So after all these years, I discovered that I am a real coconut. Black or brown on the outside, definitely white in the inside. I like coconuts, I really do, but I don’t think it’s a normal thing for a human to actually be one. People are not supposed to be tasty tree products for eating, by other people!
Some family members and friends around me have, ever since I can remember, spoke about the fight against racism in our real and daily life. Perhaps the conversation has started becoming more and more apparent since the beginnings of Facebook and social media. It was specially those who lived in western countries in Europe and the United States who spoke about it the most. For the longest time, my stance has been that we need to get out of the victim mentality that is overtaking us as Africans (and/or Arabs) since generations, and that it’s about time we stood up, stopped complaining and created our own new racist-free systems. By that I still stand with a lot of respect, for nothing should replace a moving forward attitude. More so if we’re speaking about people who live in Africa and in countries where racism is much less obvious in one’s face. This attitude it turns out, is not that easy to develop and there are legit reasons why.
When racism is much less obvious, it does not mean it doesn’t exist. In africa and the rest of the third world, as categorised by the international scale of economy, racism takes a localised shape injected by the ageing local regimes that continue to be politically manipulated and controlled by bigger economic political forces before, since and after the days of colonisation. On their part these local systems induce hate, fear, separation and desperation in their populations through the channels of their own language, and through their own spiritual beliefs. The third world citizen therefore, becomes a serious fan of whatever comes from the powers above, begins aspiring to the freedom and shiny abundant economic life available in the first world, advertised by the weapon of the media and the public discourse.
This is my story, friends. To be part of a better humanitarian situation in which women don’t have to cover their heads and the idea of being a man is not synonymous with all controling, oppressing and ugly, and to speak a language allowing of honest self expression, I chose to assimilate who I am, from a small age, with a more westernised personality. A personality envied and aspired to by the local population that perceives itself as less sophisticated, less educated and surely less populous. And that was the day my inner racist was born. I fell in love with English, learnt it in countable days and owned it without hesitation, because it gave me an edge, a feeling of superiority over my peers and even the grown ups. Just by speaking it, I could feel and relate to what a western, English speaking “educated” person is like.
Not to say that a western personality is by default a racist one, but it is to say that I have demonstrated a form of self-hate by loving and wanting to associate with the other before I wanted to associate with the local, arabic speaking, african feeling self. I was more proud of my ability to speak a foreign language of a superior place in our minds than to speak my own language. This is the mentality that got us all tricked into a situation where we are often weakened and exposed to what we know today as racism. I know so because I was praised many times, from the local and the western, for my ability to speak English as such, with this accent, and to think like a westerner in my liberal mentality that somewhere in the books of our virtual social library, is reserved to the west and has nothing to do with us the closed minded, the blindly religious, the uneducated, the less fortunate, the criminal and the poor.
Who wants to be all these bad things? who wants to be the uneducated or the less fortunate? No one in their right mind. And so I chose to become the open minded, multilingual, multi-cultural person who uses different faces of his persona in different situations depending on the need. But the one side of me that never left the driver’s seat, was the one that thought of freedom as a western concept. The one that looked at my own mother languages as less, as inferior and looked at all the reasons why it’s not cool, the one who looked at my own people as doomed and backwards and that only few of them will make it: those who have a cool westernised educated self, like myself. But of course, this is hard to admit, because like a white western person would hate to admit that they are racist, I would hate to admit it even more. I am after all, the local embodiment of the fairness and equality that we import from the west. I am the branch, and my job is to bring you to the other side, where there is freedom and boundless self exploration. If you refuse to come with me, then you’re just another looser waiting for your life to end in misery and endless whining about the “current situation”.
This is only a personal story, a story to say I think I know why after all these years, we still didn’t kill racism, why there are people out there who say it still exists. Why that after all these years, us third world classified people are unable to change our worldview and engage in real progress. It is because of this, because we are pretending that it doesn’t exist, we’re afraid of facing of our old ideas and beliefs that racism is a story of the past, that racism is not in ourselves. Racism is in you and me, wether you’re black or white, you have at some point, if not all your life, contributed to the system that fed you subtle beliefs about where you come from and your superiority or your inferiority in this world. Whichever side you chose to be on, you have contributed to racism on some level.