Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 32 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

I’m Not Angry at You (republished)

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 32 seconds

Republished from Identity, Education and Power (which was published on Medium in July 2016; I’m republishing because I no longer have access to Medium because it is blocked in Egypt; thank you Peter Deppisch for reminding me of the piece and giving me this idea).

Push flickr photo by mislav-m shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I’m not angry at you
Just because your government, your people
At some point in history
Enslaved people from my continent
Displaced and dispersed and abused them
Because you weren’t there
You didn’t do it yourself
I’m not angry at you
Just because your government then freed them
Thinking they were doing them a damn FAVOR
Then continued to treat them
As less than human
As less than citizens
As less. As less
To this day
As less
I’m not angry at you
Just because your government, your people
At some point in history
Colonized my land
Violated my land
Violated my history
Stole my history
Crushed my culture
Violated my people
Shamed them
Because it’s not your fault
You weren’t there
I’m not angry at you
Just because your language and knowledge
Are dominant
To the extent that they almost
Erase mine
At least I count myself lucky
That I can communicate in the world
At least I am privileged
To have a voice
I’m not angry at you
Because my exoticism attracts you
It’s normal in ignorance
It’s normal in novelty
At least you’re looking
You’re listening
And someday the exoticism
Will fall away
And you will see the human
In me
But I’ll tell you what makes me angry
When one of my people
Commits a crime
And you generalize it to us all
When the weakest of my people
Seek refuge in your land
And you vote to refuse them
When those very people
Are people whose land and what’s in it
You stole
Without permission
For years
When you could have helped
With their plight
But instead you repeatedly voted
To make their plight worse
And then you refuse to help them
For years
I’ll tell you what makes me angry
I’m angry when I tell you my story
And you change it
Because you think you know it better
You don’t
Because you think you can express it better
You can’t
That’s YOU colonizing ME
I’ll tell you what makes me angry
When I so carefully choose my allies
And you, from your haughty distance
Presume to know
To judge
My story
And tell me I can’t see colonialism at work
Who have never been colonized
Telling ME
That I don’t know what colonialism looks like?
What makes me angry
Calling yourself my friend
For years
Then supporting someone else
Colonizing, bullying me
Supporting their right to free speech
Bullying those who support me, even
If I were black they would be called racist
If I were Jewish they would be called anti-Semitic
If I were gay they would be called homophobic
But you call them none of those things
Because there isn’t the right buzz word for it
Because it really isn’t Islamophobia
Because it has nothing to do with Islam
But it’s a white man
Abusing a postcolonial woman
And there’s no word for what that’s called
Because it is beyond sexism.
It’s not that a white person
Can never critique a non-white person
We are all people
We all make mistakes
But it’s that a white person
Cannot possibly understand
Experiences of racism or postcolonialism
Cannot possibly understand it
Better than the people experiencing it
It’s NOT possible
No one should feel guilty
Because they were born white
Just as no one should feel guilty
Because they were born brown
But every day
You have a responsibility
To speak out against injustice
To question your own actions
To consider your own words
And if you don’t know
How to make it right?
I suggest you shut up
Or you’ll just make me more angry

3 thoughts on “I’m Not Angry at You (republished)

  1. Hello Maha Bali, I’ve seen your name in connection with the field of online education and read some of your posts. This post intrigues me because I had thought you were Egyptian. Perhaps I am wrong, and you only teach there. My question to you nonetheless is whether you consider Egypt to be part of Africa? You write in this post about colonization and anger. I too am very angry about colonialism, especially in Africa but in South America, the “commonwealth”, the world, etc. So presumably we share that as well as our work in online education. But I am unclear as to your position on Egypt and which colonialism you are addressing. Thank you for clarifying this for me. Cordially, Linda

    1. Hi Linda. I know your name, too 🙂 and I am Egyptian. I’m confused as to why you would
      A. Talk about Egypt as a place that had not been colonized? Egypt was colonized and plundered by the British, had a small spell with the French, and historically of course pretty much by everyone (Ottomans, Arabs, Romans, Greeks) and also the dominance of the English language and neocolonialism of the US… all of these things affect Egypt

      B. Egypt is technically part of Africa. It’s not the same context as subSaharan Africa in many ways, but it is not a rich country by any means. Some funding sources exclude Egypt and South Africa from eligibility for African funding for some reason (so I see we are considered somewhat privileged within Africa). Some people separate North Africa from rest of Africa (ppl within Africa and people outside it) and consider it part of the Middle East.

      Egypt is all these things. It is African, Arab, majority Muslim, historically pagan, influenced by French and British colonialism.

      Yes, Egyptians were not taken as slaves to America, but as an African I empathize with that. Yes, ancient Egyptian enslaved people, and so on.

      I have also lived in the US and UK and attitudes towards immigrants from previously colonized countries are there.

      Edward Said who first talked about orientalism and postcolonialism is of Palestinian origin (the connection with British colonialism followed by the establishment of state of Israel is there) but he also grew up in Egypt and in his books talks also about the Arab world.

      So yeah. Whether or not you consider Egypt part of Africa, Egypt technically is, and Egypt has been colonized, and some Egyptians identify closely with Africans.

      I was recently keynoting in South Africa and felt from people there so much African pride and connection.

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