Monday, January 08, 2007

Urban Orientalism

Below is a post on "Urban Orientalism" that I posted on a blog that I share with my esteemed brother Divine Culture Allah. Do the knowledge & enjoy!

Urban Orientalism Pt. 1

During my younger years, one of my primary role models was my uncle. Approx. 10 years older than me, he served as my example of what I wanted to be when I got older. One memory that sticks in my head is the thought of saturday afternoons during the early-mid 80's, when he stopped everything he was doing to watch "Karate Flicks" on Channel 48 ( & the resulting practice on me and house objects). In fact, It seemed that the whole hood pushed pause on any activity while checking out flicks like The Five Deadly Venoms & Master Killer. My uncle went on to become a Black Belt in Kempo(A Korean Martial Art). This was my introduction to Urban Orientalism.

Urban Orientalism?

What the hell is Urban Orientalism?I'll start by telling you what it isn't:

- It ain't the "Chinese" take-out in your hood. That, my brother/sister is a grease factory & a urban crime magnet.

- It ain't getting a tatoo of a Chinese character that someone told you means "loyalty"

- It ain't wearing Chinese slippers on the concrete until the bottoms look like tar just because "all the girls are wearing them this year".That, my people is capitalism & cultural appropriation at it's worst.

No, Urban Orientalism (A self-coined term, by the way) is the connection and relationship between Black & Brown communities in the Wilderness of North America and filaments of Asian Culture (For the sake of PC, I must state that I was made aware that the term Oriental can be seen as offensive in some circles, & that Oriental refers to culture, while Asian refers to people as well as culture). A book that gives a good introduction to the phenomenon is Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting by Vijay Prashad. In the book, Prashad lays out the origin and implications of the connection between Black & Asian/Indian communities, from the development of the Moorish Science Temple & Nation Of Islam, to the relationship between the Black Panthers and The Yellow Peril (look it up if you're not down), to the Black community's love for Bruce Lee. The evidence presented in the book is exhaustive, so my musings on the subject will be based on elements of UO that occur closer to home, if you will: Shou Wu Chih & Bidis.

During my high school years, I was involved with a young lady who would wax incessantly at times about this mystical drink called "Sa-wu-chi". Now I considered myself pretty hip & aware regarding alternative potions & such, b.u.t. I had no idea what she was speaking of. She went on to tell me that it was a drink that the Muslims that she knew partook in. At that point, I took it as info for info's sake & moved on...

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