Why the Use of “Mama, Papa, Sister, and Brother” Might Decrease Violence in the Black Community

So as most of you know, I am in Cameroon and have been here for about 3 months at this point. If you didn’t know, I am a student at Spelman College completing my study abroad this semester. This has been a very eye opening and interesting experience.

While walking down the street, I am greeted by many Cameroon women as “ma fille” (my daughter), by older Cameroonian men as “ma fille”, and by younger Cameroonians as “ma soeur” (my sister). I also encounter many women that will stop me just to talk, or to tell me that my shirt is untucked, my book bag open, or some other small thing. These men and women always greet me with a smile and I just get a warm feeling from them.

I have a homestay mother, sister and brother. This is very interesting and different for me because I have never had siblings and I have not lived in a household with a mother figure consistently every day for about 7 years at this point (my mother passed away when I was 13). Although I have mother figures (shout out to Little Foot), I forgot what it was like to actually live with a mother figure 24/7. This woman took me in from the first night and has legitimately been everything like a mother to me. Her mother who I affectionately call Supreme Mama, greets me, kisses and hugs me like I am her own grandchild.

I have been well integrated into the community that surrounds me. I can test the success of that every day on my walks to and from school because I have about 6 people that I speak to every morning. Sometimes I even stop and talk to them for a while. When I leave to go on 2 week excursions to other parts of the country and these 6 people do not see me for a while, I always here “Ma fille, tu etais ou?” (My daughter, where were you?). That kind of love and genuine interest from strangers is something that I have very rarely felt in the United States.

So here is my theory…

I think that because of what these people call each other every day influences how they interact and the violence level of the country. For example, I have been in this country for 3 months and watched the news almost daily, there are rarely, if at all, reports about purposeful murder. I use the word “purposeful” because a lot of times the killings that do happen are due to motorcycle or taxi accidents. Most of the news is about development issues, health concerns, and promotions for the local culture.

It was amazing to me because the early morning, morning, midmorning, midday, midafternoon, evening, and late night news is often saturated with murder, death, and destruction. I have no excuses to make for the United States because Cameroon has over 250+ ethnic groups, and 280 languages. If that is not some serious diversity, I have no idea what is. I cannot even talk about corruption in the government because I mean at least the Cameroonian government is very open with its corruption (by the way that is a topic for another blog post).

With all of these “problems” that Africa and Cameroon are supposed to have, why is it that if you take away the civil unrest, the day to day Africans are not walking around arbitrarily killing each other like we are in the United States. I know that the black community is trying to push for us to refer to each other as kings and queens but I prefer sister. This is because there is power in the language.

Think about the language. Like really think about it. King and queens historically have been distant from their populations and seen as people that are almost godlike. I am not saying that we are not godly, but what I am saying is that, using the words “King” and “Queen” does not denote family or familial ties. For example, what am I Queen of and how does my queendom relate to the next king or queen? If you say my sister, my brother, mama or papa then that would put more pressure on people psychologically to see their fellow man as their family and equals. Not as someone to be in competition with.

Also, the terms King and Queen, for me, makes me think that you have to be on a high horse and fit some sort of expectation of what a King or Queen should be. With the term brother or sister, you do not have the pressure to be perfect because how many of your brothers and sisters are perfect?

(If you answered mine to that question, leave this page and reevaluate the humans as a species)

Overall, I think that we as a people need to see each other as being just as connected as the global economy and stop thinking that what we do individually does not impact the group. Especially when you have the world grouping you by individuals anyway. Why not take what was once a negative and make it a positive?

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