Mr. Discrimination and Ms. Prejudice had many children together. Three of them were Racism, Xenophobia and Tribalism.
I remember several years back in Abeokuta, Nigeria, when I followed my mum to Lafenwa market. We were waiting to cross the road at a point, about the same time, some Fulani herdsmen also were waiting to cross to our side from the opposite direction. They looked nervous and when they eventually crossed, they scurried across the road like cows; they were completely ill at ease.
“O o ri won golugolu, bi I maalu ti won n dari.” My mum remarked. It was so funny the way she said it that I couldn’t help laughing while shaking my head and musing “Mooommy!”
For non-Yorubas, the remark was in mockery. My mum was irritated by the way the men hastened across the road and she compared it to how cattle move. Of course she was right, only that the comment came out of prejudice, out of a deep sense of “my tribe/country/race is better than the other”. It’s an unconscious sensibility, but it is there in everyone of us. The onus lies on us to deal with it and start seeing everyone as humans who have good and bad sides.
Accept it or not, we are all prejudiced, even those who are quick to criticise others for discriminating. From my experience in these few years of mine, I have seen prejudice and discrimination several times in many shades and colours both home and abroad.
In my own country, I have heard several tribalistic comments about one group of people or the other. No tribe is innocent, we are all guilty. Every people tends to think it is the best. You would hear nasty comments from Yorubas about Igbos, Hausas, Fulanis, etc. and vice versa. To be fair, some of these comments are true, but the truth is there are at the same time plenty of good things about each of these peoples. How about focusing on the good sides instead of always emphasising on the negatives? How about understanding the fact that every tribe has peculiarities—good and bad? How about treating the bad traits in your own tribe first before pointing fingers at others? How about accommodating other people without prejudice? Of course there have to be boundaries, you shouldn’t tolerate what you will not tolerate from your own people from others because you are being hospitable, but that is normal in all human relations.
Today, we still have folks who will throw all the dusts in the world to ensure their children do not marry from other tribes. That is even better. What about people of the same tribe discriminating against their own people from other towns/cities/districts in the same region? Even within the same town, there is discrimination! When are we going to grow beyond all these?
See, if you are tribalistic or xenophobic, you don’t have any moral right to shook mouth (contribute) anytime or anywhere racism is discussed. If you are tribalistic or xenophobic and you feel you are being discriminated against because of your race, learn from the horrendous feeling and repent of your own prejudice against others.
Of course, there are still a lot of unprejudiced people in the world, or should I say people who have unlearned prejudice. My dad gave us an account of his experience when he went for his NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) several years back. He was to serve in the then Gongola State. He arrived there at night by train and he had nowhere to lay his head. In short, a man took him in, and accommodated him. The man’s wife prepared pounded yam for him supported with a nice soup. They were quite hospitable and did make him feel very comfortable. He later learnt they were not even Nigerians but Ghanaians.
Talking about racism, we tend to think only whites are racists. No. It’s only that they have had the upper hand in displaying it over the years. Blacks, browns, and yellows could be racists too. I once stumbled on an online forum for blacks where they were discussing a sensitive issue. A white lady commented and she was terribly cyber-lashed. Oh dear! I was not her, but I felt for her. Actually, she made a good point, but no one was going to consider the point because she was white and the platform was for blacks. I am sure if a black person had made the same comment, there wouldn’t have been any attack. That does not mean I am justifying her poke-nosing since the name of the group clearly showed it was a black forum. But I still insist they didn’t have to insult. The same thing would have happened if it was a white forum and a black person meddled, but I cited that example to back up my point that not only whites are racists. Racism is a human problem, a peculiarity of the sinful nature, a sin issue just like its younger siblings—xenophobia and tribalism.
Now something amuses me about racism. Some colours [subconsciously or consciously] think they are superior while some [subconsciously or consciously] think they are inferior. Whether you feel superior to people of other colours or you feel inferior, you are still suffering from the same disease—racism. You need healing. You need a sound mind.
Note that I am not in anyway downplaying racism. I have experienced it myself even in my own country. I once worked on a rig back at home where the client representative (an American) was a racist. I heard of his notoriety and knew how nasty he was, but we never crossed path until one day and another day. What transpired is another story on its own. I lost it and confronted him. I yelled so much my body shook. I sent an e-mail to my boss in town. The matter was eventually taken up by my company with his company. I would say it was God that fought for me, because in the few years I had spent with my company then, they had never called a meeting to deal with such an issue with any of our clients…. I have also experienced racism right here in the States, in subtle and clearly obvious forms. So, I know what racism means, both in theory and in practical.
The conclusion of the matter is this: racism, xenophobia and tribalism are all birds of a feather, born to the same parents. If you are xenophobic or tribalistic, you are in the same class with a racist. Say no to racism. Say no to xenophobia. Say no to tribalism. Treat people as people. Be an instrument of peace.
©2015, Ayobami Temitope Kehinde