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AfroAsiatic Perspectives #7: So, Let's Shake Hands and

Make-up... Hell No..!


by Takuan Amaru

Back in 1997, the Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down in Los Angeles, California less than a year
after rival Tupac Amaru Shakur was slain in Las Vegas. This seemingly put an end to the recent
“East Coast vs.West Coast” duel that had been fueling in the hip hop community over the last
couple of years.

It was still almost a decade before Nas would release his controversial album, “Hip Hop is Dead”,
but for me, at that time, the hijack of Hip Hop was complete. Jay-Z and Eminem took over and I
bounced to Japan...

Before these tragic events unfolded, in the early 90s, I was a NYC Hiphop head to the core. In the
daytime, I assumed the mild mannered role of a social worker / youth advocate in the 'hood, but at
night-time and into the wee hours of the morning, I would step into the hip hop club scene. In the
90s, hip hop scenes in Manhattan still had some of that “Tru-Skool flava.” Certainly, by that time,
there were many “converts” to hip hop from other genres that were trying to kick it like they were
down way back from ever since, but if you knew where to go, and on which nights, some of that
original vibe still existed. I remember joints like “Buddah Bar”, “Don-Hills”, and “Soul
Kitchen”...places you didn't have to drink or puff, and still hit “your groove” all the same because
of the vibe...it was spiritual.

We considered ourselves to be “pros”; we barely went “clubbin” on Saturday night. Saturday was
dubbed “amateur night”; the night when all the “9 – 5”, run-down, run-of-the-mill suckers would
go out, get drunk and want to pick a fight...with anyone they caught their girlfriends checking out.
Sunday to Thursday were the nights to hit the club and congregate with “the folkz.”

After the assassinations of Tupac and Biggie, something changed. I remember feeling a force larger
than myself compelling and telling me it was time to pack up and go to the Far East. Being a
melanin-rich man also of Japanese heritage, I thought that going to Japan would be a sort of
pilgrimage back to my ancestors.

At that time, I never would have considered that my migration to Japan would end up leading me on
a spiritual / academic journey from Japan thru Korea into China, India and the whole of Asia before
going to the continent of Afrika and then...once again, back to the Americas (or Tameri – Incas), to
my original melanin-rich ancestors there.

Now, I live way out in a very mountainous region of Japan. I can almost go without seeing any
people at all if I so choose, so as you can probably imagine, I almost never run into any Europeans.
When I left the US, I wanted to get away from white people and western society, not because of any
hatred of “white devils”, but because I realized how entangled into the matrix everything was and I
needed to step out of it, take a deep breath, and get a totally unbiased look at my conception of “the
world” which had been almost totally constructed according to the western paradigm up to that
point.

Although, I have not been able to completely escape the “long arm of white supremacy” (i.e. it's a
global system), I have been able to experience a very diluted form where I have gotten a good look
at it “from the outside in” and therefore have been able to make some objective assertions about
western society, its adherents and...its victims.

When I first arrived in Japan, back in '98, I lived in a small town called Hamamatsu City.
Hamamatsu has the largest percentage of “foreigners” per-capita in Japan. These “non-Japanese”
people were mainly from Brazil, Peru, the Philippines, China and Korea. Since they were not
English speakers, it was cool living there. I actually spoke more Spanish than Japanese until my
Japanese level improved.

Back then, I considered Japan to be “my country” (and still do, but for different reasons). I was
determined to shed all things that reminded me of “western culture”, so I refused to shake hands
with any people, but especially white people whom I would happen to meet. For me, it also had to
do with wanting to respect and practice the culture of the land I was in; it seemed to be the “natural”
thing to do (i.e. when in Rome, do as the Romans do...). However, I became instantly aware of how
uncomfortable not only white people became, but any one who believed in the “west is best” (i.e.
white is right) archetype.

But especially those people who categorized themselves as “white.”

It seemed that they were were completely thrown off balance and didn't know how to deal with me.
Almost as if, for the first time, they had to treat me as an equal in their actions and deeds. It has
been said that the “handshake is an expression of equality”, but like much of the western media's
assault on critical thinking, this information also appears to be suspect and needs to undergo a “dis-
information” check, so to speak.

Why do white people feel so uncomfortable and insulted (take it personally) if a melanin-
rich person does not wish to participate in western customs, thinking or culture?

As we again approach the “Cold & Flu” season, I think it is appropriate for us to take a closer, more
critical look at one of the foundation rituals of western civilization.

The Handshake
“A handshake is a short ritual in which two people grasp one of each other's opposite hands and, in
most cases, is accompanied by a brief up and down movement of the grasped hands.” ~Wikipedia

If we just take a look at the definitions given to us by mainstream sources, then put them together
with a little historical fact and mix in some logic, a very interesting story soon unfolds.

More than just a custom, handshakes are regarded as a ritual. Social rituals have been used to create
a sense of group identity for tens of thousands of years. Rituals are symbolic in nature and may be
dictated by either a religion or culture of a particular community. Their most basic social function
is in expressing, fixing and reinforcing the shared values and beliefs of a society.

So, who's society's beliefs and values are we expressing, fixing and reinforcing? Ours?
A friend's? Or...an Enemy's??

In western psychology, the term “ritual” is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive
behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety; it is a symptom of
obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Is this why some people become visibly upset when I prefer to greet them with a bow (in Japan)
instead of a handshake? Perhaps they are suffering from a mental disorder...?

Some personal observations of this topic have informed me that shaking hands might not be the
most hygiene promoting custom. For example, how many men routinely leave public restrooms
without washing their hands? Thus, shaking hands strikes me as a relatively unsanitary gesture of
greeting. Considering the wide range of alternatives, how did the handshake come to be the
standard greeting in this society?

A study carried out by Professor Sally Bloomfield from the London School of Hygiene and
Chairman of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene, concluded that people who greet
each other with handshakes are very likely to pass on germs such as flu, cold and stomach bugs.
“The hands are critical in the chain of infection as they transmit infections from surfaces to people
and between people,” ~Prof Bloomfield
“The Europeans were able to conquer America not because of their military genius, or their
religious motivation, or their ambition, or their greed. They conquered it by waging
unpremeditated biological warfare.” ~Howard Simpson
Wherever the European had trod, death seems to pursue the aboriginal.” ~Charles Darwin

Most people have heard the stories of the Europeans who purposely passed out blankets to original
tribes of people that were infected with small pox. But Howard Simpson, in his quote above,
specifically refers to “unpremeditated biological warfare.” James W. Loewen, author of “Lies my
Teacher told Me”, says that 3 short years after the Europeans met the original Americans in the
New England area, over 90 percent were wiped out by what many historians have concluded to be a
combination of the bubonic plague, viral hepatitis, small pox, chicken pox, and influenza.

Hmm...how does this relate to the ritual of handshakes?

In every scene by western artists depicting an initial meeting between “settlers” and “indians” or
other “indigenous” people around the world, a “great” European man or group of men are shaking
hands with scantily dressed “natives.” The scenes that follow are marred with illness, death,
slavery, rape and the plundering of treasures, resources, etc.

It would seem more natural for us to have an aversion to shaking hands. Why have melanin-rich
people accepted this western ritual without so much as a passing thought?

Psychologically speaking, this is not logical...

Another similar, possibly related example is the symbol of “Jesus” being crucified on the cross.
Why do we see these symbols and rituals in a positive light?

“Show me a place where the white Jesus and the cross is accepted by the (melanin-rich) people,
and I will show you a story of rape, bloodshed, theft and murder.”
~Ashra Kwesi

Can the same be said of the handshake?

In closing, I just want to say that this is not about any boycott or movement to stop shaking hands
because if we look hard enough, like virtually everything else, we can probably find images
chiselled in stone on the great pyramids in Egypt or Angkor Wat of our ancestors who expressed
themselves using a variation of the modern, western custom. So rather, this is just another
invitation to think “outside of the box.” In other words, we need to think about why we think the
way we do... And who taught us to think, believe and feel as we do?

What are the meanings of all these cultural rituals many of us participate in regularly, particularly
during the “holiday season”? Do you even know? Do you care?
Are you out of your mind? And if so, more importantly, who's mind are you into..?

...Stay tuned for the 8th Edition of AfroAsiatic Perspectives...peace!

References:

http://itotd.com/articles/296/the-handshake/

http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/health/peck-on-the-cheek-is-healthier-than-
handshake_10012708.html

LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong: by
James W. Loewen