This post is basically a rundown of the different types of racism that Black people routinely face over the course of our lives. I think it’s important to be aware of the different nuances modern racism has, especially as a black person, otherwise it may be getting in your way and you may not even be aware of what the problem is and thus can’t tackle it. Of course this is not the ONLY type of racism that exists, there are clearly other types of racism that are just as problematic. However, I cannot speak from the perspective of other races so I’ll focus on mine. I’m sure some people may find this post controversial, but such is life.
- Racism from white, self-proclaimed racists
This is the easiest and, in my opinion, most preferred type of racism to have to deal with (if that is possible), simply because it is unhidden and direct. Give me a man who calls me a nigger monkey and I’ll know to: 1) ignore him and move on, 2) laugh it off or, 3) tell him to go back where he came from (clearly this only works if you’re not in Europe, whether it’s relevant in North America can be debated). These folks are so extreme and foolish, that there is a band of white supremacists in South Africa essentially calling us the dirt of the earth and claiming South Africa as ‘theirs’ (Click this link if you think I’m joking http://youtu.be/BFWEtdZ5TWA). My question to them simply is: Why don’t you leave and go back to the land of your ancestors? There you will find an oasis of active white supremacists groups forming fringe political parties. Leave us ‘niggers’ in Africa. Nigger, the etymology of which can ironically be traced back to the word Negus, ‘King’ in Amharic (one of many interpretations, but one of the many reasons I don’t find the term offensive). Perhaps as an African in sub-Saharan Africa I know such extreme racists are few and far between here and thus do not really present a threat to my welfare or that of my loved ones. Either way, this is one form of racism blacks have to deal with. And just to make it clear, I am of the firm position that if you are in sub-Saharan Africa and you openly hate black people, you shouldn’t be here. I do not believe that we should ‘work with the racists’ and begin dialogue with them to try and change their view point and essentially beg them to see us as humans too. Absolutely not. If you’re in ‘Black Africa’ and hate blacks, leave. The world is very big.
2. Liberal white racism- The White Saviour Complex
This has to be, genuinely, the most irritating type of racism I have had the misfortune of confronting…and the most difficult to describe so this will be a little lengthy. In the context of this conversation, white liberals with a Saviour Complex are typically politically ‘liberal’ white EuroAmericans who are often working for some form of social development organisation that seeks to help ‘develop’ Africa. The organisation either works in EuroAmerica for marginalised people in Africa or, even better, works IN Africa with the Africans ‘for Africa’. Ok, what’s so irritating about that? Well, the basic problem is that there tends to be (this is NOT a blanket statement) an underlying feeling of superiority held by some white liberals that essentially makes them view Africans as defenceless little victimised natives who desperately need the help of the ‘all knowing white’, to save them from themselves and the deplorable situation they’ve created on the continent. If that isn’t the issue, there tends to be this assumption (and this is especially present in international NGOs who work in Africa but have HQs in EuroAmerica) that the Africans in the country office, ‘don’t quite understand how things work in this world so we need to guide and direct them to make sure they don’t get too confused or lost’. What I’m saying is that at the foundation of this seemingly altruistic motive to ‘help Africa’ is a feeling that they, the white liberal, are essentially superior and are able to better understand what’s ‘really going on’ and can therefore be of more use to Africa than even the most seasoned African NGO professional ever could be. And it seems to be a pervasive notion because STILL, to this day, when a statement/comment is needed by a ‘development expert on Africa’ for international news channels, the news channels tend to run to the white NGO worker and not the Black African one. There is a general unspoken assumption that, despite the fact that there are Africans working in Africa to improve Africa, the person who will know the ‘real deal’ is NOT a black African but a white person. And quite frankly it does not matter that this is not the reality white liberals may want to exist, it does exist. I am yet to see a white liberal step down from being called an ‘expert on Africa’ even after having only spent a year or two in any given African country. This may be because, in my opinion, there IS a racist undertone that makes them view Africans as simplistic beings that can be easily understood and who need guidance to manoeuvre through the horrible continental problems they created for themselves. Either that, or they view Africa as a continent that can be quickly understood and thus one that can be easily fixed- but only by them. KONY 2012 exemplifies the latter. These White Saviour complex ‘do-gooders’, made people think that you can understand Uganda, and indeed Africa, in a flick that runs for a couple of minutes. It is insulting to see such banal oversimplification that feeds this voracious need for the White Saviour-Complexed individual to hop right in to Africa and ‘fix’ Africa because clearly the Africans can’t do it by themselves. Again, I do not think every single white person working in Africa is like this but I have seen this type of racism having worked in the NGO sector in Kenya myself. I know I’ll probably get responses on this point that state that ‘well at least they’re trying to help’ or ‘You should be happy they even come to Africa because Africa needs all the help it can get’ but quite frankly I think otherwise. I think if any EuroAmerican is under the illusion that their intentions and presence alone can ‘transform Africa’, then they view us as nothing more than primitive cavemen bashing our heads on the cave wall as the continent burns around us.
3. Hipster racism
This is the ‘I’m gonna say racist things even though I know better and shouldn’t be doing this’ type of racism. And any racist comment that takes that ‘badass, in your face, now what?’ type of tone is really hard to deal with because one is never sure whether the person who uttered the statement meant it or not. So now you’re caught in no man’s land unsure of whether to laugh off the racist comment as a joke or take offense and get real serious. It’s a cess pool of trouble because of the numerous nuanced interpretations hipster racist comments can have. This makes it a really messy type of racism to deal with because after making the racist comment, the person can comeback with, ‘I was only joking, lighten up’, which then paints you as a hypersensitive angry black person who can’t even take a joke. Blegh!
4. Anti-black racism from people of colour
I find it HILARIOUS when a person of colour says ‘I can’t be racist, cause I’m (fill in the blank with a nation of colour)’. Really? How did you figure that? In Africa, Africans are very aware of the anti-black racism some members of the Arab and Asian communities can have towards us. It’s not a secret at all. But sadly that does not mean it’s being addressed. There are plenty of stories of how Black Africans who work for Asians or Arabs are treated like scum, routinely disrespected, essentially treated as less than human. Of course this is not to say this is the situation ALL the time, but it does raise a fair concern blacks have especially given that they’re living in their own country. In fact to this day (in Kenya), black Africans do not truly mix freely with Asian and Arab communities and people just seem to accept that, well, that’s how it is. Add to this that, even in the 21st century, it is still an issue if Black Africans inter-marry with these communities, pointing to the depth of the problem. The sad reality however is that no one wants to talk about it and thus it will probably remain one of the biggest thorns in the side of making Africa a truly unified multiethnic continent where all races genuinely see themselves as equal to, not better than, each other.
5. Anti-black racism from blacks
This BY FAR is the most perplexing type of racism I have ever come across. Of course I shouldn’t be shocked because as a black person it’s pretty obvious that centuries of anti-black racism have taken a toll on black people to the point that some of us have such deep self-loathing we can barely stand ourselves or other blacks. The extent to which sub-Saharan Africans can nitpick to prove that they aren’t ‘really’ black or ‘less black’ than other blacks is genuinely just a gaddam shame. But I tell you this, the only place I have ever been called a ‘black African monkey’, is in Africa itself. In Africa itself, by a fellow African. Now I’m Bantu and the person who called me that is a Cushite so I have a darker complexion, but the point remains that we’re still both regarded as Black Africans. Flabbergasted much? But it speaks to our truth that eons of racism have affected our collective self image to the extent that we’d rather spew anti-black racist insults at each other than stand united against racism. It will be a long journey to recovery on this one as a people.
So there you have it, did I miss any out?