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Divisions among Rastafarians

February 19, 2003
by Ayinde

The divisions among those who claim to be Rastafarians are no different to that of all other people with the little exception of a common material poverty and the symbolic dreadlocks worn by many.

Many say that one does not have to be dreadlocks in order to be a Rastafarian, but outside of how one carries their hair there are no unique set of qualities that all Rastafarians agree upon in order to determine who is or who is not a Rastafarian. The minor differences about interpretations I would leave for now, as they do not pose major obstacles. However, the big ones are relevant as they pertain to the issues of subliminal and sometimes deliberate racism.

There are those who are aware of our social degradation as a result of slavery and racism, so they respect the efforts of Marcus Garvey while embracing the speeches by Haile Selassie I. The ability to marry the two main characters in 'modern' Rastafari is born out of real experiences of oppression coupled with a general awareness of world history inclusive of African history.

Those who are conscious of our most remote history and choose a lifestyle that keeps them detached from matter know that Rastafari is the original wisdoms realized through natural experiences. But applying these wisdoms call for a refined understanding of social interactions. The issues surrounding racism and gender discrimination are always relevant as they are the major obstacles that prevent most people from realizing these ancient wisdoms.

There is another group of people who embrace the words of Haile Selassie I and are either subliminally or deliberately against discussions about what Marcus Garvey tried to achieve, although most of the issues that affected Blacks are still unresolved.

Marcus Garvey remains a general reminder to many in the Rastafari Movement of the African struggles, and some conveniently leave him out of the picture as they seek to project their brand of Rastafarianism.

Generally speaking, those who do not to seriously consider Marcus Garvey fall into two categories. Some are the Whites in economic poverty who hold on to their privileged social positions while they try to get blacks under their wings to elevate their own social prestige. Then there are others of all races who were nurtured on Christianity, which generally downplays the role of Africans in spiritual development. They rarely ever discuss the real issues that keep most people divided; instead they favour popular platitudes like, 'one love'. In the Christian pictorial representations of spirituality, White takes the dominant role while evil carries the weight of blackness, and omitting the effects of this prejudice will not break deep-seated racist attitudes.

There is a constant struggle between those who can marry the virtues in the writings of Haile Selassie I with that of Marcus Garvey, and those who wish the blackness to be deemphasized. By playing down the blackness of our ancestors, the mindset of White superiority is constantly reinforced, while the real intensions of some White players go unchallenged because of the general unconscious acceptance of their superiority.

It is obvious to me that some are bent on keeping the Black community heavily divided, and are about encouraging Blacks to congregate under their authority. Of course they will not say this, but they will forever present alternatives, encouraging Blacks to break up and move to areas where they feel they have some form of control.

All of this is understandable and as people congregate and communicate it is always important to investigate, and where possible to question the motives of others who do not share your unique experiences.

For who can best define the Black struggle than another Black man and woman who have risen out of the degradation of society. Who Else!

Is the oppression of Blacks over?

Has the issue of reparations been settled?

Are those who wish to repatriate mentally and physically able to do so?

Are Blacks allowed to control their own media for safeguarding their expressions?

Are the only 'good' media and forums those that are under the control of Whites (directly or indirectly)?

Are most Blacks out of economic poverty?

Are the major world powers treating non-white nations with the respect they deserve?

Are we (collectively) out of the gambits of Slavery?

Many Blacks in the bigger nations (with military might) feel that they are somehow superior to Caribbean Blacks and Blacks of other nations.
What do you think is responsible for these feelings and attitudes?

We have some serious work ahead of us if we are to build as a collective and those who desire building must ensure that in this new family the foundation is solid.

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