Ambition (poem)

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Ambition

 

“I tell you it tickles the governor

He never minds it

seeing his natives in western dress

But such times he entertains a delegation

Then, you know, it’s about pleasing the customer

If you get me

The coffee-baron’s wife said it three times

On the boat coming up the river

How she’d like to be a wedding guest

Well, there is a reason

Because it looks…you don’t mind if I tell you this

A little like ambition

Like insurrection, if you were to follow

The notion to its logical end

No, I tell you, the governor thinks your book-learning

Is a treat”

 

The Smell of the Crowd

 

Copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster

 


 

The commission was appointed to inquire into the general condition of the colored races in South Africa; into the lines on which their natural advancement should proceed; their education, industrial training, and labor; the tenure of land by natives, and the obligations to the state which it entails; native law and administration; the prohibition of the sale of liquor to natives; native marriages; and into the extent and effect of polygamy. The question of native franchise was also considered.

 

Excerpt, article, The Morning Post (London), April 19, 1905.

 

There is a kind of prejudice I call “shadow colonialism”.

As the above implies, on this commission were busy people with a plan, and the intention of doing well. Not all colonial officers had the mindset that led to 1919’s Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

In 2017, we’re not talking about early twentieth century injustices, so much as the legacy of the white perspective. Consider, if in childhood you had read The Lord of the Rings, and were asked to imagine (the reader of fiction being asked to imagine everything), the surpassing beauty of the Elves . . . would you see a white person’s face?

If you are a speaker of English, do you give thought to the effort of one who speaks another language, in having learned yours? Or do you assume, in such an interior place as to be unaware of it, that this person has not given you a gift, by choosing to make your path the easier one? Have you unconsciously put a higher value on beauty and youth, where women are concerned? Do you feel that being female belittles achievement, or that women must concern themselves with feminine appearance and mannerisms?

Good and kind people have these limitations of viewpoint. We want no one beaten up over it, but we want to think about it.

 

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