I had a cursory look at part of the Anthony Bourdain documentary two days ago. I did see the part which triggered the latest verbal attacks on the Syrian / Lebanese communities in our nation. There was nothing in that part which offended me. After seeing some stir on my Facebook page, I went searching for that part. I again looked at it. I saw a family happy to show off its food. Happy to say how much they had achieved. Happy to show how far they had come. Happy to show that they had brought some Middle Eastern magic and cultural richness to these tropical islands. There was some socio-economic analysis, but nothing injurious; for me this episode, perhaps too innocently, exuded pride in roots, in accomplishment, in civic and economic importance.
Why did such a family moment, a Syrian / Lebanese moment in the sun, go wrong? The pathology is in the public response. The response paints an unflattering portrait of some responders. Something disturbed them, and it cannot just be that video.
If, as some say, that Syrians are responsible for drugs and gunrunning, why have not the alleged guilty parties been arrested? Must a Syrian daughter arrest a Syrian father and haul him into the police precinct? I myself have been hauled, not less than six or seven times, into police precincts, jail cells, brought to court, roughed up, for the horrible crimes of right action, right advocacy in our economic history. Okay, no problem. But why have not these alleged criminals been brought to court? Who is responsible for this? The Syrians?
Or, as I have been told, the Syrians are oppressing “we.” Really? Big man like you, and the Syrians oppressing you? No Syrian can oppress you brother, unless you share in, consent to, this alleged oppression. You, who have come from a history of colonial oppression, are allowing a minority ethnic group oppress you? Why such lack of robustness? Are you yet a mewling and puking indenture? Catch yourself!
Or, the Syrians “control” all the big business. Really? Is this true? Every immigrant group which has come to these shores have brought their own economic habits, terms, skills, types of trade. Without exception. Taino, Arahuacan, Spanish, African, French, Dutch, Irish, British, East Indian, Chinese, Venezuelan, Syrian, Grenadian, St. Vincentian and Chinese again. If you fail to use your historical economic bootstrings to pull yourself up, must you blame another group in the cosmos for this?
Or, that the Syrians don’t mix with we. Really? Let us assume that this is so. In this cosmic dance, everyone must be free to decide if or not to attend, when to dance or not dance, what tune to dance to or what not. This is the essence of cosmopolitanism. Freedom to engage, participate, on one’s own terms. No one should be forced, or ransomed, or induced to conform to some vague idea of “we” or “mixing.” In any event, geography, economics, and the marketplace demands engagement; the cosmopolitan canvas is never fully painted.
Ours is a cosmopolitan Republic. And let us wave the flag of cosmopolitanism which history has so honorifically bestowed on us. It is vile, oppressive and shameful to be loading off on a minority national or ethnic group; this group, like all other groups, should be cherished, loved, protected, celebrated like we celebrate the achievements of our young brothers or sisters. We should be happy to see the obvious pride exuded in the video, a family so eager to show off their accomplishments, with harmless pomp and exuberance.
Any attack that is based on race or ethnicity is bound to be inaccurate and deceptive; since race and ethnicity are superficial categorizing markers. It is only natural that minority groups, universally, practice vibrant forms of self-affirmation, stake out their roles, as it were. Perhaps the family was so eager and happy to show off to the American because they feel under-appreciated or scorned by its own compatriots. Our own majority ethnic groups have failed to bring us to a sustainable, affordable, non-violent and rational post-colonial future; this is the real problem; so let us each deal with that cocoa in the sun!