Londoners: Praise, Denounce US

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[London Calling]

Not a day goes by without news of the U.S. Presidential race on all the major media outlets here in London.

So, what thoughts come to mind when Londoners hear the words “The United States of America?”

There is a wide spectrum—ranging from admiration for American individualism and celebrity, to revulsion over the United States’ invasion of Iraq, as discerned through random interviews here in London.

Some of the assessment may be surprising to Americans.

“The first thing that comes to mind when I think about America is ‘opportunities.’ Because I feel that it’s where a lot of open minded people stay,” says Rianna Jude, a 16-year-old school student and aspiring soul and jazz singer.

“Even though back in the day there was a lot of discrimination and stuff, I feel that Americans have come out of their shell—not totally, but I think from where they’ve came from to where they are now, they’ve done quite well. I feel there are loads of opportunities for Black people now.”

She adds: “There is discrimination and segregation everywhere, but like I said before, from where America was at the beginning to where they are now, they’ve done really well. If you think about it, you have Black footballers, Black singers, Black rappers, Black everything. From time you see something white in America you see something Black too. When it comes to politics, I’m not really concerned. The government doesn’t really interest me.  So for me personally, I wanna be a singer and when I see Jennifer Hudson and them sort of people who ain’t your ‘typical idol’ and you still see them making it, it gives you faith and makes you believe you could make it too.”

But Helen, also a 16-year-old student in London, says Americans are full of “prejudice and they discriminate too much.” She adds: “I really don’t like the way they use the term ‘nigga’ as if it’s normal. They make other people think that it’s okay to use the same term. Then when a white man says it, they’re ready to jump him! It’s stupid.”

Lamia Mina, a 19-year-old Muslim first year university student from Ealing says: “I think of President Bush. I think of terrorists. I think of rich white people—I think of all the unnecessary hype that’s going on. I just think the whole country is fake. Everything they’re all about. Bush brainwashes people. I think everything he says is all fake. I feel like they make us Muslims and Arabs feel really small and worthless. They feel so superior to us and they think they can do whatever they please and treat us like the crap at the bottom of their shoes. I haven’t got an issue with the actual people of America but I just don’t approve of their government at all. They need to get rid of Bush and bring someone new to clean up the mess he has made.”
But Kateri Debreo, 24, a make-up artist and fashion designer, has a different reaction to the same question. “Freedom,” she says. “When I hear ‘America,’ I think of Freedom. When you go to that country there are hardly any restrictions. The bad thing about that is you have to pay for everything yourself. So in terms of freedom it means you have to be rich to have freedom to have as many houses and cars as you want and to live as free as you like. You need to have a lot of money to live in America.”

She continues: “That country follows the saying ‘Every man for himself and if you ain’t got money you could literally die trying.’ I’m not sure if a lot of crime takes place there, it probably does. But I think it’s still a better place than England I would say coz’ the people there are homier, they’re friendly ya know? The Black people there have a community. Big communities of Black people and they make you feel at home. When I went to Brooklyn two months ago, I was welcomed with warm arms. I enjoyed every moment that I was there and I’m actually considering moving there in a few years time.”

Jason Crest, 25, a full time football trainer at West-way Sports Centre here in London, says: “When I hear the words ‘United States of America’ I think of politics, I think of celebrities, lime-light, American dream, fame and money.”

He adds: “It’s a big country with a lot that lives up to itself. I remember all the racism that took place not too long ago and that film ‘Roots’ comes to mind as well. They talk a lot about how the country discriminates, but sometimes I feel that it’s the contrary because when you see all the celebrities there, most of the great performers are Black. They’re all rich and big in the game so it makes me question if the competition amongst these artists is really that fierce or whether it’s all exaggerated and just to create a publicity stunt. I don’t trust their judgment-they’re liars.”

“From what I’ve seen like on TV and everything, looks friendly,” says Donike Paccarada, when asked to give her reaction. “They get on with everything and they can relate to each other. There’s big white communities and big Black communities and even though they still have that, they respect each other’s color and aren’t really racist. Like if you look at Atlanta, you have mainly Black people living there but there’s also white people. And the white people that are there, they like it there; they don’t feel ‘oh let me get away from this place coz only Blacks live here.’ They feel welcome and I think the place is so diverse. You have different races and cultures all sharing the same hood.”

George Harrington, 49, a science teacher at Sion Manning Girls’ School, in London, has rapid fire responses when asked what thoughts are generated by the words “The United States.” He says: “George bush; most powerful country on earth; Iraq; Hillary Clinton; Barack Obama; American football; McDonald’s; Burger King; Clint Eastwood; Hollywood; Twin Towers.”

He also adds: “A good thing I’d say about them was that they saved us in the Second World War. Anything bad—they invaded Iraq.”

Sarah Jessy-Parkins, 33, a mother of two and a full time nurse has mixed feelings. “Years ago it would have been the land of opportunity, the ‘American Dream,’ everyone’s got a fair chance, as long as you can work for it. Now since George Bush has been elected it’s been a different story because now you just see war, crimes and things that people need to be accountable for,” she says. 

She adds that Bush has “basically decided to be the world’s police man,” and continues: “They claim to intervene on behalf on innocent people but they were actually making these innocent people suffer a lot more. They’re other places that have suffered that they haven’t intervened. They didn’t intervene in Rwanda; they didn’t intervene in Uganda; they didn’t intervene in the Congo; and all these places because there weren’t things of interest to them---Whereas they intervened in Iraq, in the Middle East under the guise of fighting terrorism but really it’s more about what they can gain out of that because someone like Saddam Hussein, they felt that he was in the way, he wasn’t gonna share his oil and things like that.”

Shola, 16, a student at Creston College, also offers a grim view: “When I think of America, I think of ‘friendly fire.’ They like to attack their so-called allies. I think of ignorance. Their point of views; they’re very judgmental. I think of slums, the suburbs, different types of life-styles. I think of slavery and racism. I think of diversity basically.”

His surprising conclusion: “I feel that America is a very hard place to live but it could also be fun and exciting.”

Allimadi is The Black Star News’ London-based writer


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