‘Colourless’ vs ‘Coloured’

Human Wrongs Watch

By Baher Kamal

“Listen my friend: when we are born we are black; when we grow-up we are black; when we are sick we are black, and when we are angry we are black. But you, white man, when you are born you are pink, when you grow you are colourless; when you’re sick you are yellow; and when you are angry you are purple. And you call us people of colour?”


A sign on a racially segregated beach during the Apartheid era in South Africa, stating that the area is for the “sole use of members of the white race group” | CC BY-SA 3.0

This is what a black man one day said to a white man. “Look, I am not racist… it is YOU who are black!…. Or to say it politely: you are people of colour,” replied the white man.

Just an anecdote? Not at all. It depicts a real image of the rising wave of racism and discrimitation that is spreading everywhere now.

A deeply-rooted evil that kills!

“Racism is a deeply rooted global evil,” said António Guterres, the UN secretary-general on the occasion of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, marked on 21 March. It is “dangerous.  Abhorrent.  Ugly.  And everywhere.”

Racism “… transcends generations and contaminates societies. It perpetuates inequality, oppression and marginalisation. We see racism in the pervasive discrimination suffered by people of African descent. We see it in the injustices and oppression endured by indigenous peoples and other ethnic minorities. We see it in the repugnant views of white supremacists and other extremist groups.” 

Although this abhorrent crime is extended world-wide, even among people of the same “colour,” it is most visibly committed in the United States and Europe.

In the case of the US (333 million inhabitants), racism and discrimination are practiced against Afro-Americans or Americans of African descendants (42 million plus), those among whom had been shipped from Africa to the United States as slaves by European colonisers.

Racism and discrimitation against “yellow people”, in particular the 33 million plus Chinese communities, who have been living in the United Stated for long decades.

This devilish practice has grown strongly since former president, the conversative rightest Donald Trump, blamed them as if they were, all of them, responsible for ‘inventing, producing and spreading’ the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let alone the case of nearly 400 million indigenous peoples worldwide, the ancestors, the original inhabitants of the world.

Also in developing societies

But racism and discrimination is also extended within many developing countries.

In Latin America, it is practiced against Afro-descendants who were brought as slaves to the region also by Europeans, as well as against the original peoples–the indigencious, of whom Brazil’s president Jairo Bolsonaro said one day in a meeting with a group of them “now you look more like humans!”

A similar practice takes place even in the very same Africa, where black communities, in particular in Southern Africa, do discriminate against other black communities.

In the Arab countries, especially the Persian Gulf oil-rich States (Saudi Arabia; United Arab Emirates; Qatar; Bahrein, Kuwait, etc.) use to call “abeed” (slaves) their ”black servants” including those who migrated there from other Arab nations.

And in Asia, in particular among Indian and Sub-Indian countries, discrimitation is manifest through their “caste” social system.

There are no figures. The victims of racism and discrimitation are not quantified. But evidently they are tens and tens and tens of millions.

The protests of the youth

Young people massively showed their support at the 2020 Black Lives Matter marches, which drew millions of demonstrators worldwide.

On the streets, groundswells of youth – mostly teens and twenty-somethings – came together to protest against racial injustice. On social media, they mobilised participation, calling on their peers to speak out, and to stand up for the equal rights of all.

Black Lives Matter was born as a worldwide social movement, in particular in the US, protesting against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people.

Countries still boycott the universal Declaration against racism

And there is a globally-subscribed historic declaration against these inhumane practices: the 20-year-old Durban Declaration against racism. Any use?

An independent UN expert strongly criticised countries which continue to boycott the 20-year-old Durban Declaration against racism, and called on them to recommit to combatting discrimination and intolerance, in line with the landmark conference which took place in the South African city, in 2001.

Two decades after Durban, Tendayi Achiume , Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, presented a report to the General Assembly highlighting the contributions of the Durban Declaration, including recommendations for fighting intolerance and structural inequality.

“The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), agreed two decades ago, offers a principled and practical blueprint for undoing discriminatory structures and achieving equality and justice for marginalised and exploited groups and individuals”, she said.

Deeply entrenched racial, ethnic and national disparities… 

The UN expert told the UN General Assembly that the unequal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent reminder of how “deeply entrenched racial, ethnic and national disparities remain in enjoyment of fundamental human rights”.

Yet, despite two decades of dedicated advocacy and grass-roots mobilisation, just as the world “stood at a crossroad in Durban” 20 years ago, today it “stands at a similar crossroad” now, she noted.

The Special Rapporteur urged all countries to reaffirm their commitment to the transnational fight against racism, UN News reported.

Achiume criticised the countries that announced their non-participation in a recent General Assembly commemoration of the Durban Conference and the Declaration, or in the Durban Process.

“Rather than using the Declaration to fight against racism, several States have instead signalled they intend to abandon the Durban process”, she said.

The group of non-supporters includes some of the greatest beneficiaries of colonialism, slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the UN expert noted.

Racism reverberates in ‘echo chambers of hate’

Marking the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, Heads of States and Governments gathered in the UN General Assembly to discuss “reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent.”

“People of African descent, minority communities, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees, displaced persons, and so many others – all continue to confront hatred, stigmatisation, scapegoating, discrimination, and violence”, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres on 22 September this year said.

 “Xenophobia, misogyny, hateful conspiracies, white supremacy and Neo-Nazi ideologies are spreading – amplified in echo chambers of hate”, he added.

Just colour or also money? 

The wide-spread phenomena of racism and discrimination is not apparently so visible when it comes to pockets.

Black multi-billionaires are seemingly socially “accepted”. And there are many.

Wikipedia reports that, according to the 2021 Forbes ranking of the world’s billionaires, Nigerian business magnate Aliko Dangote had a net worth of 11.5 billion US dollars and was the world’s richest black man.

Other black billionaires on the 2021 Forbes list included Nigerian businessman Mike Adenuga with 6.1 billion US dollars; American investor Robert Smith with 6 billion US dollars; American businessman David Steward with (3.7 billions); American media mogul Oprah Winfrey (2.7 billions), and South African gold magnate Patrice Motsepe with 2.9 billion US dollars). And the list goes on.

In short: is it just a matter of ‘colourless’ versus ‘people of colour’? Or is it also a question of ‘full-pockets’ versus ‘empty-pockets’? By the way: aren’t all humans… African-descent?

2021 Human Wrongs Watch

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