A Flavour to the Ghetto

Alice Walker in Gaza with Palestinian member of parliament and mother of five, Huda Naim.

Writer Alice Walker was part of the Code Pink delegation to Gaza shortly after the December/ January massacre. She responded to her experience, and connected it to the civil rights struggle in America, in an essay on her blog called “Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters ‘the horror’ in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel.”

Rolling into Gaza I had a feeling of homecoming. There is a flavor to the ghetto. To the Bantustan. To the “rez.” To the “colored section.” In some ways it is surprisingly comforting. Because consciousness is comforting. Everyone you see has an awareness of struggle, of resistance, just as you do. The man driving the donkey cart. The woman selling vegetables. The young person arranging rugs on the sidewalk or flowers in a vase. When I lived in segregated Eatonton, Georgia I used to breathe normally only in my own neighborhood, only in the black section of town. Everywhere else was too dangerous. A friend was beaten and thrown in prison for helping a white girl, in broad daylight, fix her bicycle chain.

But even this sliver of a neighborhood, so rightly named the Gaza Strip, was not safe. It had been bombed for 22 days. I thought of how, in the US perhaps the first use of aerial attacks on US soil, prior to 9/11, was the bombing and shooting from biplanes during the destruction by white mobs of the black neighborhoods in Tulsa, Olklahoma in 1921. The black people who created these neighborhoods were considered, by white racists, too prosperous and therefore “uppity.” Everything they created was destroyed. This was followed by the charge already rampant in white American culture, that black people never tried to “better” themselves.

You can read Walker’s whole piece at Electronic Intifada which first published it.

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