Renewing War Against Racism, Supremacist Ideologies. Blessing Aseminaso
A war over our racism was averted a couple of days in Lagos as news spread that a Chinese restaurant that outlived Blacks from eating or entering was operating in Nigeria. Although the management of the restaurant denied the claim and the Lagos State Government also debunked the insinuation. The possibility of such racial discrimination in Nigeria had already provoked concern.
Racism, xenophobia, and intolerance are problems prevalent in all societies and have hindered progress for millions of people around the world. Racial ideologies which are mainly judgments about “who is worthy, who is decent, who belongs, and who doesn’t”, has been practiced for centuries in various forms.
In recent years these have dominated the news with reports of struggles for civil rights, demands for equality, police brutality, etc.
In South Africa, a recent picture showing black and white kids sitting at separate tables, with the blacks seated at the back of the classroom in an elementary school has not only outraged parents, but have reminded many of the days of apartheid a system that promoted racial segregation and oppression in the country.
In Tanzania, there’s been a high rate of Albino killings associated with witchcrafts and racism. Albinos are treated as subhumans because of the colour of their skin.
In the same vein, refugees as well as migrants in Libya are on a daily basis trafficked, used as slaves and in some cases murdered to retrieve vital organs.
No doubt the increasing outcry of such cases, calls for a global concrete effort to curb the menace; which is why the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination serves as an opportunity for men and women and the whole United Nation System to renew their commitment to building a world of justice, equality and dignity, where racism has no place.
The 2019 theme; “Mitigating and Countering Rising Populism and Extreme Supremacist ideologies” seeks to address stimulators of hate crime and violence.
Scholars are recognizing that nationalist populism is now a prominent fixture in the new politics of the 21st century that cuts across a variety of ideological, geographical and historical contexts.
It is argued that populism is the expression of politics as the general will of the people above all else, but the truth is that populism does not always reflect the core beliefs of political actors.
Late Kofi Annan former secretary-general of the United Nations described populists as “charismatic individuals or fake prophets, promising simplistic solutions to people’s grievances through radical policies that dismiss institutions and laws as either irrelevant or inconvenient”.
Populism is a position adopted by politicians whose objective is to be elected and eventually re-elected in office. It is a political strategy to mobilize support by making promises to launch program that are appealing to voters, if elected. It can be described as anti-establishment sentiments that are driven by unemployment, corruption, and income inequality, leading to social divisions that are being exploited by populist actors to galvanize the working class.
Nationalism and populism offer no real solutions to the complex challenges societies face, but instead sow seeds of resentment and anger in those who feel powerless and unrecognized, which in turn harvests hatred and violence.
Many Nigerians who felt tired about the “so called corruption” under Goodluck Jonathan’s regime, embraced with open arms the anti-corruption and change agenda campaign by president Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 election, which also included securing lives and properties of citizens, restructuring the economy and creating employment for the youths.
Although the president’s administration has kept its promises of fighting corruption and continued in the fight against the Boko Haram militants, it has however not met the economic needs of the country that can positively impact the living conditions of citizens especially the poor.
Besides, available statistics show unemployment has worsened over the last four years, alongside the horrors of violence by Fulani herdsmen across the country, which is one of the reasons citizens must be cautious of populist appeal not just in Nigeria but globally.
On the other hand, lack of respect and dehumanization of others are hallmark of extreme supremacist thought and behavior. Extremism takes in different social and political contexts. It can be used as a tool by those in power in authoritarian regimes to suppress unpopular, opinions or groups, and can as well stem from the society as a whole on the promotion of common values of pluralism and a desire to combat ideologies that would threaten those values.
A typical illustration is the exportation of extremist religious ideologies to historically pluralistic Muslim societies such as the northern regions of Nigeria, which constitutes a component of extremism evident in the Boko Haram killings of Christians. Quite ironic is the fact that perpetrators of such genocide have a strong ideological justification for their actions.
The murderous christianophobic terrorist attacks on churches and communities in the region is a terrible reminder that racism kills. An example is that of Leah Sharibu, a Nigerian Christian teenager who was abducted in February 2018 alongside 109 students at Government Girls Science and Technical College Dapchi, by the Boko Haram militant group.
According to reports, the 109 girls were freed by the terrorists following negotiations with the Nigerian government in March 2018, but without Leah who is still held hostage till date because of her refusal to deny her faith.
This hostility is not limited to Christians as Muslims in some parts of the world suffer same treatment. A recent incident is that of the terrorist attack on two mosques that occurred on Friday, the 15th of March 2019, which claimed the lives of about fifty-nine persons in New Zealand.
No doubt ideas of racial superiority and supremacy have caused wars, oppression, exploitation, and horrific suffering. Perhaps the reason Iriana Bokova posits that “it is a poison that diminishes individuals and societies, perpetuates inequality and feeds anger, bitterness, and violence”.
The celebration today, thus aims to remind us all of racial discrimination and its negative consequences, as well as help people to remember their obligation and encourage determination to combat such actions for the benefit of the nation and the world at large.
It is imperative to state that tribalism also constitutes racism. In Nigeria today, where tribalism has been elevated to dominate national discourse, control how people think, talk and determine what they oppose or support, most conflicts have been motivated by ethnic competition promoted by political elites, embraced by youths and the elderly, and even passed from one generation to another. This has resulted to a number of issues such as cultural and value deviance, fragile political structure, poor leadership and frequent ethno-religious crisis that has birthed groups like the Ijaw Youth Congress(IYC), the Movement for Actualizatin of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Arewa Forum, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), etc.
The constant reference to tribal differences has not only affected the youth’s ideology, but has also created a legacy of hate and intolerance, exposing the nation to conflict experiences with loss of lives and properties.
As we celebrate the World’s day against racism, it is necessary that we understand and preach the spirit of oneness and equity in our nation; be it Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa or Ijaw. We must recall that “humanity is a single family brought together by shared aspirations and a common destiny”, with potential gains in sustainable development. Using the late Nelson Mandela’s determination to bridge divides despite all challenges; we can as well play roles to help ensure that people from diverse cultures and backgrounds have the same opportunities to participate in all spheres of life.
Antonio Guttere, Secretary-General of United Nations said “the concept of ‘us’ and ‘them’ be eliminated, as it is time that all nations and all people live up to the words of the universal declarations of human rights”. Extreme supremacist ideologies must be countered everywhere and every time it happens because change begins with you and I, as the fight starts in the mind of each of us, and must be conveyed in every means possible. Besides, the world needs to be informed of the negation of nationalist populism.
Education and awareness creation is therefore imperative if we truly desire to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. “The world community, particularly children and youth, need to be taught that racism is a vice and not a value”, and must be removed in the mind and thoughts of mankind.