Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Strange Fruit

“Southern trees bear strange fruit”. That’s how some people feel. Strange. They feel like they don’t belong to the society. This song by Billie Holiday was produced in the 30’s with the main aim to protest against discrimination that people from the southern countries were facing in America. It is simple, spare but effective poetry. It portrays the atrocities that these minorities were suffering in America: “The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth”, “then the sudden smell of burning flesh”. 
It was not easy to record this song at that time. The mentality of Americans from the 30’s was really close and they didn’t accept differences. “Strange Fruit” was played only rarely on the radio. 
“Here is fruit for the crows to pluck”, I think nobody who never faced any kind of discrimination cannot understand what those people felt, that feeling they are considered nobody, that nobody cares about them, that they didn’t have a voice.
“Here is a strange and bitter crop”. And after all, they are like everybody. We are all equal.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Native Americans

It happened a long time ago, in the 16th/17th centuries, probably. In America people were living happily and peacefully for many hundreds of years before Europeans reached America. They usually hunted animals, gathered plants or fished in order to survive. They were approximately 10 million people living there.
When Christopher Columbus arrived in North America he thought he had reached India, so he called Indians to the native people. Native Americans were pretty amazed by the arrival of the Europeans, because they brought new things from Europe that Americans totally didn’t know, such as metal cooking pots, cloth, guns and alcohol. Not only this, but diseases as well. As Native Americans weren’t strong enough and had no resistance to those viruses, many of them died and others became extremely ill.
But Europeans wanted their land. For Native Americans, land wasn’t supposed to be own, once they were nomads. Consequently, as Americans didn’t know the effects of alcohol, Europeans gave them a lot of drinks, and then it was easy to negotiate their land as well as low prices for their goods. When the chiefs of the tribe got sober, they started to fight against the settlers. Some white people died during the fights and it constituted a proof for Europeans that natives were “wild and had to be controlled”. So America no longer belonged to Native Americans. And according to the article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property”.
Today only 550 tribes remain, which is about 1.2 million people. They live in reservations, where they have the right to fish and hunt as they wish, while other Americans have to get a license. Although Native Americans are US citizens, who have the rights and responsibilities of any US citizen, reservations have their own governments. But it’s difficult to live the traditional life for these people, once activities of other Americans affect the way they live and also their resources.
It’s wrong to call these people Indians, because this name is based on a mistake. However Americans don’t care, once they have little interest in Native Americans and most ignore them. Besides, the natives are often used in films and in books about the “Wild West” to represent the enemies of the cowboys.
The point is that the America that so many people dream with was built on a land stolen from the people who lived there first. And these people are suffering from discrimination because of their race.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The silent reality

I’m going to tell you a story. It’s an unpleasant one, but everyone must be aware of this situation. It’s a story about a woman, Daphne Pratt, who was forcibly circumcised by a cult which defends women circumcision. It happened at night, like so many other cases. They accused her of spying on their activities and later on, divulge their traditions. They grabbed her and cut her genitals with no anesthesia. After leaving her in the middle of the street, she went to his uncle’s house, who took her to the police station. The police couldn’t care less about this issue, instead they told her to go to a tribal court, because it was a “tribal matter”. Weak and unprotected, she went to the hospital. She had to stay there for a month. According to the gynecologist, she needed 15 stitches and a blood transfusion. Daphne is 28 years old and she lives in Sierra Leone. In this country, 90% of women are circumcised when they are young, in order to deny them any sexual pleasure during their lives. Every society has its own rules and traditions, but this one, female genital mutilation is totally harmful and it can lead to death, in some cases. Some of the instruments they use are broken glass, for example, and they use them in a great number of girls, which increases the risk of blood transmitted diseases. There are different types of female mutilation, but in all cases if the child or woman dies from complications, nobody is not held responsible, rather the death is attributed to evil spirits or just fate. Imagine all of those women worldwide who had been circumcised. How do they feel psychologically? Probably incomplete or depressed, they may have lost their self-esteem or trust in themselves. They must be weak and they don’t have any mean of expressing their fear or look for help. They suffer in silence. And looks like nobody cares.