In the poem Song of Lawino racism reared its ugly head in a rather ridiculous form, some people might argue that any form of racism is ridiculous, which is very understandable, but in this particular situation in my opinion it is worst than the segregation in America throughout the early part of the century 20th century. It’s called self hatred, self hatred is a very uncommon form of racism and it can appear in any ethnic group but its black self hatred that manifest it self in this poem, as Lawino’s husband Orcol condemns his wife, tribe and there way of life.
As I began to read the section of the poem assigned to us, I immediately assumed that Lawino a women from West Africa had obviously did something to her husband that caused him to insult her the way she implied he did. Ocol which is also from West Africa, son of the chief and man with an University education slanders his wife’s name throughout the poem . I thought for a second maybe she was lazy and/or didn’t do anything to help him around the house or maybe she was unfaithful but one thing I was sure of is that whatever it was it obviously caused him to stop loving her. This was became more and more obvious as he continued to insult her, he compared her to things like the rubbish in the rubbish pit; a little dog, the ojuu insects that sit on the beer pot and a sheep, implying she is a fool.
Orcol constantly ridicules Lawino saying, she is primitive for not being able to play a guitar, he says she her eyes are dead because she cant read, he states her ears are blocked and she cant comprehend a single foreign word as he boastfully scorns her in English, and he says she cannot count the coins. Roughly translated he called her stupid, worthless and he basically proclaimed she wasn’t worthy of a man of his quality. It was mind boggling to me how a man could say something like that to the women he called his wife with out a reasonable explanation. What could have happened between now and there wedding vowels that could make him despise her in such manner? As Lawino, the narrator, continued to explain her situation to her fellow clansmen the pieces of the puzzling poem began to fall together, and the picture became more clear.
Through the collage of words Orcol put together to slander his wife’s name even more so, the insults began to spread like a plague. Orcol began mentioning and vilifying others related to Lawino and or anyone he knew that lived and looked at life the same way she did. He insulted her parents and by saying that they do not know the ways of God and they sit in a deep darkness as sorcerers he specifically called her mother a witch, he smeared the names of there clansmen by referring to them as fools, because of there traditions, such as eating rats. But it wasn’t until he referred to them all as kaffirs, when I had realized that his problem had nothing to do with anything his wife did to him that caused him to view his her in such a harsh manner, I now understood he had a problem with her race and culture but this was puzzling all in it self because they were of the same race and culture.
The word “kariff” in Africa, is a word that is the equivalent to the English word “Nigger” which is used as a derogatory statement to degrade black people. When Orcol said this word there was only one explanation as to why he talked about his wife, her family and the people of his culture in the horrible way as he did. He is suffering from a form of racism called self-hatred. Once it was clear to me that Lawino had not did any thing to cause him slander her name in such manner, Lawino bluntly stated that her husband pours scorn on all black people, by his racists comments such as all black people were primitive and their ways are utterly harmful, their dances are moral sins, and they are ignorant poor and diseased. These were all signs to his struggle with self hatred.
“Self-hatred” is when you discriminate against yourself basically or somebody of your own ethnicity because you are ashamed of the stereo-types placed on the majority of people from your race and or you feel that you are better the people in your culture. This is exactly what Orcol was doing, obviously he felt as if he was better than the people of his culture because the majority of people weren’t fortunate enough to have received an University Education so this made him feel as if the people of his culture were being left in the dark and were not doing enough or anything to change. He was being taught how to speak English and some of the other more American-like traditions, which made him feel as if the way of life he was previously involved with was un-civilized so he no longer wanted any thing to do with it.
As a method of slowly prying himself from the culture and his race he became involved in a relationship with another women who obviously had similar views of her culture, there ways of life and the fact that they thought black people were primitive. This is implied in his mistresses appearance which is described by Lawino. Somewhere in the process of getting educated at the University, Orcol not only changed his perception of how black people should behave and live, but he apparently somehow had altered his opinion in a what beautiful black women looked like, instead of the dark skinned women he chose to marry, as of now he thinks that his mistress is the real definition of beauty.
Orcol’s mistress, Clementine is described by Lawino as a so called modern woman were as Orcol describes Lawino as the old type and no longer attractive. Lawino says, Clementine wears bright red lip stick and powders her face from a once dark skin complexion to a pale tone to look more like a white woman, she is very slim almost to the point where it looks as if she has an eating disorder, much like the majority of America’s super models, and this is what Ocol now believes true beauty is.
Self hatred is not a very command form of racism but when it dose appear it is usually something that occurs when a person comes from a rough environment normally plagued by poverty, and works hard to become come successful. When they succeed they sometimes forget were they come from like Orcol and his mistress Clementine. Successful individuals coming from a rough background sometimes begin to even despise the people who didn’t make it out of the struggle because, they are successful and they probably feel since they were able to prevail, that anybody can do it regardless of the circumstances.
That can often cause the successful person to have a hard time having sympathy for those people. But what most of those individuals who weren’t fortunate enough to make out of the hard times want is empathy from a person who made it out of poverty, they don’t want any one to feel sorry for them because they most likely don’t know any other way of living so they cant miss what they never had. As was the case with Lawino and her husband she didn’t want his sympathy or anyone else, she just expected Orcol to understand her situation and respect her more since there struggles were similar prior to his University education and it probably hurts especially because they are married.
In the midst of all of the name calling done by Orcol, Lawino still keeps her composure and never discriminates against Orcol’s new teachings. Instead of becoming a racist herself, by returning derogatory statements to Orcol and the way of life he has chosen, Lawino just attempts to better comprehend Orcols’ reason for believing and saying what he dose about black people and understand what it is he describes as modern a modern person.
If everyone who had racist tendencies or was being discriminated against took the course of action that Lawino did and tried to comprehend and understand the people they displayed racism toward or the people discriminating against them, instead throwing gasoline in the fire it could possibly help the situation. Lawino could be a good example for all people, Americans especially, while being ridiculous and discriminated against by her loved one Orcol, she still managed to not become a part of continuous world wind of racism.
Courtney from Study Moose
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