Monday, January 07, 2008

Racism and prejudice

I sent the following comment to BBC Worldhaveyoursay

Racism still exists in many countries despite attempts to eradicate it through different means including education. Colour still matters despite personal merits. This has to do with inherited attitudes. Many words have become culturally sensitive like “nigger”, which for some is a term used to insult black people.

In Europe, black players were protesting against racist attitudes on the stadiums from the spectators. Some of them like Thierry Henry threatened to go on strike. There were incidents in Spain when the spectators imitated monkey sounds to irritate black players.

There are countless incidents in which racist attitudes have raised controversy, especially when it comes from or directed at celebrities. During 2006 World Cup, Jean-Marie Le Pen called for a French football team which shouldn’t include foreigners, as an allusion to the French players Like Zidane who were of Maghreban and African origins.

It’s rather stupid to judge personal merits on race. When teams of the same colour play, they attribute their results to competence. But when an international match (among players of different continents or countries) is played, racist explanations are sometimes used to account for the results. Players are alluded to racially and not as sports people. If sport fails to eradicate racism through fair competition, it’s likely the echo of racism will continue to resonate on other levels, be it social, political or economic.

Racism is a sad reality. But it shouldn’t flourish to the point of causing deep tensions or having cities turning in flagrantly racially distinct areas that no-go for people from other races.

People suffering from racism should keep their self-esteem. I still remember a statement by former US Secretary Colin Powel. He was asked on CNN by Larry King on how he had coped with racism at the military academy at his young age. He wisely responded that racism wasn’t a problem for him. It was the problem of the racist. Perhaps those who suffer from racism should throw the ball at the court of the racists. And leave it at that. Confronting ignorant racists will just make them linger with more attitudes based on hatred and contempt rather than logic.

My comment was responded to by a contributor VictoK:

Abdelilah: was it chance alone that caused you to limit your examples of racism to Western countries?

The racism of the Arab world is much worse. Let me give you a few instances: the systematic exploitation of ‘guest workers’ from south Asian countries, who cannot - as in the West - hope to become citizens of the gulf states which their labour enriches. The united front presented by the Arab League in defending the racist and genocidal Sudanese government against the possibility of UN sanctions and/or military intervention, while denying the genocidal character of the situation in Darfur. The racist caricatures of Condoleeza Rice that have appeared in newspapers across the Arab world. The continued enslavement of Africans in Sudan and Mauritania. The anti-African riots that took place in Libya a few years ago, during the course of which several Africans were murdered by Libyan racists. The entire history of Sudan over the past 1000 years, which has been a successful race-based Jihad by Arab invaders against the indigenous African population. The evident policy of Arab countries to exempt whites from serious punishment for crimes committed under Sharia law, but to apply the law mercilessly to non-whites (when did you last hear of a European or American being flogged or executed in Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else in the Arab world? We can all remember the risibly light sentence - together with a new bed, courtesy of the Sudanes government - given to the teacher in the Muhammed teddy bear affair). The hysterical anti-semitic (perhaps it would be less confusing to write ‘anti-Jewish’) racism directed against Jews in all Arab countries, and the increasing popularity of anti-Jewish propaganda from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to more recent stuff of Nazi vintage. The oppressive treatment of Copts in Egypt (who are not Arabs, being the descendants of Egypt’s original Pharaohnic population )

I could go on. Yet you could only think of examples of racism drawn from France, Spain and the US? Part of the power of racism stems from the eagerness of many people to deny its existence in their own countries and cultures. Arabs are prime offenders in this respect.

This is my response to his comment

To VictorK,

My comment about racism was general. I didn’t seek to focus just on the West. I just used racism in the West as an example as the debate was set off based on an incident between Australians and Indians and the relationship between Indians and black people.

I tried just to limit my example s of racism. As I said there are countless of incidents of racism. It is true that racism exists everywhere, including the Arab world. Even the Arabs can exercise racism on each other based on nationality. In the Gulf States, all the workers are subject to cases of inhuman treatment, be it Arabs or Asians. In Kuwait total population is 2.4 million with 800,000 Kuwaiti citizens 1.5 guest workers and 100,000 Bidoon are without Kuwaiti nationally although they have been in Kuwait for decades. Neither they nor their offspring born in Kuwait are considered Kuwaiti citizens. They’re commonly called in Kuwait Bidoon which in Arabic means ‘without nationality’. This is in my view worse than racism as this category doesn’t legally have equal rights of the rest of the population. In Europe, at least people born from migrant parents are granted citizenship, although they are left to face racial attitudes that can’t be controlled by the force of the state. Westerners living or travelling in Arab countries are relatively respected because of the power of their governments that can forcefully intervene in case of harm to them.

It seems that racism has no borders. It’s everywhere. It has to do with people who historically were organised as tribes from very early times. Tribalism still has its residue in its people which manifests itself in nationalism, regionalism, which can be OK. But at worst, it manifested itself in racism. Sometimes names make one take attitudes falsely. In your case, reading a comment by a person called Abdelilah was a stir for you to respond on the Arab origin of the name without having met the owner of the name in person. That is also one of the reasons that makes people come to make judgements based on stereotypes.

3 comments:

Looney said...

Indeed, racism is everywhere.

About 450BC, Herodotus did a survey of attitudes of the ancient world and noted difference which were honorable and those which were dishonorable, along with those that were simply differences. In the case of Babylon, the dishonorable was the requirement that all young women engage in temple prostitution before they can be married. What Herodotus considered honorable was that they taxed the wealthy to help provide a dowry for the unlovely so they could get married.

The racist focuses on what he dislikes, whether real or imaginary. Multiculturalism, on the other hand, seems to say that all is good and honors everything equally. Like Herodotus, I always think that there is something good and honorable in each culture that should be what we put our focus on, but there are also things to be avoided. A positive focus is what I hope for, but maybe this isn't possible.

Abdelilah Boukili said...

Thanks Looney for your comment. Multiculturalism in the USA seems to me double edged.While it helps the Americans to have a broader view of life, racists narrows it to the level of superiority-inferiority squabbles. The same applies to the rest of the world that has become a small village in terms of communication. But the gap seems to be widening because of misconceptions of the other.

BTW I liked the first part of your comment which shows that despite the passing of time some old concepts still have a stronghold in modern thinking.

MadameMonet said...

Abdelilah,

I agree with you that racism is in every country.

Madame Monet
Writing, Painting, Music, and Wine
winewriter.wordpress.com