Just here today writing up a quick news update on our posting schedule here on the Talking Egg. You’ll find this in our ‘What is the Talking Egg?’ segment as well, however it is always handy to make an official announcement for these things. As mentioned in our first post, we post every week on Sundays, CEST. However, we did not mention the different types of monthly recurring posts, i.e. types of posts that you can look forward to every month! One has already been out and hot on our blog, and that is our monthly Intersectional book club with Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Without further ado, here is a list of the monthly recurring posts that all of you will be able to look forward to:
Intersectional book club: as its name indicates, with this book club, we intend to introduce authors that are from countries that are heard very little from, that have identities that may be intersectional and fascinating, that touch upon topics that are not necessarily considered mainstream. This of course does not mean that we won’t mention the occasional, popular, classic favourite if they deserve a shoutout that month, with an amazing bestseller that deserves reviewing. It just means that our main goal is to give a shoutout to authors that may not be as known as your average Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling.
Poetry spotlight: with this, a new poem will be introduced monthly, that is by a non English-speaking author. We hope to spread wonderful poetry that has yet to be translated (or does not have many different translations), by introducing you to the poem, its translation (that we will be doing), the author and a short analysis on what we think of the poem. Let’s give these amazing poets the publicity they deserve, and let their work be understood and enjoyed outside of their own country!
Movie/series recommendation: as the title indicates, a classic form of recommendation, either of a movie or a series. Knowing what the Talking Egg is like, however, you can probably anticipate that it’ll be recommendations that go along the lines of feminism, LGBTQ+ themes, sometimes out of the box of Western normative productions (e.g. next month’s might just be on an Iranian movie).
Other monthly and possibly weekly recurring post formats and types will eventually come, as you can guess with our multiple ‘coming soon’ themes in our blog posts segment – but do not worry, everything will be revealed and come about with time. And of course, we will keep you up to date with another news post when there are new updates!
Hello earth friends, and welcome to the Talking Egg!
This is Meena, writing our first ever post on the blog. And yes, the Talking Egg involves two of us! That’s myself, Meena and my co-writer, co-founder and close friend, Lena. We will be the main writers you will see writing on this very website, however there will also be other writers that will share their fun stories.
Now, most of you must be confused and wondering, ‘what in the world is this random blog that is pretending that we have been friends for decades?’ My answer to that (standoffish) question is, if you do continue to follow the blog and enjoy what we have to write, we will be friends, so do not be a stranger! The internet is a fun playground for all of us, and the more the merrier.
Without further ado (and as a way to break the ice), let me introduce you to us, the project and its goals ahead.
Who are we?
We are two girls. That love writing. And reading. Check out ‘About us’ for more details on what we love… However, we will keep it on the low on who we really are. Makes things more interesting.
So what is the Talking Egg?
Now, you will see there is a segment in our blog that will explain this as well, but we will also be saying it again here, as it is our first post, and it is always pleasant to get off on the right foot with these things. The Talking Egg is a collaboration between Lena and myself (Meena), two strong writers and academic nerds at heart. The project came to be when we were talking on the phone (long distance friendships, am I right?) and discussing how there seem to be numerous platforms with many followers that do not seem to really discuss what we consider intellectually interesting. There are of course, also plenty of resources on the internet that we follow and enjoy learning from, however those just do not seem to be getting the spotlight and attention they deserve. Feeling a bit down about the status quo, we thought, ‘why not create that space ourselves?’ A space where we can be smart, proud and loud women, feminists, WOC (women of colour for those that do not know) and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Other stories of course emerge from having such a mixed intersectional identity, such as stories of immigration, class struggles, questions on sexuality, our relationship to the world… As well as simpler stories on what it is to be who one is. Regardless of the background from which one comes from. Simply, me.
We all know sometimes our given identities can overshadow other aspects of ourselves, sides we would like to show the world. That is what the Talking Egg strives towards. Giving people a space to share a slice of themselves, without being ashamed of who they are, what they believe in, or what they want to become. In this manner, the Talking Egg strives to become a platform as well as a safe place, not just for us but also for other similar (academic) nerds that have a strong calling for expressing their own interests and views, whether it be about cultural things such as books and cinema, or opinion pieces on the current state of our political and social structures.
You have probably already guessed, but this means it will not just be Lena and myself writing, but other guest writers! Friends, family, community members, sometimes, even strangers that we relate to. All sorts of identities and stories mixed into the melting pot that is the Talking Egg. Doesn’t that sound like good fun?
Now last thing, as I’m sure you are tired of ‘reading’ from me. We will be posting weekly, updates on Sunday CEST as we are based in Europe (try to guess where we are both at), a post from myself and a post from my dearest Lena.
I promise it’ll be all fun, if not fun, interesting for sure. And it does not hurt anyone to follow us, just click on the ‘subscribe’ button below to get our updates. If you want to support our project and are interested, follow us on our social media handles (Twitter, Instagram, Medium, Reddit), we post every once in a while, and again, I promise there will only be fun, if not fun, interesting things to see.
And of course, if you have any suggestions on what you would want us to write about/who we could invite to write here, no problem, give us a small email or write us a comment down below.
“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America. When you are black in America and you fall in love with a white person, race doesn’t matter when you’re alone together because it’s just you and your love. But the minute you step outside, race matters. But we don’t talk about it. We don’t even tell our white partners the small things that piss us off and the things we wish they understood better, because we’re worried they will say we’re overreacting, or we’re being too sensitive. And we don’t want them to say, Look how far we’ve come, just forty years ago it would have been illegal for us to even be a couple blah blah blah, because you know what we’re thinking when they say that? We’re thinking why the fuck should it ever have been illegal anyway? But we don’t say any of this stuff. We let it pile up inside our heads and when we come to nice liberal dinners like this, we say that race doesn’t matter because that’s what we’re supposed to say, to keep our nice liberal friends comfortable. It’s true. I speak from experience.”
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Hi earth friends, and welcome to the Talking Egg!
Our first monthly intersectional book club recommendation is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a book I recommended Lena years ago and bonded over with her on. It is a book I think connected for both of us on many levels, and now Lena is a bigger fan of Adichie than I am, having now read more of her works than I have!
Americanah is originally a book I found out about after reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, a masterpiece in its own right (definitely worth checking out as well!) Finding out that among Achebe’s fellow Nigerian authors was Adichie, and that she was a female Nigerian author, I felt compelled to read her works; and the first one I laid my hands on was this gem. Great thanks to whatever deity out there, because it really deserves to be read inside out.
The book follows the stories of two people, Ifemelu and Obinze, young Nigerians that meet in high school and date throughout their high school years. After finishing school, both Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s paths lead to immigration to the West: Ifemelu to the United States, and Obinze to the United Kingdom. Stories unfold on how they manage to integrate (and how they do not manage to do so), on the challenges they face in these countries as Nigerians with little means.
Americanah is however, not only a story of the experiences of a black woman in the United States and a black man in the United Kingdom, but also more concretely, a story of immigration and a vision of the problems underlying both countries’ reluctance towards it. For example, Ifemelu constantly distinguishes herself from her African American counterparts, that share the same skin colour as her, that however, have a different ancestral history and vision of identity (also known as the difference between an African American and an American African). She then goes on to clarify that white Americans do not see the difference between these two identities.
“Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I’m Jamaican or I’m Ghanaian. America doesn’t care.”
We can understand Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s challenges not only as those linked to their skin colour (issues of racism, systemic discrimination, difficulty of telling POC apart) but also as those linked to where they come from. Issues of immigration within the United States and the United Kingdom, such as paperwork, financial trouble, lack of stability hit them hard, but also simply, homesickness and lack of relatability in their new surroundings. Although not always, at times, both Ifemelu and Obinze miss being from a country where everyone else looks like them and speaks like them, where food is familiar and the neighbourhoods too. It is the intersection of the issues of skin colour but also of legal status in the new country. Not the best of both worlds.
Not only does Adichie cover their experiences in the West, she turns the story on its head to show another perspective, by having them return to their motherland, Nigeria. Their experiences in Nigeria then, become those of a returning national, which also contains its own set of issues: family pressures, cultural pressures, as well as generational gaps really become a story in itself.
As an immigrant living in the West myself, I empathised strongly with Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s experiences in the West as well as their experiences as a returning national. Living in the West, you are never really considered an individual. You transform into what seems to be another drop in a massive ocean that is your skin colour – which is terribly ironic, because the West in so many ways has abandoned community living for individualism (more on this in a different blog post). Individualism only applies of course, to those with white skin that are considered ‘real locals’. It does not matter how or when you became a person that exists in the West. Whether it be that you are a third-generation local with non-white skin, or if you’ve recently immigrated with non-white skin, as long as you both seem to be ethnically similar, you are the same. Suddenly massive continents like Africa and Asia just become blurry places where everyone has more or less similar backwards cultures with some ‘interesting spiritual stuff’. Speaking various languages becomes something that is fascinating (‘I love Asian languages’, ‘I’ve watched so much anime, love Japanese culture… Are you Japanese too?’), but strangely, not very appealing to recruiters because it happens to be that you’re expected to speak many languages as a foreigner (‘you don’t speak other European languages? Pity’). Those that make it get to have an individual position in society, however, only because they were chosen to be there, and allowed to be there. They become the token, ‘we have diversity, we have person X that does this in our society’, person. It’s a story all too familiar and disconcerting, reminding us of the invisible realities of many invisible people that only become visible at the most inconvenient times (‘all Middle-Eastern people are terrorists’, ‘black men are drug dealers’).
“You read American fiction to learn about dysfunctional white folk doing things that are weird to normal white folks.”
As for the experience of being a returning national, the experiences that echoed the most for me were the gaps between the older and newer generations, the misunderstandings that continue between those two sides as well as the feeling of somehow ‘owing’ something to one’s (immigrant) parents (back home) for any personal successes. Not to mention the constant inner negotiation between your identity as a permanent immigrant in the West and a visitor in your own country. Having left for a long time, you no longer see things the same way people in your country do. Nor do you experience them in the same way. Suddenly things that were so normal seem questionable, and family that you missed quickly become your source of stress (‘when will you get married?’). All these things hit me quite deeply on a personal level.
“Those plates, with their amateur finishing, the slight lumpiness of the edges, would never be shown in the presence of guests in Nigeria. He still was not sure whether Emenike had become a person who believed that something was beautiful because it was handmade by poor people in a foreign country, or whether he had simply learned to pretend so.”
And that was my two cents on Americanah.
Have I convinced you? Do you want to read about Ifemelu and Obinze?
You now have a month to get this book and read it, it is available on Kindle as well for those who want to save a few coins and trees. See you next month for the next intersectional book club meeting!
Today’s opinion piece will be on a heavier topic; a topic that is only labelled as heavy due to the lack of positive change we see in it. It is important to remember that something is called a ‘heavy issue’, a ‘heavy conversation topic’, often when people do not want to talk about it because it makes them uncomfortable – which in itself is extremely problematic. You can probably guess what this is by the title of this post, as well as my stream of thought on the issue – and that is the topic of race and racial justice.
First, let me clarify that I am not black myself, I am in no position to speak for black communities or instead of them, nor do I have any authority on the topic at hand. I am here to write about the things I have read, learned and heard, and am here to give my two cents on the issue – in hopes of spreading what is hopefully accurate information about what is and has been going on for so long. I also hope the information I have gathered will only but help the movement. I am in every way open to criticism and comment, and would be happy to add on any extra information if you have any I could share.
I would also like to clarify that the topic is massive: talking about race in the United States is an endless topic (and let it be endless, if that is what we need to continue fighting the injustices). This post just only hits the tip of the iceberg, and there are many, many qualified writers that have a lot more to say that you can refer to, for you to continue learning and educating yourself on the topic. I will be making a list of helpful links to get you started below, so please refer to those resources!
Let me dispel some myths today.
For those living in Europe, saying that this is not a European issue:
As you know, I am writing to you from Europe, and although what happened in the United States with George Floyd (and so many other unfortunate individuals who’s names we do know and sometimes, do not even know) is a continent away, I feel it is strongly necessary for us to discuss the issue, and important to remind ourselves that even here in Europe, there is still such a long way to go for racial justice. Police violence exists and happens in Europe as well, believe it or not, and racial injustice and racism is sovery present in Europe as well (Pettigrew, 1998; Ghosh, 2011). It may take a different shape, a different form, but the base remains the same. The absurdity of the situation also remains the same. I could write a whole other post on the question of race and racial issues in the different countries in Europe, but that will be for another time, through what I assume will be multiple other posts. Today, we concentrate on what is happening in the United States.
For those saying that democratic countries will resolve their internal issues by themselves with their democratic institutions and framework, and that this level of coverage is unnecessary:
People love talking about issues that happen in non-Western countries that are non-democratic, that have laxer governmental infrastructures and laws. Especially about countries that are in the developmental stage, and in the vision of the West, somehow simply less ‘developed’ – not only in terms of the economy and existing social infrastructures but also (the wonderful generalisation) apparently culturally so (Mattar, 2009). This in itself is a large topic of conversation (a rather large topic of outrage), but that will be for another day. It boils down to the fact that it is easy to point fingers at North Korea for abusing their citizens with generational dictatorship, at Saudi Arabia for systematically discriminating against women, at Turkey and Uganda for committing atrocities against those that belong to the LGBTQ+ community (and claiming that they do not exist in their respective countries), at Russia for their extremely questionable invasion of Ukraine, China for its inhumane treatment of the Uyghurs… So many non-Western injustices come to mind when the word injustice pops up – and while I do recognise that all the issues I have mentioned above are truly deep issues and problems that we must advocate against and spread awareness of (and write informational blog posts about in the near future) – we must also always question deeply what is happening where we are at, close by to where we are at. And if that happens to be in the West, it is of crucial importance to take a critical stance. Especially if the country one is in claims it is democratic and fair yet has a leader that clearly does not follow such principles. We probably all know I’m talking about the orange clown that is Donald Trump… I will not elaborate on that particular point but I am sure a search on the internet can show you how detrimental he is to the United States as well as the world today.
Believe it or not, I have had to dispel these myths because I have been hearing these opinions from people that supposedly identify with the Left. How? Well… Good question. Perhaps a mix of ignorance and white privilege, but this post will hopefully give them (and all of us) some clarity.
Let us now get to the core topic. What is happening in the United States.
What happened, is happening and continues to happen in the United States is in no way something that is new, it is something that has been dragging ceaselessly in the mud, and has been unaddressed for so long because of the white privilege that exists and prevails in the country – of course, like in many other Western countries, including those here in Europe. Being black in the United States is plagued by a long history of slavery and abuse by white (upper class) Americans, abuse that still exists today in forms that are insidious and continuous (Woolfork, 2009) – in spite of the Civil rights movement and its abolition of slavery, African Americans remain denizens of the United States. We speak of systemic, institutionalised racism because it goes deeper than what we see: the government system that has been set up goes against the very core identity of what it means to be an African American in the United States. Even though they should have full rights as equally legal citizens to their other white counterparts in the country, in practice this is not so much the case. We see strong correlations in the United States (as well as in some other European countries) between being a POC (person of colour), belonging to a lower-class, working precarious jobs, having lesser access to what should be considered basic human rights, such as access to healthcare, stable housing and decent education (Hahn, Truman, Williams, 2018). In the American case, the POC is more likely black than not. We see countless African American men getting shot by the police force, with clear abuses in power (Martinot, 2014). These policemen do not get sanctioned and convicted, and black families lose everything: at times a father, a son, a brother, a family member. Other times, a breadwinner (for the lack of a better word), leading to financial disarray in the family unit. Invisible issues such as mental health issues become critical for those said family members, and further for the community as well, issues that the state today does not support due to the painful lack of medical infrastructures and plans set up for the poorer denizens of the United States (Masuda, Anderson, Edmonds, 2012). Trans black individuals are targeted more often than those that are non-black, which in itself seems almost unbelievable, considering how often trans people get targeted in general, and how few rights they have today in most of the United States (Snorton, 2017) – and more largely, in the world.
This may sound like a distant experience from what you are living personally. It may be something that is closer by. Whatever the case, the statement, ‘this does not happen where I am at’ is most likely flawed. We all have a responsibility to support this movement, regardless of our skin colour, gender, the community we belong to. Regardless of who we are.
How can I show my support?
Support can mean a variety of things. Here are a few ways you can show your support, and yes there are many many other ways in which you can show your support. The internet is your friend… Do your research!
If you have what is close to financial stability, support could mean donating to groups you have researched that support and finance the movement (some links below). Donating money supports African American families, individuals, communities and groups, helps them continue protesting and speaking up. Helps them if they lose their jobs from getting arrested for protesting and speaking up. Supports them throughout their precarious careers. Gives them the literal financial means to keep going on. They need those funds.
If it is time you have, you can be active, going to protests in your country, sharing resources that are available on the internet (and there are plenty, some links below) on why this situation is an issue and how everyone can support the movement. Look up on the internet if there are any active movements in your area, groups you can support and go see directly.
You can also support black business, whichever the sector you choose to support. Listen to black artists and pay for their music. Watch movies directed by wonderful black artists. Go to art exhibitions of black artists. Look them up, again, the internet is your friend.
You can also educate yourself, and remember, have a duty to educate yourself on race issues. Read Just Mercy. So You Want to Talk About Race. The New Jim Crow. Listen to podcasts. Watch documentaries. There is so much, so much out there that you can learn from. Again, some links below on books, podcasts and documentaries you can refer to.
Educate others. I do not mean this in a haughty way, but we all know that we tend to love to stay around people that agree with us. We all have that one racist uncle, that unpleasant friend that tells you they are ‘colour blind’ (do not get me started), people we like to avoid because they do not agree with us. Who is going to tell them about this? You are. And remember, having the difficult talks is really a form of advocacy that is unseen, that can change mountains in the long run. Listen to them. Try to understand why they are so bitter about the topic. Try to capture what misunderstandings they have. Dispel them. Give them the information they need. Invite them to a protest, to become a part of a loving community that supports instead of breaking and hating. To those telling me, ‘it’s not that easy’, I agree, it is not easy, but try. Try your best, that is the whole point.
Make sure this does not happen again, by speaking up. If you have a platform, a voice, or perhaps simply a position in society that lets you be heard a lot more than others, please, advocate louder than ever.
Is someone close to you implicated in this oppression? Protect them. Speak to them, listen to them, check up with them. See how they’re doing, physically and mentally. Reach out. And when I say reach out I do not mean superficially, by sending them a short message via social media. Actually reach out and remind them you have their back, that you will show full support, in every way possible.
Do not expect a black person to educate you. It is not their duty, and if they choose to do so out of their generosity, do not take it for granted. Listen. Really, listen. Do not assume ever that black people owe you stories about their experiences in the matter. It can be very traumatic for people to talk about their past experiences, especially considering it is something that happens systematically to them, everyday. They do not want to unwillingly relive their past negative experiences. No one does. If they do choose to share stories, again, do not take it for granted. Listen. Really, listen. Do not attempt to verbally empathise if you are not in the position of doing so, e.g. by putting your feelings over their’s. They do not need to hear that, unless you actually can share in their experience.
Above all, do not let this fizzle out. Let it burn brighter and brighter and let their voices be heard.
We need to support the black community. It is our chance now to speak up and do what we can and more for them. We have a responsibility, as individuals that have directly or indirectly been profiting off of black people, black culture, enjoying our comfortable lives thanks to their unwanted sacrifices. It is time we recognise the denizens that should have just as many rights as we do. See them for who they are. Give them the voices and places they have always deserved, but never really got. Let this movement wake us up from our long ignorant slumber, and let this be an important moment of forever reflection and activism.
A personal line from me: Asians for black lives. LGBTQ+ community for black lives. Immigrants for black lives. Now and forever. I will push for your community to be supported by mine, I promise I will not remain quiet, that my communities will hear from me, constantly. I hope we reach the day that my communities support your’s, unconditionally, with love. Forever. We fight this fight together.
Fighting to see change and a revolution,
Links to support Black Lives Matter, fight police violence and racial injustice:
Places you can make donations to/projects to support:
Ghosh, Jayati (2011) Fear of Foreigners: Recession and Racism in Europe, Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts 4(2) Reworking Race and Labor, pp. 183-190
Hahn, R.A.; Truman, B.I.; Williams, D.R. (2018) Civil rights as determinants of public health and racial and ethnic health equity: Health care, education, employment, and housing in the United States, SSM – Population Health 4, pp.17-24
Martinot, Steve (2014) On the Epidemic of Police Killings, Social Justice 39(4) (130), pp. 52-75
Masuda, Akihiko; Anderson, Page L.; Edmonds, Joshua (2012) Help-Seeking Attitudes, Mental Health Stigma, and Self-Concealment Among African American College Students, Journal of Black Studies 43(7), pp. 773-786
Mattar, Yasser (2009) Popular Cultural Cringe: Language as Signifier of Authenticity and Quality in the Singaporean Popular Music Market, Popular Music 28(2), pp. 179-195
Pettigrew, Thomas F. (1998) Reactions toward the New Minorities of Western Europe, Annual Review of Sociology 24, pp. 77-103
Snorton, C.R. (2017) Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity, University of Minnesota Press
Woolfork, Lisa (2009) Embodying American Slavery in Contemporary Culture, University of Illinois Press