Racism: Where is the place for us?


27 November 2011

Two racially prejudiced reports broke out last week. The first one came out of a Mayor in the Western Part of Europe, from a country called Ireland that has one of the fewest numbers of black people in Europe.  Darren Scully, the mayor of Naas, a small town in the Republic of Ireland came out on the radio and said this:

I will not be representing black Africans in my consistency/county because they are aggressive and bad mannered people (22 Nov 2011).

This statement caused a huge uproar from pro immigrant and anti racism groups. He later resigned from his post but continued to be a councillor and member of his party.  Christine Bohan writing on the Guardian, considering his statements, the situation, and the economy the country, fears a social tension and unrest in the country. Like a time bomb. Thousands of people commented on local media supporting the mayor’s statement. In a surprising manner, the majority of the feedbacks were anti- black African sentiments that cannot be expected from a 21stcentury democratic and integrated society and nation, putting the  small number of black residents of the nation in total fear and vulnerability. Xenophobia against black Africans being legitimised by an elected state official. This is what they call “institutional racism” and ‘’racist state’’, Dominican Republic is a good example of State Racism , today’s Dominican Republic employs a de facto system of separatism for children and grandchildren of Haitians and black Dominicans, denying them birth certificates, education and access to health care. People living in a racist state can move to a non-racial state and claim protection under the 1951 UN Convention.

Last week (23 Nov 2011), news broke out. Relates to racism and insult. The Daily Telegraph reported this.

A top Russian female newsreader has offensively showed US President Barack Obama her middle finger during a live newscast.

The report states that Tatyana Limanova, an award-winning senior newsreader, REN TV was later sacked by the station. “On 14 November during the ‘News 24’ programme the presenter Limanova made an unacceptable gesture that was a synonym for an offensive expression,” it said in a statement. Although the station stated that her middle finger was not intended to the President but to her co-workers in the studio, the over 1523 Comments overtly showed the cover racism that remains undertone. Racism and bigotry were little evident in the mainstream media since the liberation movements of the 1960s and end of Apartheid in South Africa. Although it existed to a certain scale, it was not as glaringly rampant and public as it is now.

the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

In both the above cases, including our Ethiopia, aspects, and descriptions of the above definition has been portrayed.


The election of the first African American President, Barack Obama to lead the most powerful nation in the world, was considered by many as good event in ‘bringing integration’. It surely did so. However, as time went and his hype starts to die out, the covert feelings of people began to surface. Jews, blacks, Irish, Asians, and many more minorities have been victims of racism. The case of blacks is extreme. Division and hate based on the colour of the skin is the prime case of racism in today’s world. If you go to India, Ethiopia, and/or Western Europe the darker, the skin you have, the higher you experience racism and bigotry.

Since the first racist statements of Western philosophers such as Hume, Kant and Hegel, racism, and colour discrimination have enjoyed their place in the academic circles and public discourse. I would say, it is partly the role of these philosophers that has created this world of racism and superiority.

In the 19th century, the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel declared “Africa is no historical part of the world.” Hegel further claimed that blacks had no “sense of personality; their spirit sleeps, remains sunk in itself, makes no advance, and thus parallels the compact, undifferentiated mass of the African continent” (On Blackness Without Blacks: Essays on the Image of the Black in Germany, Boston: C.W. Hall, 1982). Scottish philosopher and economist David Hume said, “I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that complexion, nor even any individual, eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufacture among them, no arts, no sciences.”German philosopher Immanuel Kant stated: “The yellow Indians do have a meagre talent. The Negroes are far below them, and at the lowest point are a part of the American people.”  These illiterate and unphilosophical comments had planted their virus that gave basis for today’s nutters who come up with new versions of neo-hatism. Few black philosophers or writers have argued against these views.  The earliest philosopher and writer to write about the superiority of blacks was (Abu Uthman Amr ibn Bahr al-Kinani al-Fuqaimi al-Basri). The Afro-Arab author, aka Al-Jahiz (born in Basra, 781 – December 868/January 869) was an Arabic prose writer and author of works of literature, Mu’tazili theology, and politico-religious polemics. His books entitled Superiority Of The Blacks To The Whites, and Risalat mufakharat al-sudan ‘ala al-bidan (Treatise on Blacks) he explained why the Zanj were black in terms of environmental determinism and why and how blacks were superior to other races. Since then, many other writers, philosophers, and anthropologists wrote in the two extremes. Nevertheless, few had brought to the centre; integration, multiculturalism, interculturalism and globalised worldviews; new world order. The radical and extreme race debates have continued to win. Other sociologists and researchers have argued that cause of colonialism and racism is scarcity of resources. Colonisers or those in power treat the colonised or those who work under them as ‘subhuman’ in order to continue their hegemony.

Every nation and country has its relative own inter and intra ethnic racism and discrimination. Even within homogenous, one-coloured, one-cultured nations, racism lives. Immigrants and foreigners are discriminated and racially abused in many countries they live as blow in. NEVERTHELESS, the racism against blacks is incomparable by any standard. Although, there has been a decrease in level of racism worldwide since the Second World War, racism against blacks in both Africa and the West has not. Still it is mainly against blacks. However, why is it that racism is against us? There is no black dominated nation in the world that is likely to be a super power, in terms of economy, military, or intellectuals. The majority of us, blacks live under the poverty threshold. Why be afraid of us then, if fear emanates from the strength of the other (opponent). Why does one hate a powerless, unabusive, helpless, and poor one? The contemporary world, most of the extreme cases of racism has been recorded within Africa or Asia, all being against black people. Indeed, most Western states have been able to adapt themselves to an integrated and tolerant way of life with Africans. If there were racial tensions or acts, they were mostly between minority immigrants communities. The Western world had nurtured a democratic, humane treatment of all races and ethnics offering the best kind of justice system that has little race bias. Within this fairness and ‘equality’, black Africans continue to take the hard times. Even if it is there, the contemporary racism of the West are less detectable and hard to explore. When will the Congolese think like a Congolese, the Algerian like an Algerian, the Irish like an Irish and the German like a German than a black and white? When will this interrelationship of colour change into humanity, opinion, compassion, tolerance, equality, and respect? When will humanity be beyond colour? Inflated racism leads to endless war.

Where is the place for us?

Dawit Kebede, one of Ethiopia’s enduring and award winning journalists wrote his piece entitled “Candidly, Whose country is this?” before he was forced to seal his paper, Awaramba Times and fled last week. In the article, he says that in the absence of justice, democracy, and equality, citizens opt to leave their own country and live as foreigners in another man’s land. Whose country is this then? Who will feel ownership of it? Who has the right to govern and be governed? To whom do we leave this country and go? Whose country is this? Damn yes, whose country is Ethiopia? Whose country is the world? Who owns which land?

A journalist from the now defunct newspaper, Addis Neger, asked this same philosophical and fundamental question once. I ask myself that same question, whose country is Ethiopia, whose country is this European country that I am living in now? Whose country is each country?

A social policy expert once suggested to me during a conversation in a pub that all these things are social constructions. We constructed them to be so. It is a result of perceived social reality. Who created citizenship and when? This indistinguishable concept of citizenship resulted in dividing people according to races, class, and border, thus passports. Why should not there be such a thing as “Citizen of the planet” as none of us own any country and land? Well, had we this thing in our mind there would not have been a place for racism, I suppose.

Some part of it is yes a result of social constructivism however, principally; people of African origin have remained less of since the days of colonialism due to external conspiracies and their own faults. As HIM Hailesellasie said once the cause of racism is “economic inequality” and unless nations achieve equality and become better off, class based citizenship is scraped, there will be “war”.

Today, like yesterday, if you were of a different colour, say black, you would take the brunt of discrimination, racism, suspicion, bully, and what have you is racially discriminatory and disrespectful. The perpetrators would not know who you are, how wealthy you are, decent, elegant you are, educated you are, important you are to the peace of the world; they label you by the colour of your skin. When will this truly end?

 Supporters and members of the Meles regime in Ethiopia accuse freedom fighters in the Diaspora, as fake fighters who want to bring change sitting the cafes of Washington through their laptops. This metaphor is used to describe the West as the heaven for foreigners and had they been real fighters, they would have lived and fought from the bushes of Ethiopia like them. Nevertheless, they make a big mistake. Life in the West is not easy for a foreigner; those who live it know it. They do not know that fighting from the bush of your motherland is easier than the hustle and bustle of the West. Fighting for a change from a distant place, the West is much tougher and hard than fighting from the bushes of the homeland.

We have left Ethiopia to those who think Ethiopia is theirs because they won the battle and hold the keys of leadership. People who are not from the ethnic group of the ruling regime find themselves as second and third citizens in their own ancestors land/ planet of humans. If you are treated as an alien in your own birthplace, you chose to relocate and be a second citizen in another man’s land that you deem would be better than the original. What would you say when this second country of sanctuary that you went to dehumanizes you in turn just because you are of a different colour. Where is the place for us??? Where should we live without bigotry? Where is the best place for a black person? Should we/I fight for the liberation of my/our poor country or the equality and respect of blackness?  Which one precedes?

 I believe that white men should be white, yellow men should be yellow, and black men should be black in the great panorama of races, until each and every race by its own initiative lifts itself up to the common standard of humanity, as to compel the respect and appreciation of all, and so make it possible for each one to stretch out the hand of welcome without being able to be prejudiced against the other because of any inferior and unfortunate condition. (The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey or Africa for the Africans, 1923).

I am planning to relocate. Please people; help me in finding a place where I will not be bigoted due to my colour or opinions. Recommend me a place of relative egalitarianism!!!