Colour, Creed and Caste – Part 1

By Abdulhussain Tejani

(Dubai, UAE)

Would we adopt a colored child? Would we allow our sons or daughters to have a mixed marriage? Would you allow a person that is culturally different to you to lead you at a communal level?

A lot of us might answer yes immediately but deep down our stomachs may be churning. The topical aspect of racism, whilst staring at us in the face, is an age-old disease that has permeated into societies across the world.

One does not need to point fingers as we are all guilty of it in some form or the other.

As a label, it seems and feels wrong. However, the systemic indoctrination of such biases, deliberately or inadvertently from when we are children lends to our psyche accepting it without realizing it as so, until it is too late.

Racism is the belief that personality, behavior and morals can be traced back to race, and the belief that one race is superior to another. In the case of discrimination, the issue becomes one of acting on racist thoughts.

Thus, discrimination is racism made real. A racist person’s tendency mirrors itself in his or her behavior towards others who display a certain trait, behavior or standing that goes against a perceived notion of equality.

As a “brown” child growing up in Africa, it was drummed into me by the “educated” as well as the “white” person of my inadequacy via books and the education system. Strangely a lot of us fell into the trap to the extent of not only believing it but adjusting ourselves to culturally fit into an acceptable norm. This led to us trying to find a middle ground to fit culturally and yet be seen as “progressive”. The offshoot of this led to something we know to be true, but avoid talking about. Multiple personalities! One for the home, one for the place of worship, one for friends and another one for work. This led to added stress and a dissolution of the real self.

As some of us reach the twilight years of life, and ponder, we learn to be a lot more truthful to ourselves. Today when I put the mirror up, my reflection tells me that whilst I have tried to be very equitable with all and have never looked down on others based on their color, there have definitely been times when I have faltered and looked down on certain people. To be truthful, I have in some instances looked down on others in my younger self due to their lack of intellect, being sometime self-righteous of those who within my own faith did not conform with the prescribed way of worship, or those who do not kowtow to certain cleanliness standards etc. Quite unhappy with myself for this!

When one examines how racism comes about, it is quite subtle as it is inculcated within our systems and culture. Unlike the colonial times, when it was done via the use of force and provision of “goodies”, today the subtlety of approach is quite sophisticated. Nowadays, we are shown up against each other and we end up destroying ourselves.

What is interesting is that the old adage of divide and conquer still permeates within our societies. Systemic myths were created on color, economic and social lines. Systems were created to ensure conformance. This systemic racism became so common that it became enshrined in culture.

I have personally seen people beat this age-old disease and unfortunately it is not a pill prescribed over the counter that acts really fast. It ideally needs to be managed like one would manage a long-term strategy. The strategy is three pronged. It needs to be managed at:

1.      The individual/family level;

2.      The communal level; and

3.      The federal/governmental level.

The way kids are born to be “racially ignorant”, is how we as parents need to continuously raise them. Unfortunately, the negative in-bred experiences we have had as parents embed themselves into our children’s’ psyche knowingly or unknowingly.

If we download the past experiences into our kids, like we download software, we are then perpetually stuck in a world that is outdated and looping itself like a bad dream.

Thus, it is imperative to be extremely conscientious at every step of the way first and foremost as individuals and then with our loved ones.

Psychologists, suggest that for someone to change dramatically, the amygdala in the brain needs to experience a life changing intervention like a near death experience for it to be impactful. So, when we ourselves face being discriminated against; we chose to voice out against it and yet are oblivious to our own short comings. And when reality kicks in and we realize we are now the supposed “second class citizens”, you will have the amygdala attack.

Would we adopt a colored child? Would we allow our sons or daughters to have a mixed marriage? Would you allow a person that is culturally different to you to lead you at a communal level?

A lot of us might answer yes immediately but deep down our stomachs may be churning. The topical aspect of racism, whilst staring at us in the face, is an age-old disease that has permeated into societies across the world.

One does not need to point fingers as we are all guilty of it in some form or the other.

As a label, it seems and feels wrong. However, the systemic indoctrination of such biases, deliberately or inadvertently from when we are children lends to our psyche accepting it without realizing it as so, until it is too late.

Racism is the belief that personality, behavior and morals can be traced back to race, and the belief that one race is superior to another. In the case of discrimination, the issue becomes one of acting on racist thoughts.

Thus, discrimination is racism made real. A racist person’s tendency mirrors itself in his or her behavior towards others who display a certain trait, behavior or standing that goes against a perceived notion of equality.

As a “brown” child growing up in Africa, it was drummed into me by the “educated” as well as the “white” person of my inadequacy via books and the education system. Strangely a lot of us fell into the trap to the extent of not only believing it but adjusting ourselves to culturally fit into an acceptable norm. This led to us trying to find a middle ground to fit culturally and yet be seen as “progressive”. The offshoot of this led to something we know to be true, but avoid talking about. Multiple personalities! One for the home, one for the place of worship, one for friends and another one for work. This led to added stress and a dissolution of the real self.

As some of us reach the twilight years of life, and ponder, we learn to be a lot more truthful to ourselves. Today when I put the mirror up, my reflection tells me that whilst I have tried to be very equitable with all and have never looked down on others based on their color, there have definitely been times when I have faltered and looked down on certain people. To be truthful, I have in some instances looked down on others in my younger self due to their lack of intellect, being sometime self-righteous of those who within my own faith did not conform with the prescribed way of worship, or those who do not kowtow to certain cleanliness standards etc. Quite unhappy with myself for this!

When one examines how racism comes about, it is quite subtle as it is inculcated within our systems and culture. Unlike the colonial times, when it was done via the use of force and provision of “goodies”, today the subtlety of approach is quite sophisticated. Nowadays, we are shown up against each other and we end up destroying ourselves.

What is interesting is that the old adage of divide and conquer still permeates within our societies. Systemic myths were created on color, economic and social lines. Systems were created to ensure conformance. This systemic racism became so common that it became enshrined in culture.

I have personally seen people beat this age-old disease and unfortunately it is not a pill prescribed over the counter that acts really fast. It ideally needs to be managed like one would manage a long-term strategy. The strategy is three pronged. It needs to be managed at:

1.      The individual/family level;

2.      The communal level; and

3.      The federal/governmental level.

The way kids are born to be “racially ignorant”, is how we as parents need to continuously raise them. Unfortunately, the negative in-bred experiences we have had as parents embed themselves into our children’s’ psyche knowingly or unknowingly.

If we download the past experiences into our kids, like we download software, we are then perpetually stuck in a world that is outdated and looping itself like a bad dream.

Thus, it is imperative to be extremely conscientious at every step of the way first and foremost as individuals and then with our loved ones.

Psychologists, suggest that for someone to change dramatically, the amygdala in the brain needs to experience a life changing intervention like a near death experience for it to be impactful. So, when we ourselves face being discriminated against; we chose to voice out against it and yet are oblivious to our own short comings. And when reality kicks in and we realize we are now the supposed “second class citizens”, you will have the amygdala attack.

At this stage you realize the wisdom of leading a purpose driven life wherein you live life on purpose and are cognizant of how everything you do and say impacts you and those around you.

Share Button
Avatar

About the author

%d bloggers like this: