‘Sale pute’, ‘nigga’!! These were the words he threw at us. I was fuming with so much anger it took a lot of strong will to keep me from acting. I looked at him, in his work clothes and told myself it was coming from an illiterate person. That I can excuse, but only to a certain extent. As I continued walking towards campus, still angry, I asked myself how much longer I was going to put up with this attitude. I hardly go out without being whistled at, or given doses of insults. Why? Because of my race. Yes, I am a black girl. So what? I am a human being and that’s the most important thing.
Why should I be judged because of the colour of my skin? Why is my potential measured on the basis of my race? Why do I get stared at? Why does one see the black person in me before acknowledging the human being that I am? Why are my potentials rated based on my race? Why do the only friends I have belong to MY RACE? Why can’t I live freely and not be discriminated against because of the colour of my skin?
We live in a world where we all talk about how civilized and modern we have become. Yeah, living in the 21st century and all that. What I saw today re-ignited the occasional feeling I have, that we are not really far from the Stone Age. When I get racist remarks directed at me from illiterate people, I treat the situation with some amount of leniency. I tell myself it is as a result of ignorance and illiteracy; but even with that there are limits. Those remarks do not really bother me because I tell myself that if they had an education, they would have acted in a different way. However I have come to learn that ignorance is not an ally to illiteracy alone. A whole lot of people with an education that’s the size of the world, tonnes of degrees and a high social status disappoint me by some of their actions. When racial discrimination is practised by ‘literate and educated’ people, it becomes shocking. A pathetic situation. A disappointment. Why? This is because we expect more from these people who claim to be ‘EXPOSED’. We expect them to be more tolerant, open and welcoming to people that are different. These differences could be cultural, physical, ethnic, racial etc. The last, being the subject of this piece of writing.
I expect people that attain a certain degree of education to THINK rationally and assess their words before letting them out, as they never know what consequences they might have on others. This, especially when talking about a delicate subject. I’ve tried hard to be strong whenever I am served with doses of racism. I tell myself that it exists everywhere, whether mild or harsh. Yes, even in my homeland. When one makes a racist remark and yet points out that he/she is not racist, I ask myself if the act is intentional. Scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed, that was exactly what I saw. What made it worse for me was the fact that it came from someone I respected. Someone I didn’t expect to make such remarks. I ask myself if the simple act of adding that you are not racist, to a ‘completely racist statement’ changes anything. Does it change the disappointment felt by the readers of your words, who feel they are the direct targets of your statement? Does it change the meaning of the words already written? Do you stop to think of the effects your words might have on these people?
People that find themselves outside their homelands already have a problem adjusting to the foreign culture and way of life. They try hard to fit in. They yearn to be accepted as the human beings they are. The last thing they need is discrimination from their hosts. If they had a choice, they would stay in their home countries, among their family and friends. If they had a choice, they would stay in a place where they are accepted and respected. If they had a choice, they would live their lives without having to worry about being cast-away because of their race. If they had a choice, they would live in a place where they wouldn’t even realise that the colour of their skin is different from others. If they had a choice, they would benefit from the same privileges and opportunities as everyone else. They leave their home countries in pursuit of work, education and a whole lot more. It might not be a very smooth road, but when it is intentionally made rough, it hurts.
‘A change in attitude is what we need.’ This, we have heard over and over again. How many of us actually put these words into practice? How many of us take time to understand people we see as ‘different’? How many of us extend that welcoming hand to a stranger? How many of us stop to think about the impact our words will have on people? How many of us feel we are superior to others, basing our judgement on the colour of our skin? We fail to realise that the only Superior being is Allah. We need to acknowledge human beings for what they are worth. The world needs to rise up against all these unnecessary distinctions. Discrimination has to go. Racism has to go. Only then will we realise the real worth and potential of a person. Only then will we allow ourselves to give people an opportunity to make themselves heard. Only then will we realise that indeed ‘united, we stand and divided, we fall’.
I’ve put this away for some time now. Today I feel it’s the right time. I’ve tried hard to ignore this phenomenon but we all know there are limits to the things we can handle. I hope people learn from this and accept other people as they are. The nice ones get to discover that those people who are judged wrongly from the first meeting turn out to be people that are worth remembering for the rest of their lives. Take note.