Mercy on a soul in turmoil
I don’t know what you think or feel whenever you hear or say racism. Don’t you hear the tone of violence as you pronounce the word? Don’t you notice the voice penetrating my heart, and making me want to seek justice in any quick way available? But we must tarry a little, for I’d rather we pity such a soul in turmoil, and not venom for venom though it may be appropriate in some circumstances. Then who exactly is a racist?
A German man called Alex W. was sentenced to life imprisonment on November 11 for stabbing to death a pregnant Egyptian woman, Marwa al-Shebini, 32, in a Dresden courtroom. Before the killing, it was alleged that Alex had insulted her for wearing the Islamic headscarf. In the same month, Hungarian media reported that an African footballer with a popular club was brutally attacked by some disgruntled youths known as skinheads.
On July 2007, Mézöly Kálma, a Hungarian Football Federation official, was also quoted as saying, “I do not know why our football body allows Africans who just came down from the tree to play football in Hungary”. Although Mr. Kálma later apologised after intense condemnation by fellow Hungarians, the deed has been done.
In June, Polish priest Tadeusz Rydzyk was reported to have said to a black missionary during a pilgrimage: "Look, he hasn't washed at all." Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, according to Earth Times, is on record as having joked to colleagues that US President Barack Obama had a Polish connection because "his grandfather ate a Polish missionary." Mamadou Diouf, founder of the Africa Another Way Foundation, says nobody monitors the racial situation in Poland, where people use expressions like, "a hundred years behind the blacks," and shrug off similar comments as jokes.
Zaragoza football fans once displayed such warped mind when they hurled a torrent of racial abuse at Samuel Etoo, African born former Barcelona striker and formerly third best FIFA World Player of the year. England’s black players received the same treatment during a friendly soccer game against Spain in Madrid. The same tasteless incident also occurred in England where a Blackburn Rovers supporter was fined one thousand pounds and banned from football grounds for five years for racially abusing black player Dwight Yorke.
It appears some people still bend on exhibiting uncultured behaviour towards fellow beings; some are still ignorance of a wave of globalisation swirling around human race. Otherwise, why should the colour of one's skin matters so much for such mental torture in an era when EU (European Union) policy centred on Respect for one another! Players often wear the badge in their arms.
So, the colour of my skin still matters in this age of globalisation? The EU Policy is probably the most comprehensive package in the world for anti-discrimination laws to protect people from being discriminated against on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, sex or sexual orientation. The pro-diversity laws were agreed by all EU countries in 2000 which invariably means that all 27 countries in the EU today are required to incorporate these rules into their national laws.
The killing of pregnant Shebini; the behaviour of Spanish fans; the sarcasm of Polish priest and Polish Foreign Minister etc, definitely re-kindle the social and religious attitude that made slavery possible in those days. Their joyous anti-African sentiments echo and then transcend the value system that takes whiteness to be the human norm. Such anti-diversity infringement is against the axiom wisely coined by the EU "For Diversity…Against Discrimination."
The history of racial prejudice is what could simply be described as offensive, tear jerking and sorrowful. In colonial America, thousands of African slaves served whites under what was then regarded as colour segregation. There was the Ku Klux Klan, a secret society of white southerners in the United States, who believes that the world will become over-populated with African-Americans, Hispanics, and Jews. It’s unbelievable that such thought still exists today. Example is the proclamation by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to wipe off Israel is antithesis of civilisation. Such intense hatred is least expected of a leader.
There was also a notable history of slavery in Canada in 1700s when more than half of all Canadians were aboriginals. Anti-Semitism was pervasive in the late 19th and early 20th century when many Germans and Austrians accepted a form of racism towards Jewish people. There were race riots across the United Kingdom in 1919. Racial segregation known as apartheid existed in South Africa between 1948 and 1990. Even today there are many youths across the world calling themselves skinheads, who simply do not believe in diversity.
However, racial discrimination seems to me a very sensitive and controversial issue. I am aware that some people treat others as inferior, or believe that they are inferior, because they belong to a particular race. Yet we need to be very careful in our efforts or in our haste to expose such a warped, perverted mind. We should also endeavour not to confuse collective and individual attitudes in this case. It’s highly necessary to distinguish racial or any form of discrimination from the ordinary bad mood. I shall expatiate on this shortly.
I suppose the concept of racism should be strictly treated as individual malaise even though I’d never understand why someone thinks or feels superior to another – on racial ego. Isn’t it logical to judge people because of their character rather than the colour of their skin? Geographically, I am an African. Does this give me any disposition as to regard myself better than my European counterparts on racial fallacy? Or vice-versa! It makes sense to some people though.
Now, what could make someone you definitely know is a racist denies being a racist? Does this mean a racist is conscious that such behaviour is anti-social and unintelligible, but incorrigible? So a racist feels the heat and knows the absurdity in hating purely on racial term? Again, who is then a racist?
Is it the elderly lady whom you met at a supermarket, and who stared at you, then squeezed her face when your eyes met hers? Could it be your personal body odour she detested and not you as a person? Perhaps she would have reacted in the same manner to Kate or Lászlo, who belongs to her race. If the assumption is right, wouldn’t it be unfair then to label the woman a racist?
Or a white clerk at the post office who in a rude manner, asked a black customer to shut up his mouth while singing on the queue. Could it be that this clerk was simply being impolite or was just having a bad day? Maybe she could have used insulting language to people of her race in the same circumstance. What of that young lady who hurriedly departed her seat as soon as you sat beside her in the library? Perhaps her departure was only a coincidence. Maybe she had wanted to vacate the seat before your arrival.
Hum, what should we call a club owner who refused entry to dark skin people just because the police were looking for three dark skin persons the previous night? I wonder if this club owner would have refused entry to all white people had the police were looking for three white men. What of Online TV editor, Tamás Polgár, who once stirred controversy in Hungary by declaring publicly that he simply hated interracial marriage? Although I would never understand this line of thought but does the TV editor in question not have the right to express his thought?
How about a couple – my neighbours – who frowned at me for being in the same lift? Maybe this couple had planned to smooch inside the lift and the presence of a third person – dark or white skin – would definitely disturb them. What sense does it make had I jumped into conclusion portraying them as racists? I have heard an African brother calling a white woman a racist simply because she refused his advances. This is why we must be cautious in dealing with racism.
The point I am making is simple. A white person neither would think of my neighbours as racists nor the young woman in situations I have mentioned. This is because your own race can never accuse you of being a racist. And that seems to be the hidden puzzle.
By the way, a racist – if indeed a racist – seems to have a legal advantage over the victim. Although Emmanuel Obikwu and Zaina Ukwaju got £65,475 and £30,000 respectively for unfair dismissal and racial discrimination, many cases of racism are being dismissed for lack of evidence or substance. In March 2002, a British white teenager, Robert Stewart, killed his cellmate, Zahid Mubarek, an Asian. Despite the fact that staff had intercepted a racist letter from Stewart before killing Zalid, prison authority still considered Stewart only dangerous and not racist.
Yet, X calling Z a racist does not necessarily mean Z is a racist in the actual sense. X of course might be suffering from a preconceived opinion. I mean the notion that he or she is actually a victim of racism no matter what. Now let us assume a dark skin man or woman actually did something wrong and was rebuked by a white person, I would rather we talk about the wrong doing instead of treating the issue under the false pretence of racism. The danger that lies behind such pretence could backfire on those who are being discriminated against: the actual victim of racism.
Well, anyone who had encountered racism in its ugly form would probably agree with me that it is a kind of force that paralyses the thinking faculty – of the victim. It boils the mind to the point of paroxysm pushing one to take the offensive. It resembles a situation whereby you feel your life is in total danger of a sworn enemy. Unless one has strong mind, and thus regards a racist as absolute dimwit, one is bound to commit atrocity.
It doesn’t matter whether such action is justifiable or not. The venom from a racist mouth or gesture is like a tingle in the body in which you experienced a pang of sadness due to his use of directness, poetic hatred penetration that compels response. The worst kind of racism is probably the one you encountered from the law enforcement departments or officers. Take for example, you are being attacked by some disgruntle elements who are whites. The police arrived at the scene, did nothing to help. Just imagine the trauma.
Or a situation when you had an accident – though not life threatening – and a Samaritan called both the ambulance and the police. On arriving at the scene, the police told the ambulance not to take you to the hospital. Or a situation when you had a brawl with your white neighbours and you sustained bloody injury, yet it was you that was handcuffed and taken to the police station. Not to mention a situation when the police officers made grim jokes about your race.
Such primitive attitude should be regarded as a mental sickness. What grasp of logic could anyone present for hating fellow beings on race card? It simply doesn't make sense and if it doesn't make sense let's throw it away. Again, we shouldn’t treat this sensitive issue collectively. I think it’s wrong to say that Hungarians or Germans or Polish are racists. We should endeavour not to lump people together in this matter. Even though ethnic origin, according to Euronews, accounts for 61% of job discrimination in the EU ahead of age, sex and disability, I passionately believe racism is an individual thing.
Upon all, the question right now in my mind is whether there could possibly be a positive discrimination? The other time I went to the town hall to validate my address which I needed urgently, the officer in charge realising my difficulty in filling the paper (Still having some difficulties with Hungarian), went the extra mile to help me. In short, the process that should take ten days only took two hours. Do I need to say anything further? That single rattling event almost erased previous unpleasant experiences with “racism”. It was like kissing joy as it flew by.
And finally, next time you encounter racism, just pity such a sick mind rather than show anger. For me, that seems to be the efficient way to teach her civility. And always remember that no one can actually make you feel inferior without your consent. I trust we would all embrace the wisdom behind "For Diversity…Against Discrimination." Yes, diversity is the only avenue for us to understand one another better. It’s probably our last hope.