between here and over there. We follow a code of ethics which dictates that though oceans divide us, struggle reminds us, while the dumbfool who kills innocent elephants for their ivory tusks is the same dumbfool who complains about racism.

I don't know if African songster, Salif Keita ever comes to these parents' and hatchet-carrying minds. Or if tourists understand the importance of researching where such charms come from. I'm almost certain--hopeful, at least--that they wouldn't want to bring back a pair of tiny hands that were still learning how to handle a soccer ball. And what is the singer saying about all this? Has anyone even asked him for his thoughts on it? Maybe his voice is what got him over 12? Is he staying silent so as not to cause uninvited attention to himself? And just like here at home where if you wear the wrong color in the wrong hood, you can either get jumped or killed. Is it that same unwritten law over in Tanzania or Burundi where the bliss has spread to? Does he avoid giving concerts in those countries because it's the magic of his voice he wants to share and not his damn body parts? Or do these witch docs find it more valuable to target only child albinos?

I dig Salif's magic! His duet with Cesaria Evora (Yamora/I love you) is still my favorite. When I listen to Salif I don't see albino or missing elephant tusks. I don't even see the contradictions of Black pride. Just beautiful African music the way a good sleeper dreams in colors.

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