The root of racism may not be hate

What if we viewed the root of racism as a competition for a perceived lack of resources?

On the surface, racism appears to be about hate based on the colour of a person’s skin. I’m not quite convinced hate is the root of racial discrimination. It may play a role, but it comes about as a natural by-product of man’s separation from each other through ‘tribal-like’ power struggles.

The Ancient Egyptian angle

Almost five years to the day, I wandered into the Ancient Egyptian museum (Muzeo Egizio) in Turin, Italy. I literally stumbled upon it because I had no clue where I was. Not wanting to look like the lost female solo traveller that I was, I decided to go into this museum to look at artefacts while I figured out my next move.

Most curious of all the artefacts were the translated letters between people of those times. You got the sense that they were just like me and you. These letters revealed that people experienced issues with their parents, bad career choices and mounting debt. Although that’s for another post.

To protect the artefacts, some were placed behind glass, and others were roped off and heavily guarded. It felt weird that an Italian security guard was protecting Egyptian artefacts. Why was it weird? Because these were Egyptian artefacts in Italy.

On the one hand, you could see it as a European celebration of Ancient Egypt’s history and culture. And that’s great. It’s heartwarming to see one nation appreciate another.

Coming from a business background, I tend to be more ‘economical’ of people and their motivations. The artefacts clearly serve as a tourist attraction. Perhaps even as a basis for an academic research centre. All of which bring people, who bring pocketfuls of spending money.

There’s been a lot of modern debate about whether these museums and their foreign artefacts should be considered stolen property. I won’t go into that. I’ll just say that while the transaction might be legal they were probably obtained under unfair conditions. One of those conditions might be colonialism.

Map of pre-colonial Africa in the 1800s, before the Berlin Conference where European nations gathered to carve up Africa.

Colonialism and racism

In Colonial times racism was more blatantly practised. The systems, beliefs and practices of the colonising-country were forced upon the colonised people. By various systems, including restricting trade with the coloniser, native resources were reserved for the powers that be.

Colonisation began in the 15th Century and by as recent as 1914, (that’s just last century), Europe controlled 84% of the entire world.

The subjugation of races to another is of course not confined to European colonialism. History presents many different situations of one race dominating another. Often on intra-racial or inter-tribal levels like the Roman Empire or the English conquering the Scottish tribes. The same occurred in African Kingdoms and South American Kingdoms of the pre-colonial era.

How the preference for white skin began

European colonialism was the most recent and most widespread occurring from the 1600s onwards. Its fingers reached from the eastern continents of Asia to Western lands of America and down towards South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

Undoubtedly, the most expansive and given its recent time in history, the most influential. Hence, directly influencing the preferred and most privileged skin colour of modern times ie white skin.

The allocation of resources clearly went to one race who claimed a superior right over the other based on race, nationality and skin colour. Many scientific studies were performed to compare the colonising race to the natives. These same studies were also used to justify gender roles that still have their sticky fingers in humanity’s collective mindset today.

Needless to say, these scientific inquiries were rigged to serve the ruling opinion of the times: that white was superior to black.

The 20th Century shook things up

The devastation of the First and Second World Wars triggered colonial powers to backtrack out of their territories, granting new-found independence to colonised countries.

And with the US Civil Rights movement racial equality became a foundational institution of leading nations, eventually having a domino effect on South African Apartheid.

It is easier to re-write an entire governmental system than to re-wire the human mind. Just because things seemed to change for the better doesn’t mean things are better or that people’s minds are re-programmed.

Even after the ink has dried on the new legislation, people still hold on to their beliefs about the superiority or inferiority of their race. Both mindsets are the result of centuries of propaganda and brainwashing.

Some who benefited from racist systems feel it slipping away and become defensive. Rallying against affirmative action labeling it anti-white and lashing out at any pro-black movement.

It isn’t hate that drives people to do this. Not really. It’s fear. Fear of not being able to enjoy the privileges and resources they once had easy access to: like better jobs, better education, and better living conditions. There are only fifty places left at an esteemed university or one seat left on the bus. In the old days, it used to be reserved exclusively for whites.

Psychological effects of colonisation

Lighter skin is viewed as more trustworthy, more attractive, more intelligent. Less dangerous. Whatever. I refer to the aforementioned ‘studies’ of colonial scientists. This isn’t just across the white-black divide but within darker-skinned race communities too. Hispanics, Indian and Asians have shown to favour lighter skin for beauty.

Beauty is another discriminatory factor that allows you easier access to resources. Ever heard of the saying that she’s so beautiful she can get away with murder? It echoes the truth because more attractive people have access to better jobs, better partners, and they are perceived to be just better overall.

We’re still talking about perception. In reality, neither skin colour nor beauty or lack of it, (nor gender) gives any reliable indication of a person’s intelligence or capabilities. Nor does it justify assigning privileges based on nothing else than superficial criteria.

But people don’t fight or wage wars against so-called ugly people to the extent that we wage war against other races.

War and conflict is a grapple for power. Which gives rise to hate. We naturally want to secure the best resources for ourselves. We extend this desire to our own family. By ensuring that our race is guaranteed the best, we secure it for ourselves on a larger scale. We reduce the competition by cutting out whole sections of humanity effectively reducing the pool of candidates.

It matters if your forefathers ate at the king’s banquet

Under hundreds of years of white authority and dictatorship, people start to believe that if they were white, their lives would be better. They wouldn’t be slaves. This mentality was compounded on a daily basis for hundreds of years, generation after generation. Kids grow up listening to dinner conversations about the other.

Depending on what table you were seated at, the other was superior. The proof was in the fact they lived in the best houses and wore the best clothes and you worked as a slave for them without any choice in the matter.

Or if you ate at the king’s banquet, the other was naturally predisposed to error and of lower intelligence and thus in dire need of a higher race to rule over them.

Just because it happened in another century doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact today.

If Egypt can’t get back their artefacts dug up in their land crafted by their ancestors, due to a transaction made decades ago; then why do we think the psychological effects of colonialism would disappear at the scratch of democratic pens on anti-racist legislature?

One quick look at my social media feeds and timelines, where people get on their virtual soapbox or express comments they think nobody else reads, is enough to prove to me that people’s perception of black people (and darker-skinned people in general) hasn’t changed significantly. Not only that, but people’s understanding of the modern-day struggles of those who come from a previously disadvantaged race-group is politely shallow at best.

How it affects us today

The opposite of love is not hate. It’s fear. And what’s fueling dangerous racist behaviour is persistent, low-level fear of not getting the things you need like a job or a house. In a world of that has become a melting pot of different races in one country, it is easy to fall back on outdated beliefs of racial superiority and inferiority to ensure on some level that certain resources continue to be reserved for the former colonial race.

This low-level persistent fear gives rise to fear of the ‘threatening’ other fueling unfounded beliefs such as ‘black men are inherently more dangerous‘. In heightened fearful states, we react in one of two ways to fear: fight or flight. Aggression is driven by fear. So is self-preservation. Perhaps this is what drives racist aggression.

One person’s fear of black skin due to systematic generational social brainwashing is the tip of the iceberg of the effects of our accumulated human existence.

Most of that existence was defined by dominating one another and securing resources for oneself. Something which still continues under modern political and social systems.

Only because, essentially, humans haven’t evolved beyond a continuous quest for power over others.

Stories that changed me: The Star by Arthur C. Clarke (1955)

When I made my quiet return to my passion of writing, I began with a course in creative writing, and short story writing. Part of this course was to read and read and read. And read some more.

During this course I discovered the grandfathers of science fiction, Jules Verne and HG Wells. And then I stumbled upon The Star by Arthur C. Clarke.

“The joys of life are often in those moments of stumbling when expectation is at its lowest so that the impact of the discovery is at its greatest.”

(Yes, feel free to quote me on that.)

This story written in the 1950s about space exploration towards a star that – oh, wait. I’ll let this description from Kings Alumni Community tell it for me.

“The Star” is the story of a group of space explorers from Earth returning from an expedition to a remote star system, where they discovered the remnants of an advanced civilization destroyed when their sun went supernova. Their chief astrophysicist, a Jesuit priest, is suffering from a deep crisis of faith, triggered by some undisclosed event during the journey. This story appeared in the magazine Infinity Science Fiction in 1955 and won the Hugo award in 1956. It later appeared in Arthur C Clarke’s book of short stories, The Other Side of the Sky.

Something about ‘crisis of faith‘ and ‘advanced civilisation destroyed‘ and ‘supernova‘ pulled me in. Tickling my own questions on religion and humanity. On universal love and connection beyond human contemplation let alone understanding. And also, what was a Jesuit priest doing leading a space expedition?!

This marked the beginning of a hidden love for sic-fi and fantasy that I wasn’t even aware of. The way it was able to explore humanity and question deeply between right and wrong, even redefining ideas completely, appealed to my inner philosopher.

And by the end of this short trip to space, I was forever changed.

Perception altered.

Mind blown.

New dimensions opening.

Ending with a question, it triggered many of my own questions.

You can read Arthur C. Clarke’s short story The Star, here.

It is three thousand light-years to the Vatican. Once, I believed that space could have no power over faith, just as I believed the heavens declared the glory of God’s handiwork. Now I have seen that handiwork, and my faith is sorely troubled. I stare at the crucifix that hangs on the cabin wall above the Mark VI Computer, and for the first time in my life I wonder if it is no more than an empty symbol.click to read on

 

 

Last day of school

PHOTO PROMPT © Gah Learner

Mishka pulled the curtain aside, hoping to see a window. Her heart sank when she saw it was boarded up shut with wooden planks. Her breath came in sobs, heart thudding faster in her chest. Was her mother looking for her? Thoughts of her mother brought fresh tears.

A woman entered the room. She wasn’t in the car when those men pulled her into it on her way to school. Hope rose like a red balloon in her chest.

“Please ma’am. I want to go to my mommy.”

She eyed her up and down. And shut the door.

98 words

Not one of my favourite stories, but only because of the topic. This was extremely difficult to write. Usually I have no issues connecting with my dark side to conjure up all sorts of evil and crime. But to try to empathise with a child, kidnapped from her safe world, not knowing what will happen to her, or if she’ll see her family, friends and school again, was heart-breaking for me.

Child trafficking is on the rise. At ridiculous levels. I find it intolerable that elected governments are so quick to initiate changes to taxes, fuel prices, land appropriation or other laws that line their pockets. But horrendously slow to put a stop to crime. Rather it feels as if they create a safe haven for such syndicates to operate in. I can bet anything, that due to the rapid increase in child trafficking, it points to politicians or other high-level officials lining their pockets from this modern day slavery.

In South Africa, children cannot walk to school without running a high risk of being kidnapped and disappearing into thin air. They’re taking children from outside the school gates. Last week, they smashed the rear window of a car, to try to steal a baby from his car seat. This is the level of desperation and enticingly lucrative nature of child trafficking. Luckily, the mother managed to drive away and they failed to unbuckle him in time.

The culprits should be given a life sentence or the death penalty. A child kidnapped and sold into slavery has had her life taken from her.

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Click the blue frog icon to read more flash fiction.

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Night of the Star

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

 

Some things never change.

Nadia looked up at the full moon, brilliantly white. The same full moon lit up the dark roads all those years ago as she held Mama’s hand fearfully. Sobbing for her murdered Papa. Led to that unknown place beyond the mountains she knew so well. She still hated that word refugee. But over the years it became part of her like the moles on her skin.

“Ready Nadia!” her new captain slapped her shoulder. Cheers erupted from the stadium crowd as the team ran on to the pitch. Refugee to star striker.

So much has changed.

 

100 words

This one is so close to my heart. I had a previous life of entrepreneurship (don’t ask), and my passion was Muslim women in sports. So I started a sportswear brand aimed at developing and encouraging Muslim women in sports. Many women are not active enough for various reasons.

Today I saw this video of Nadia Nadim who has signed on with Man City Women, and I feel like a proud mother hen. Despite the business not working out, this is what it was all for. To develop top level sportswomen. Her story is incredible. Boy did she break barriers. Her father was executed in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Her family fled to what they thought was London, but unknowingly ended up in Denmark. It was the mistake that led to her career as a footballer.

She has achieved a lot in her life already and still plans for much more: watch the video!

 

 

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle. The challenge is to write an entire story in 100 words or less. Click here to read more flash fiction.

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The rich man by the sea

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

 

Moonlight glinted off crystal glasses. Patrons dined al fresco on fish caught from the sea that lapped close by. He inhaled, salty but fresh. So different than the village he grew up in. Some men huddled at the bar, sneaked glances at him, sneers and frowns. Words sailed on moonlight. “Darkie”. “Probably stole to get rich.” “They’re all crooks.”

He guessed even his accented English would be an affront. To them, a sign of lower intelligence. Apartheid ended years ago, but the prejudiced were enslaved by their egos and twisted logic. A much harder trap to flee.

97 words

 

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In general South Africa is a caring, connected community that at times even overcomes its prejudices to shine brightly amongst humanity. This is merely an illustration of the more subtle prejudices and stereotypes that people may have against one another, seemingly harmless, but simmering under the surface.

 

Written for the 100 word challenge Friday Fictioneers hosted by the awesome Rochelle, who writes mainly from the persecutive of the Jewish experience of the holocaust (and so much more). I’d strongly recommend heading over to her blog to read some very interesting posts.

Click on the frog or click here to view more flash fiction.

 

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