As Black Africans in the Western world contend with everyday racial discrimination and abuse, their lookalikes in some parts of Africa suffer the same kind of malevolence in the hands of fellow afro-Arabs Africans.
Often times we hear of harrowing tales of Black Africans being discriminated against and called all sorts of racially demeaning names by their fellow Africans in North Africa, which is predominantly inhabited by Afro-Arabs.
Last year, an unidentified Egyptian official caused a storm when he allegedly made a disparaging comment at the United Nations Environmental Assembly held in Nairobi, Kenya, in May.
Yvonne Khamati, a Kenyan diplomat attending the conference, filed a formal complaint with the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accusing an Egyptian expatriate of referring to sub-Saharan Africans as “dogs and slaves.”
We Are Not Racist
In the letter, Khamati, African Diplomatic Corps Technical Committee chairwoman, said the abusive comment was made, after the conference failed to reach a resolution on the conflict in the Gaza Strip. She said the comment was made in Arabic.
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs later released a statement denying the allegations of racism and accusing the Kenyan diplomat of making flimsy accusations against the republic of Egypt.
While it’s not every Arab in Egypt and other Afro-Arab countries who is racist, it is no secret that racism exists in most of these countries and the people involved don’t want to accept it.
It is this self-denial that led renowned Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy to write an article in the New York Times, entitled, “The Arab World’s Dirty Secret,” where she wrote about the racist exchange between an Egyptian and a young South Sudanese:
I was on my way home on the Cairo Metro, lost in thought as I listened to music when I noticed a young Egyptian taunting a Sudanese girl. She reached out and tried to grab the girl’s nose and laughed when the girl tried to brush her hand away.
The Sudanese girl looked to be Dinka, from southern Sudan and not the northern Sudanese who “look like us.” She was obviously in distress.
It’s a contradiction that Africans, including Afro-Arabs, like to point the finger at White people as the initiators of racism and discrimination against Black people when clearly the first form of oppression against Black Africans was from the Arabs.
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Slavery, Abuse & Persecution
Men accused of being mercenaries fighting for Muammar Gaddafi sit in a rebel vehicle in Tripoli. Many Black men were killed during the rebellion. Photograph: Youssef Boudlal/Reuters
In Mauritania, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, and other Afro-Arab countries, slavery and other forms of oppression against Black Africans is still widespread.
In Sudan, it has been widely reported that nearly 20 million Black Africans in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions were ethnically cleansed during the first and second Sudanese Civil wars.
It is this form of abuse that triggered the infamous Darfur War, which ended with the excision of South Sudan, a predominantly Black Nubian state, from the larger Sudan.
Racism is also very rife in Libya if the 2000 anti-African racist violence is anything to go by. According to Amnesty International, thousands of Black Africans were massacred during the Libyan Civil War in 2011.
Black African migrants in Algeria have often suffered attacks, most of which are done in broad daylight and in the presence of local law enforcement officers.
Even though slavery was officially abolished in 1981, at least 20 percent of the Mauritanian population, mainly dark-skinned Mauritians, are still enslaved.
Given the history of slavery and colonialism in Africa, it’s likely that some people could still be suffering from a superiority complex and an identity crisis, but it is egotistical and absurd for anyone, especially an African, to discriminate against a fellow African based on his or her skin color.