Racism has grown exponentially since it was invented in Asia and Europe before being exported to other places. Globally, it also has precipitated problems almost in all aspects of contemporary life economically, politically and socially. Racism has become another global pandemic that needs to be addressed.
I decided to write this piece after one teacher in my locality kindly questioned and satirically addressed racism as an endemic and systemic global and local problem. The person was asking if white people might be racist consciously or unconsciously based on how they view some of us who were not born in the West, and if we did, we’ve more melanin than our hosts who see us as foreigners because of that.
Two things, inter alia, defined this phenomenon in the year 2020 as far as global racism is concerned. Before the two occasions, racism was there but no collective world efforts were ever exerted against it. The two things that redefined racism globally are COVID-19 and the death of an American, George Floyd, in Minnesota in the US resulting from endemic and systemic police brutality and racial discrimination.
The Black American movement known as Black Lives Matter (BLM) that has been active for a long time became bold and vocal, crossing borders and becoming a world phenomenon. It is only in Africa where BLM does not exist simply because Africans do not discriminate white or brown people. In South Africa however, blacks discriminate against their black brethren.
Floyd was killed by a white cop, Derek Chauvin, simply because he was allegedly black despite other things connected to his case. I’m using the word allegedly because we can’t for a fact say that the motive behind this brutal death was the pigment of the colour of the victim, especially if we underscore the fact that there are some narratives that the two knew each other. Circumstantially though, the colour of the victims is the motive simply because such killings have been replicated in many places on black people in the west where the authorities seem to turn a blind eye to this recidivism. We don’t know if Floyd did actually commit any offence, for, no court did look into his matter. He thus died an innocent person under the presumption of the innocence as guaranteed by the law locally and internationally.
Up until now, we don’t know if Floyd, if he were white, would have died in the same manner he did. Again, we rely on the examples of others who died in the same manner in the hands of the same white cops in the US and elsewhere. Similarly, we don’t know if Chauvin would have done what he did if he was black. We don’t know how Chauvin felt when he was squeezing life out of Floyd. Looking at many clips that surfaced after Floyd’s death, we can comfortably posit that his colour––not the offence[s] he is alleged to have committed, if there’s any––was the root cause of his heartless and despicable death.
As for COVID-19, it came to light that blacks and other minority are likely to die in bigger numbers than whites in the west in general. This shows how endemic and systemic racism is as far as the pandemic is concerned. Bibbins-Domingo (2020) notes that Black males were 4.2 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than White males and Black women were 4.3 times more likely to die than White women in the UK. These risks do not apply to Black ethnicity alone. For, people of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, and Mixed ethnicities also had statistically significant raised risk of death involving COVID-19 compared with those of White ethnicity.
I don’t know how the situation is in Africa when it comes to COVID-19 deaths along colour lines. On colour politics, before the eyes of white racist, whoever is not white is black. Some have added another qualification based on their black-white duality namely, people of colour that includes all who are not white.
Essentially, the above observation is representative of the real situation almost in everything, as prior noted, be it economic, political and social. If anything, this is a colonial legacy the world has made do with for many decades. Considering the nature of racism in this context, one can start understanding what it means to either be black or white as it was socially constructed in the west for the purpose of bullying and exploiting non-white. I’ve italicized white simply because it is a social construction aimed at empowering one and disempowering others. For, white is snow, milk and the likes but not otherwise as far as my myopic lens is concerned. Disclaimer, the author of this piece doesn’t know if he is colour blind or not. Importantly, he’s sure he is colour conscious just like anybody else save that he might be unconscious of being a racist just like some of racists.
Historically and realistically, racism is the product of universal collective ignorance and perpetual mental diseases be they personal or systemic. We can point at collective Delusional Disorders, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Paranoia, psychosis among other mental ailment associated with racism behaviours. Let me offer an exemplification revolving around a metaphor in order to simplify and put it in the context. Critically look at a cow, dog or goat even a rabbit. Ask yourself. Do they smell putrid? Do they brush their teeth every morning like humans do? Do they shower every now and then compared to human beings? Do we discriminate against them? To know who’s superior in this scenario, forget about what’s inculcated in your heads through colonial and criminal education. Are we better than other creatures? Who’s destroying the world today comparably? Do insects need us to live or vice versa; not to mention other nonhuman creatures we, out of our ignorance, like to refer to as beasts?
Just imagine what would happen if humans and animals above exchanged their lifestyles. Who would be who? It is obvious that animals are superior to humans when it comes to living without depending on sanitary services. Again, because of sickness of the mind, racists don’t compare themselves with those they discriminate. They forget that we’re who we are not because of our abilities to be who we’re. Racists, because of the disease of the mind, don’t know or concur to the fact that our differences are not human engineering as racism is but are beyond our abilities, choices and control.
Why is it possible to discriminate against the human like yourself but not against an animal that isn’t closely related with you? Don’t people love animals more than their fellow humans simply because of colour differences? Can sane people do this without realizing that such a take is ridiculous, inhuman; and openly testifies to mental sickness and ignorance?
Animals of the same species do not discriminate against each other. Elephants will cooperate to protect one of their own who is vulnerable. Buffaloes will do the same when they see a lion or face any threat. We need to love and educate racists. We need to love, assure and educate them so that they can release their fear and ignorance. I think this approach would be more constructive and peaceful than other violent means. At the end of the day, both the perpetrators and victims become the victims of racism however in different manners. They all face the same dilemma when it comes to lack of peace and insecurity resulting from racism. Underscoring this fact, we, as advanced, civilized and modern humans need to come together to fight racism as a disease and a sign of ignorance of each other.
By Nkwazi Mhango
Mhango is a lifetime member of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador (WANL) and author of over 20 books among which are Africa Reunite or Perish, 'Is It Global War on Terrorism' or Global War over Terra Africana? How Africa Developed Europe and contributed many chapters in scholarly works.