This article is a follow-up to “Maybe the Racist Just Needs to Know More about the Next Race”
In my previous article, I shared with you the story of Gabriela and Harold. In case you missed it, here is a very brief recap! An ever enlightening experience was gained as we, Gabrielė, Haroldas and I, had a good time in Lorca, Spain one beautiful night. We had an extensive discussion on stereotypes and racism and how all lives matter.
I have come to know that the fact that a word is often used does not necessarily mean its users fully grasp it. So let’s attempt to understand racism. A simple Google search shows it is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. The underpinning idea is that one’s race is better than another. Note that a race is not necessarily a group of people having the same skin colour but a group of people having distinct physical characteristics, history, culture etc.Nevertheless the form of racism most prevalent is that which is based on skin colour.
Racism has been one of the cruellest ideologies in the history of mankind. We know of the Holocaust– the systematic extermination of European Jews during the period of World War II (1939-1945). In fact, there were racist ideologies dispersed about during the First World War. According to Robert Zaretsky, German thinkers “were especially revolting in their remarks about France’s ‘coloured auxiliaries’ [and] their French peers proved particularly subtle in the suborning of science for racist ends.” Germans were described by the French as a ‘dreadful race’ and people having ‘a peculiar, powerful odour’ and ‘special lice’. In Africa we can talk of the South African Apartheid, the Genocide in Rwanda, and other ethnic cleansing campaigns. There are numerous across the world. We hear of xenophobic attacks in South Africa. When I consider the discussions among some sections of the Ghanaian population about our Nigerian friends, I can only conclude that we have elements of racism in there.
But how can we deal with this problem? I ended my previous write-up suggesting that one way racism can be dealt with is by learning about other races. It is not only for adults to learn; children too must be taught about racism. Ibram Kendi, the founding director of the Antiracist Research Center at American University has stated that “If [a] child does not learn about the real world of racism, then they’re more likely going to become a practitioner of racism.”
I also think it is very necessary for members of minority groups who interact with other races to recognise the fact that they represent their respective races. In most cases, minority groups are victims of racism: like people of colour in America and Europe, and Blacks in the Middle East. The action or inaction of one Black person can easily be used to represent all blacks. White folks do not generally stand significant risk of experiencing negative generalisation based on the conduct of just one of them. Therefore, anger, disrespect or unfaithfulness from one black man can be generalised as the anger, disrespect or unfaithfulness of black people. I am not oblivious of the fact that we are equally human and are entitled to every emotion there is. I am only stating that our peculiar circumstance calls for circumspection on our part.
I conclude with the words of Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, “Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.”