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Funmi Iyanda
Lagos, Nigeria
Funmi Iyanda is a multi award-winning producer and broadcast journalist. She is the CEO of Ignite Media and Executive Director of Creation Television
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why black man dey carry shit? (Title clearly plagiarized)

I dislike chain mails(this has been around a while) and l doubt if this letter truly changed hands between so called Dee Lee and the receiver but are some of the issues raised valid to black nations (especially Nigeria) and communities everywhere or is it all ranting of a deluded mind?

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Thanks Funmi always pricking my soul and disturbing my spirit with your write ups, just got back from lunch feeling good with myself and now this....
I sent it to all my friends a very good topic to ponder and later debate on.I don`t agree totally with it but do appreciate the logic behind it though.

soul said...

I find these type of documents/essays/letters to be completely silly.. (Just my opinion).
Black people don't read?.
Yeah right?

Are all black people ignorant? erm no. I mean live if you lived in most Western countries, then you'd find out what true ignorance is.

Are most black people greedy?. erm no.
And definitely no more than anyone else..
All these claims and statements which are supposed to rouse people just irritate the heck out of me.

I've seen this 'letter' in the past 10 years just as much as I've seen the fake Tommy Hilfiger on Oprah email and the fake Maya Angelou letter.

But the most insulting thing here is the attempt to side line the key issue that racism has to play in black VS white issues.

If anyone forwarded me this email or letter, I'm afraid I would look at them twice and wonder why they would think that this would remotely speak to me or the people I know.

Anonymous said...

Just like Soul, I have seen this one floating around for ages and I agree the pretence that it's a real letter that has been leaked is pretty silly.
However, like it or not, there is more than a grain of truth in parts of it. It is essentially targetting the Black American community, but you try swopping "blacks" for "Nigerians" and see if it doesn't ring true in places. Of course it's not PC to admit this...

soul said...

I beg to disagree that black Americans are anymore ignorant or read any less that white americans.
Even with Afrian Americans living under and pulling themselves out of government sponsored oppression and state sponsored efforts to keep Afrian Americans out of Educational institutions (pre civil war) and the disproportionate unfair advantages and barriers dedicated to still marginalise African American education...
I still defy anybody to show me actual statistics, proven statistics that say that African-Ameicans are any more ignorant than their white-American counterparts.

In America, Black American authors are barely celebrated and are systematically and constantly undermined, Most die penniless and only gain fame with the 'mainstream' post humously. But their books do sell amongst African Americans..
Many African Americans knew who Zora Neale Hurston was, audre Lord, ralph Ellison, Paul Laurence Dunbar before they became part of African American literature courses to take at the latest 'progressive' university.

In 20 years, there'll be a white kid talking to a black kid (who listened to tupac and knowslives the essence of tupac) about how he should 'go and study tupac's lyrics' just because he happened to learn about it on a course in African American history and people will take that as proof that African-American kids don't know their heritage or don't study their history or haven't read about tupac.

I dont' get it..
It's the same thign with the rumuor about more black men being in Jail than their are out of jail.
It's a lie.. which people constantly and perpetuate. but people rarely bother to check out the facts.
A lot of this stuff is straight forward a class and poverty issue.

People forget that we have always had different ways of passing knowledge on. We've always used our griots to pass knowledge and info on and they still do it now.. rappers (I'm not talking gangsta) still rap about modern day issues and pass info on. We just refuse to accept that anything else can deliver.

If we flip the script for Naija, what am I supposed to see?
In boarding school, even with limited books in the library we brought books in from home.
It was not unusual to see people queueing up one after the other with novels being passed down the line.
I read on average at least 7 books a week.. yeah 1 a day and I was by no means unique. i read voraciously.. and so did everyone around me who had access to books.

From jump.. Naija people are always sending their kids to one school or another.. ile kewu e.t.c. what is that for? do they not read or have a method of ingesting knowledge.

Anything negative will ofcourse contain a grain of truth, but truth about what?
that there are different classes of black people and classism and poverty affect them in the same ways it affects any other group of marginalised communities..

Or like the author wants us to believe, that ALL black people are alike, ignorant, selfish, greedy, ill-educated.. so and so's.

Grrrr, this issue get's beyond my goat (grates me).

I wonder if the author ever considered writing this same piece and replacign black with'white' cos lord knows the 'red neck's in trailer park heaven sure ain't birthing any great genuises are they... and lord knows that in the UK, we have white kids leaving primary school without the ability to read or write!
oh but yeah...

This really is just a black problem..
yeah right.

Funmi Iyanda said...

@soul, quite right about the role of racism and slavery and the fact that any human society whatever the colour will degenerate given a breakdown of systems and processes which secures our humanity and the development of good societies. l had at first been irritated (l dislike chain mails) but having observed the hollowness of south africa's "black diamond" generation and being very aware of the Nigerian situation, some of those issues are disturbingly true whatever the root cause. As jjc said swap African American for Nigerian and take an observational distance then you might see it, better still immerse yourself physically and emotionally in Nigeria and you will know it. i often find that we romanticize Nigeria once outside of her for long enough (2 weeks in my case) but true solutions come only from sincere and often brutal self appraisal and the will to change.

Anonymous said...

nna black ppl just need to step up...
we need to learn to love one another...
racism is real... it might be part of the problem but certainly not all of it...
nobody hands out success in todays world... u have to grab it with all u got...
the no. 1 thing for us blacks to do is accept ourselves for who we are and wat we've been through...
we should learn to love us...
then please try to do something positive with our lives no matter where we are...

Anonymous said...

no 1..he sudnt generalize all black people...from the letter i understand that he is talking about black americans/african americans...

the NOTION of the letter is BULLSHIT and RACIST!!!!(probaby written to stir up anger and hatred)

However the truth is that some of the things written there are true(note i am not saying african americans will continue to be slaves,or that tommy jeered at them or whatever)...

There have been many succesful african americans,writer,actors,corporate professionals,..name it.... however,there are still some of them who believe they can never make it the right way but to hussle....in their poverty they still strive to wear the most expensive designers.Take a walk down the ghettos in DC,compton e.t.c and you will feel sorry for some of them..hanging out on d street aimlessly,smoking wearing bling bling,the largest designer crested shirts and co... i have had the opportunity to talk to some of them and they say 'the white pple are trying to repress them' for pete sake..get an education(there are so so many govt scholarship for minorities that caucasians do not have the opportunity to apply for),try to start a small business,try to be something...they feel the whole world is on them and no one wants their progress meanwhile they get angry at some of their mates who lifted themselves out of the hood and made something out of them selves..they call them 'sell outs'..'oreos'(white on d inside but black outside)....as anonymous above said black ppl just need to step up...and have to let whoever know that they CANNOT opress no more

Anonymous said...

On Oprah show last week or so there was the story of triplets, all lawyers and successful cos of the values imbibed in them by their mom. Anyways, my sister and I were really happy with the story (also appeared on the very annoying ebony magazine....story for another day) because we felt it was time for African Americans to stop wallowing in self pity and get on with it. We figured that, hopefully, they would see it and realize that we were slaves....so what? If they don't like being in America they can come home to Africa. I don't see any of them doing that though. The article is annoying but it's true. I work for a staelite TV company and i prepare their monthly programme highligts. Before we started this service there was a survey as to the way it should be put because of the notion that we (Nigerians) don't read. Now it turns out most people would not read if it's "Too Long" (from an extensive survey). I think this goes beyond highlights sheet to books and papers etc. This said i still think the most ignorant people are the americans especially the whites. Ask them any question that goes beyond their cities and 90% of them stare at you like fools.

However what rings as most true in this article is the greed and the selfishness. We don't have to look too far to see this. The evidence is right in front of us. Just open your curtains wherever you are and you will see. This also applies to the ghettos of African Americans.

Annoying story but elements (maybe more than mere elements) of truth in it.

Anonymous said...

Reading the comments, there is one unifying fact, that the article provoked emotions, and emotions this strong can only come from some truth.
I reside in London,but a naija soul.The truth as i see it is, one the article is proverbial, and in other to take anything from it,we should read with open mind.
We as pple should recognise that we need to do more to educate urselves, yes books is the 'white' accepted medium(tested)what`s is ur medium ? and how effective...
For instance we do not document herbal cures for ailments and that explains why herbal medicine is viewed at best 'alternative'.And what is now organic food used to be term substandard!!
Its a competitive world and the sooner we as pple start to embrace the reality and stop making excuses the better(It`s a competitive world deal with it)
Racism will not disappear, so we need to do more to uplift ourselves. Yes we are greedy! very greedy(Nigeria is an excellent case study).
Some of us feel more comfortable to see a 'white man'on top than another black.

Anonymous said...

YEAH!! at everything SOUL said.

Anyway, last month I have been coming across different stories, events e.t.c. that has had me concluding this: INJUSTICE IS INJUSTIC and takes place everywhere, to every race in every nation to every nation. Black people are no exceptions and white people are no exceptions and Asians are no exceptions.

I read Gordon Parks bio and there is a part where he talks about the poverty in Brazilian Favelas
I interviewed a group of Canadian students who were in a program where they take missions trips to Camden, New Jersey. Yes Camden, New Jersey na the oga of the Ghettos. I was reading Dangerous Love by Ben Okri and the poverty he describes made me literally cry. I listened to a presentation by this Philipino guy about Asia and the problems they are having ( poverty, corruption e.t.c.). A freind who visited China was talking about China and their issues. And a friend from Trinidad was talking about the problems (assassinations, crime e.t.c.)they have over there.

If you consider the situations of the First Nations Canadians ( "Indians",) they are just as bad as whatever ghetto African Americans live in and you may as well write them into that chain letter. Look at the Romas (Gypsies) in Europe and tell me if their situation is not the same thing that has been described in that chain letter and more.

HAve you ever heard the saying that "your own problem is always bigger than the next persons problem"

My point is that because we are black and Nigerian we feel like whatever is happening to us is unique or different than the next person or race. My arguement is that human beings are all the same. It is the same evil that dwells in the hearts of all men and every race of man. It is the same sickness and different symptoms.

So in other words that chain letter is a piece of royal CRAP

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion.
@ Soul - Hate to be defensive but I fail to see anywhere I have suggested that black Americans are more ignorant or less well read than white Americans. What I said was that the writer directed it AT the black community in the US but in my view parts of it may resonate in Naija (obviously a non multiracial society), ie outside of the white supremacy context originally intended by the author. It hurts to admit it, but his being a racist does not make him incapable of (inadvertently perhaps) stumbling on an uncomfortable truth or two.

soul said...

I think you misunderstand me.
Someof the issues presented in this chain are similar to every community in the world.
This is not a 'Black issue'.

The first problem is one of generalisation. Not all African Americans display this behaviour and tit is extremely unfair and prejudicial to stereotype low social class ideals onto an entire community. (this is exactly what the essay is trying to do)

I'll go one further than you, I'll swap African-Amercian with White British and voila!

Cos here's the thing, in the UK, White people on the whole do not read and the one's that do read.. oh my gosh their reading choices are pure cack.
Go walking on anygiven day of the week, and you would see white british kids who enjoy the benefit of school.. running away from school, drugs and alcohol are their passion.. Hence the massive drinking problem in the UK, people in this country wake up to drink!

Ethnic white children are failing woefully in schools, they have government damn near begging them to eat right, campaign after campaign.. laws put implace in order to bolster their self esteem and help them make better choices and despite all this what do they do..
They chose the most unhealthiest food choices.. shoving their collective faces with putrid food and then sticking their fingers in their throats in order to re-gurgitate it.
Yeah that's right.

Every year, the government screams.. education , education, education and every single year.. White people forget how to read.
Go to any public school and you will see kids who cannot read and barely write.
There are no queues to get into school.
But oh my God, there are queues outside topshop for that most have Kate moss dress.
And queues outside next for the latest Lily Allen dress.

I can keep going Funmi, Walk the streets of London at night and white people are falling over themselves drunk. young, old, rich, poor.

If it's not in a bottle, it doesn't exist. If it's not some time of weed, skunk, cocaine it does not exist.

If you want to hide anything from a white person. Just make it normal.
Want to hide good nutrition... make it normal. don't coat it in fat
Want to hide information from a white person?, don't sexualise it.
want to be in with a white person.. give them drugs.....
See as much as white people have these institutions of power on lock, they can't help themselves, they are unteachable, sexually deviant, raging alcoholics.

Funmi.. see I can stereotype too, and there is nobody on earth who can say that there isn't a grain of truth in what I just wrote up their.. in fact there's a whole bucket of truth.

It would be wrong to do this, that would be straightforward looking at issues on the surface.. and this doesn't apply to every white person in London let alone every white person in the UK.. not even the world.

I am not romantising Nigeria, far from it. I am simply saying that this is not a black issue.
It should not be treted as such.. it's a world issue.. in place of African-American I could place 'Polish', 'Native-American', Italian-American, Romanian, British, White American..e.t.c.

I am more than willing to do brutal self appraisal on Nigeria and Nigerians as I have done online for years. In the process, I've had some extremely unpleasant crap thrown my way but if I have something to say, I'll say it.
BUT, I also have the benefit of part of my life in a different cultural setting and being able to compare and contrast the issues.

I have long ago come to realise that many things are human and class issues..
there are too many attempts to 'other us' without us falling for that trick and 'othering' ourselves.

We keep using the worst stereotypes to describe ourselves.. in the old days black people would say we were using the masters tools to disempower ourselves.

I know Nigeria and Nigerians have issues, however I personally feel that our biggest issue is one of constant self degradation.
We no longer expect anything good from ourselves, our self esteem is severely and fatally suffering.

I think the response to this trash piece of an email has been one of.. 'oh not us blacks again?. why can't we be the 'proud negro race'. Why do we always have to be at the bottom. I'm afraid that thinking is dangerous and wrong and it screams a lack of self esteem in ourselves.

We keep on using the most horrid stereotypes to define ourselves, it seems this is a habit we have gleaned from colonialists.
It's wrong. It has to stop. if we cannot look at issues objectively and realise that we are dealing not with an issue of blackness but more a class issue.. then I fear, we will never be able to sort ourselves out.

soul said...

Yes the article provoked emotion and no.. not all emotion provoked is as a result of some truth.

If someone tells a lie on you in a setting which might put you at a disadvantage, you would be quite right to be vexed and respond vehemently to such untruths.
Would you un that instance say it's because the oiar had told some truths about you?..
of course not.

re: herbal rememdies...
are you now blaming black/AFrican people for white Europeans not writing their herbal remedies down?. Or did you forget that Africans/Blacks are not the sole community on this earth who relied on herbal remedies?.

What has organic food got to do with this?. Organic food gave way to mass use of fertiliser because people wanted to grow crops faster and yield more crops on average...
What has that got to do with this issue here?
Again.. what you are pointing out is NOT a black issue. It is a world issue.
Most common cures are passed down in Britain from generation to generation via folk-lore, old time odes/songs/poetry, and from great grandma.... and many are lost.

In my opinion things are lost to us, not becasue of the method by which they are passed down...but because too many of us abandon the traditional methods and try to impose something which is alien onto our people by force.
We rarely look at the methods and figure out why something should work for us.. we just look at what 'oyinbo' is doing and decide that hey! it must be better than what we are doing.. becaue afterall it works for them.

Anonymous said...

I still maintain that only lies that laced with some elements of truth provoke emotions(otherwise it will sound silly!)

Why should 'white European' write about our herbal medicine?(It`s a competitive world)

As per the organic food,most african grew up eating organic food which we never appreciated until now that the world as realised it`s better.
It`s all about waking up and looking inwards, and stop crying victim !

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments. I seem to agree with everyone even though with different opinions. Now thats not to say i am indecisive. I simply think everyone is right. In other words there is no black or white about this.
@Soul: I agree with you but i also think that Nigerians have low self esteems and are quick to self degrade because what we see is what we speak. We speak our experiences.We have leaders who want us to speak and think positive and will not provide us with the basic needs. It is dangerous but it is our experiences. I especially liked the stereotypical potrayal of the white race. True word.

@olla, i also agree with you. There must be an element of truth for it to provoke some emotion especially the defensive.

even though it is a world issue and not "JUST" a black issue, the point is that it is still an issue in the black race which is what people are trying to say. I think we are especially hard on ourselves because we want more to come out from the black race. If we didn't care then the article wouldn't upset us. Yes, i am upset by the article and i care that there is an element of truth in it even though it is a world issue. I guess i want more for the blacks. I want more from the blacks. And i can say i want it perfect for us. I care about the human race but forgive me for being selfish and caring about the black race more. Afterall the other races don't give a toss about us so i'm entitled. So i wish there was no truth in it but there is, as it is with the other races, but thats for their people to worry about.....and me too but i'll worry about the blacks first.

In conclusion, the fact that i think there is some truth to it doesn't mean i like a "WHITE" person saying it. So on that note i will say the article is a load of stinking crap. The guy who wrote it was talking trash.

Anonymous said...

Erm, Funmi. Before things got this heated I wanted to confess my ignorance and ask where the title comes from. Is it Fela or something?

soul said...

@ ada...
Hence, I said the following in my previous post:
"I know Nigeria and Nigerians have issues, however I personally feel that our biggest issue is one of constant self degradation.
We no longer expect anything good from ourselves, our self esteem is severely and fatally suffering.

soul said...

there is no need at all to be defensive, I'm not attacking you. If I have misinterpreted what you have said then 'my bad'. I did not mean to offend or put you on the defensive.

I said what I said, because the whole ethos of that article is to that black americans are on the whole more ignorant, savage, less intelligent and less well read than their counterparts.
That's pretty much what the article is saying. that black folk can't help themselves.

That's why I said I beg to disagree..... I pointed the first bit of my comment to you, because of the 'grain of truth comment' you made.
Again if I misunderstood you, my bad.

soul said...

I still maintain that only lies that laced with some elements of truth provoke emotions(otherwise it will sound silly!)

Why should 'white European' write about our herbal medicine?(It`s a competitive world)

As per the organic food,most african grew up eating organic food which we never appreciated until now that the world as realised it`s better.
It`s all about waking up and looking inwards, and stop crying victim !

If i use your logic, then the following statement is just a 'silly' statement.
'There are more African American Men in Jail than there are out of Jail'

This statement is an out and out lie. It is a myth, it has never been the case in the history of America, yet.. people repeat this lie/myth ad nauseum.
Many base their opinion of African-American males based on this false notion.
Yet, you think if a lie is told and repeated often it is just silly.. Okay. go ahead with that.

Then there's the lie which started during the reagan era about the 'Black welfare queens'. How there were more African American women were all sitting on welfare than white people.

Again a lie. A lie which has been roundly adopted by many politicians and used by companies when trying to target certain neighbourhoods.
Forget the fact that it was a myth/ a lie/.. after all Lies just look silly... right?

oh and re: organic food...
Most white people grew up eating organic food too. They swapped for genetic modified when their governments collectively sold out to bug business..
Which is why there is now a concerted effort to go back to organic. Ever tried to buy organic in the West? It's hella expensive and there is a concerted effort by big business to discredit it.

I don't see anybody playing victim here. I'm not asleep. I am fully awake. I'm soo awake, that I realise the issues you raise are global issues!.

you claim that Africans didn't appreciate organic food until the West did... on what exactly do you place this claim?.

So, when Zimbabwe refused USA genetically modified food aid all those years ago.. what was that about?

And when Zambia said NO, to USA GM food.. I guess they weren't appreciating organically grown food.

please name one African country which is producing more genetically modified food than organically grown food?.

Just one Olla.. just name one. And then tell me that Africans don't appreciate organic food.

This is not about victimhood, or sleeping and refusing to wake up.
It's more about an inherent Inferiority complex.
one which makes us automatically presume that WE are doing bad.. even when we are not, or when our situation is no different.
It is about us just presuming with no fact that we will always do the worst thing, that we will never work in our own best interests, that we will never appreciate anything until white people do it.

That is what this is about.

Anonymous said...

Issues affecting blacks will be global issues cos we are part of the world !And will ve bearing with other race as well.
But thats not to say we can not identify our faults and work on them.
The examples you gave regarding food has economic and political ramifications, but you ve isolated other factors.(you have just done exactly you are accusing me of)
Lets focus on developing our race by identifing drawbacks and working on them !
Not excusing them or shifting blame, cos we are better than where we are, but need to do alot more...

Funmi Iyanda said...

@ soul, you are fundamentally right on those issues you raise which l deeply. I am not blind to the flaws of the West but l am largely uninterested in her challenges except as it relates to our development and usually run away from generalization which is intellectual laziness anyway. l also find race discussion tiresome and am numbed by our self flagelation. That said l am interested in reconstruction and the parts of that vexations (was probably written by a frustrated but slightly befuddled BLACK person) letter that l found instructive is the unspoken rather plaintive call to learning (not necessarily just by formal "white" means as someone mentioned), communal discipline (we are consumers not producers and l speak for Nigeria) and cooperation. This is not for me about white agaist black, developed against developing. It is about US, Nigerians and how WE are going to turn our fortunes around, the urgency for which you will l feel living everyday in Nigeria.

@all, our collective desire for change is so strong, what are we missing in the effort to translate it?

@jjc, l must introduce you to the abami, long may he live! Now quick consultation (to get hard facts) of my oracle ie jide confirms that the title is from one of the 1st biographies on fela written by Idowu Mabinuori and is part of the lyrics of Fela song. Incidentally l used the question mark in agreement to Fela's conclusion that black man no dey carry shit, e just get problems which came from colonization and his own lingering self recolonization which sort of puts into percepective what l sought to achieve with the post. All of Fela's work (minus rare live radio performances, early gigs and unknown pieces wey me l get for ipod thanks to jide) are now available. try jazzhole on awolowo rd.

soul said...

Actually I agree with you.
there is a need to focus on our own issues.
But to do that, I feel we need to stop comparing ourselves to the West. or better yet, we need to stop looking at the Wests achievements and completely negating our own.
We have problems,yes.. But we never move to solve them.
We need to start changing the way we talk about our issues.
And stop using the same self-defeating phrases like..
~ 'e get as e be'
~ just chop your own and comot
~ wetin consign me?
~ se na your fada own it.. abeg let dem do wareva

We might differ on how we received this letter, but we definitely both agree that things are bad, but there is some good.
Things can and need to be improved.
In my opinion, it is not just our national infrastructure that needs to be re-aligned, our sense of self needs to be re-assessed and re-developed.

You said.. @all, our collective desire for change is so strong, what are we missing in the effort to translate it?

I don't know what WE are missing, but I do know what I am missing. And I've said it before. I am afraid. I am afraid that I will give up everything that I have worked for, every single thing, to fight a battle that many do not want to be fought.
I am afraid of failing in said battle.

I am afriad of seeing and tasting failure, when I have become extremely used to 'if you put the effort in, it will succeed' and 'if it is good, if it makes sense, then the powers that be will endorse it'.

It doesn;t work like that in Naija.. I've been told that over and over again. I received an invite to come and examine something for a major corp. I checked it out remotely and immediately pointed a few things out.. only to be told that the 'big boss' will not like that cos his 'cousin' who blah blah blah....
and that I am a 'young' girl... I should take it easy.

I am afraid of being losing my integrity because fast and easy money is easy to make in Nigeria if you shut the hell up and don't say a word.

I know, this might not be what you want to hear, but I am being honest with you. I am very afraid.

Anonymous said...

@Funmi. Thank you for tips on Fela. My education begins.
@Soul. Your passion does you credit. I am no longer really a "JJC". Have been in Nigeria for a year and my experience has been pretty much the same as you describe. But I have decided I am not going to compromise the good things about me, whether the society is ready for them or not. On the other hand, I recognise that by being here, I have changed in many ways for the better. For me, there is no going back. I wish you all the best.