By Onosen Divine Alegbe
Racism is almost as old as mankind. Let us see some definitions.
Racism is the inability or refusal to recognize the rights, needs, dignity, or value of people of particular races or geographical origins. More widely, the devaluation of various traits of character or intelligence as ‘typical’ of particular people.
Racism most fundamentally practiced: is the practice of discrimination, at all levels, from personal abuse to colonial oppression.
Systemic Racism: can be seen as the complex interaction of culture, policy and institutions. It is simply, naming the process of white supremacy, which creates disparities in many “success indicators” including wealth, the criminal justice system, employment, housing, health care, politics and education. (Definition by – Glenn Harris, president of Race Forward and publisher of Colorlines).
How does systemic racism affect people of color?
Structural racism prevents or makes it more challenging for people of color to participate in society and in the economy.
Taking a critical look at the covid-19 season, shows that the pandemic has forced mankind into a future not prepared for, but if we would just go with the flow to adopt the new normal, we would see that covid-19 has brought about new changes that will better mankind. Similar incidence like that of George Floyd is nothing new, as a lot of black Americans had always been faced with worse harassment but as earlier stated, Covid-19 has brought about a whole new sensitivity on racism. Now, the world sees the justice system take its course on the police officers responsible for George Floyd’s death irrespective of their colour.
The underlining question is, what exactly is the black race seeking? Having listened to so many outcries all around the world, I dare to respond that the only desire of the black race is to put an end to Biological Racism And the other question is, why ‘biological’? Because its the root cause of racism. How so? Most analyses on racism have defined it as a belief in the biological inferiority of others, which have birth-forth inequality.
Now, I would like to bring the issue of racism back home (Africa and then, Nigeria). Is racism practiced? Yes it is!
A major challenge is that, we either do not see it as racism or we chose to blindfold ourselves by limiting our thoughts on racism to colour (i.e., black and white people- the superiority of a white race over the black race) but the truth is that the definition of racism has broadened over the years. How then do we begin to correct the notion with the understanding of the true concept of racism? Let’s start with the concept of ‘modern racism‘.
Modern racism does not operate with the concepts of ‘race’, but with the concepts of ‘incompatibility of culture‘ protection of indigenous cultural values’, ‘clash of civilizations’ etc., and it considers cultural diversity as a threat. How so? Because, “Cultural racism” is the belief that another’s culture is inferior to one’s own.
Take for instance the attack on Nigerians by South Africans. While xenophobia may be seen as non-racism, there is however a semantic overlap of both. (It is evidently, a cultural racism).
These differences are deepened by social and economic inequalities, and frustrations among local people are expressed through economic grievances, which mask the preceding cultural contempt and disdain.
Accordingly, there is a risk of unequal chances in the labor market among graduates. It is obvious that people with different levels of education may not have the same chance for a good job. Take for instance; there can be no equal chances for a person who studied in polytechnic and one who studied in university, especially in terms of employment opportunity.
In Nigeria, accross the board, we place value on foreigners over our own citizens. Whilst it is good to treat others with dignity, we must also show a sense of self-worth amongst citizens. We cannot devalue ourselves and expect foreigners to value us.
The big question is, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Maybe its time for a review of our Constitution and other subsidiary regulations. Review alone is not sufficient, we need implementation prowess. We need worldwide sensitization of self worth as citizens of this great nation.
Onosen Divine Alegbe
Chairperson, Legal Committee of the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA)