A couple of weeks ago, on Saturday the 16th April, I was walking down Oxford Street when, approaching Oxford Circus, I saw a gathering of excited people taking pictures of something obviously “unusual”... The centre of all the fuss, it turned out, was a black woman holding – along with posters showing pictures of blonde people (royal and not so) hanging on her head and down her shoulders – a placard with these words:
Dear Prince William
Please put a stop to this wedding.
The people are demanding a natural blonde princess.
Please do not go ahead with it.
Because the natural blonde is the appropriated complexion to represent the natives of the country at the palace.
I joined the crowd with a mixture of puzzlement and amusement, laughed, exchanged brief comments with other people, stood there for a while and then moved on my walking down the street.
After about an hour or so of window-shopping in the surrounding streets (where, by the way, most front shops are featuring the upcoming royal wedding of William and Kate, or just the wedding theme in general), I went back to Oxford Circus to see if the woman and the large crowd were still there. She was but the crowd was much smaller this time. So I decided to approach her and started a conversation:
- Hello… Why are you doing this? Do you actually believe in it?
- Yes, I do…
- Are you doing it for an organization or by yourself?
- No, I’m doing it by myself.
- Just to help this white people, because sometimes they don’t understand
- So, you took the initiative to help them voice what they think?
- Yes, to help the community.
- Where are you from?
... There, I almost suspended my breathing!
- Angola? Really? Nao pode ser! Where in Angola?
- Luanda. Are you angolan?
- Yes, I am! Por esta e' que eu nao esperava... eu so' perguntei porque de repente me pareceu que as suas feicoes eram algures da Africa Austral, estava a pensar no Botswana... afinal e' minha compatriota!
- E' verdade, sou de Luanda, da Samba. Mas nasci em Malange, so' que fui para Luanda pequena e nunca conheci bem Malange. E voce?
- Eu tambem sou de Luanda, embora tambem nao tenha nascido la', mas na Gabela, que tambem nunca conheci porque sai de la' aos dois meses de idade... E entao agora vive ca'?
- Ha' quanto tempo?
- Oh, ja' ha' muitos anos. Eu tenho uma filha de 15 anos que ja' nasceu ca', portanto esta' a ver...
- E entao esta' a fazer esta campanha por sua propria iniciativa, porque acredita nisso?
- E' aquela coisa do negro ajudar o branco e o branco ajudar o negro, sabe?...
- E comecou hoje, ou ja' ha' mais tempo?
- Nao, eu ja' venho fazendo isto ha' 6 meses. Aqui e no Hyde Park, no Speakers' Corner, mas ali eu nao gosto muito porque e' mais para a politica e a religiao...
Meanwhile a new crowd, this time comprising mainly young black women, started gathering again and perhaps encouraged by our conversation, also started addressing her. But... they were not as friendly as I had been: "Why are you doing this? Do you think you have the right to do this? You have a lot of explaining to do to me!... You are not even from this country (...apparently, they'd picked up a bit of our conversation...), but I was born here, I'm a native of this country and it wouldn't cross my mind to come up with something like this! I mean, "a natural blonde"? What are you talking about?!", shouted one, while others proceeded: "This woman is crazy, she is with the devil, she needs to go to church!... or it's the church that turned her into this!"
Well, at this point they started to become so aggressive towards her, talking (shouting!) all at the same time and moving closer and closer to her, that I felt compelled to intervene...
A long and heated discussion ensued, where I argued that "wrong as she could be, she had the right to express her views; this is a free country, where everybody has that right, why not her?" The girls argued back that "if she was brave enough to stand on Oxford circus holding such an offensive message she should be prepared to be confronted!", having one of them thrown this at her: "Look at you, you're black, carrying a plastic bag, your shoes are worn out as if there was no Top Shop right here... and you're standing here for a blonde princess in a country that's not even yours?!... Shame on you!"
And I said to this girl: - Look, I personally have a problem with black girls who permanently wear wigs and weaves like you do, yet I don’t feel that I have the right to attack you on the street because of that…
- But weaves are not offensive, she shouted back at me.
- They are offensive to me! I returned, while lifting my hat to show her my dreadlocks and adding: look, I wear my hair like this and for it I am often discriminated against, so I feel offended by black girls wearing weaves who then show ‘outrage’ on the face of a black woman arguing for a ‘natural blonde’!
- But my weave is black and my natural hair is black too!
- It doesn’t matter, I argued, you could be wearing a blonde weave or wig as many black women do just because you don't have the courage to show your natural hair and want to look white… it’s the same with white women dying their hair blonde. And to me it all amounts to the same thing that this woman is standing here for! Therefore, I don’t think that you have the 'high moral ground' to be attacking her in this way…
- But do you agree with her? Another one asked to me.
- No, I don’t and I regret what she is doing. In fact I think that she might have a mental health problem of some sort, because no one in their right mind would stand in Oxford Circus holding a message like this…
- So why are you defending her?! I don’t understand what your point is!
- My point is simply ‘leave the woman alone’! The message is not directed at you, so you shouldn’t be attacking her freedom of expression!
Well, the discussion went on and on, starting at some point to become really threatening, until I turned my back on them, saying "I don't play silly games with silly girls", and joined another conversation with a young white brunette, L., who told me that she was born in France of a North African mother and a Israeli father. She was also critical of the woman’s message calling it “narrow-minded” and “dangerous”, but this turned out to be a much more productive conversation between me, her and Maria de Jesus (that’s how my compatriot told me she is called) – it was L. who took the picture of the two of us illustrating this post.
Maria de Jesus’s main argument was to the effect that “if you want to be the Prime Minister or a member of the Cabinet in this country, it’s OK not to be white or blonde, but to be a member of the Royal Family it’s a different story, you have to preserve the royal lineage and have the same DNA as the country’s natives. It’s the same in Africa, China, or anywhere in the world where there is a Monarchy.”
Mas pelo meio da discussao com as raparigas negras, a Maria de Jesus so’ me dizia: “nao liga; essas sao umas sanzaleiras que nao entendem nada, eu ja’ estou habituada”!
No fim de tudo fiquei com pena da Maria de Jesus, porque – a menos que, como tambem admito como hipotese provavel, ela esteja de facto a ser paga para se prestar a esse papel ridiculo, especialmente com aquele chapeu de espantalho, por alguma organizacao de cidadaos brancos deste pais (e talvez mais provavelmente, de mulheres “louras naturais”…), ja’ que muitos sao os que defendem esse ponto de vista, mas nao teem a coragem de o expressar publicamente... mesmo perante o facto de haver muito poucos "louros naturais" neste pais e o proprio Principe William ser mais ruivo do que louro, sendo a ascendencia da sua Familia Real, onde tambem praticamente nao ha' "louros naturais", muito mais "nativa" do Imperio Austro-Hungaro do que destas Ilhas! –, ela deve ter mesmo problemas psiquicos e precisa de ajuda!
Uma coisa, no entanto, ficou registada na minha mente durante todo aquele episodio: de todas as pessoas que se manifestaram ultrajadas e ofendidas, a esmagadora maioria eram jovens negras usando tissagens de longos cabelos lisos artificiais… Sera' que todas elas acreditam secretamente que poderiam ser "elegiveis" para serem escolhidas pelo Principe William para suas noivas/esposas e aceites pela Familia Real Britanica e pelos seus subditos? I wonder...
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