Racism in Africa is systemic and malevolent

Posted on November 20, 2015 12:00 am

Experts define racism as the belief that mankind is divided into races, skin color or religion, making one member of an ethnic group view the other as inferior.Racism in Africa makes so called racism in Europe and other Western societies look like child play.Am a living example of racial prejudices and cultural marginalisation and the trend continues in sophisticated ways, encompassing various spheres of an African life. Thanks to my accent, when explaining my culture to a new person, I am often met with disbelief, followed by the questions of percentage without any contextual awareness that questioning percentages is one of the most offensive things to say to an non African person. On many occasions, I have had people stare at me, really stare and slant their head, as if deep in thought and then, after a while, come out and say, Contador Harrison are you African?Yes, because my name is where I hold all of my race!I should be white or had a different name?These are countless moments and memories all foreigners and non Africans in Africa experience in form of racism and they all point to the truth that few in Africa would want to accept that racism is ever-present across all corners of the continent and the most racist people are found in Africa.I have been to different continents, and used to believe Russians were worse when it came to racism, but some Africans make them look like saints.Legally, many racial regulations still confine non-Africans in economic, social, political and cultural life.

One case relates to work and residence permits.In the days of colonial rule, registrations of death, birth, marriage and divorce were permitted for all Africans and foreigners. When a person of foreign descent goes to the immigration registration offices now, she or he still must provide required documents, as well as other paperworks, requirements not requested of other ethnic groups in black community.An Australian white from Sydney was applying for a work permit in unnamed Southern Africa country (for the sake of applicant security,I can’t specify the country) and despite fulfilling all requirements, issuing officer unashamedly asked him for a $5,000 bribe.In an exchange between Sydneysider and the issuing office officials representative, Sydneysider made it clear he can’t break his ethic standards just to obtain a permit.The middle man panics and sends him a message with half the demand but myself having talked with Aussie blud on phone about the issue, the deal was dead by then.Enter an American citizen of black filiation a week later fronted by same middle man, with nothing but a passport and a $200 bribe, he obtains work  permit within a week.Is that not racial discrimination? Studies of racism in Africa shows that during the past year, 3 in 5 people living in Southern Africa region have been a target of racial discrimination and this is an increase from 2 in 10 the previous year according to official statistics available.In greater sub saharan Africa, 3 in 5 people living in ten countries namely South Africa, Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Ethiopia have been a target of verbal racial abuse. Verbal abuse is the most common form of racism in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria.

Aerial view of Nairobi, Kenya, a country grappling with tribal and racial undertones threatening its cohesion
Aerial view of Nairobi in Kenya, a country grappling with tribal and racial undertones threatening its cohesion

Statistics don’t lie and nearly half of all non African residents from a culturally and linguistically diverse background have experienced racism at some time in their living or working life in those ten countries.Shockingly, 8 in 10 teenagers schooling with their non African parents have experienced racism in the ten countries with South Africa and Kenya being the worst places. African countries have a culture of denial when it comes to racism and how widespread it is and it perpetuates racist behaviour. Speaking up reduces racism by helping perpetrators understand that their views are in the minority, making them less likely to engage in prejudice and stereotyping behaviour.When I searched the said American online criminal records,he was a convicted pedophile, one time jail  bird for domestic violence and shop lifter yet he obtained permit as an “American investor” but subsequent findings indicated that as long as you’re black or dark skinned, obtaining permits in that Southern Africa country is a cakewalk. That led me to research more about racism in Africa and learned it has its historical roots in the 19th century, said to be part of the “”invade and kill”” policy of the locals to ensure no foreigners come in. Racist policies continued into the post independence African countries with society divided into three strata namely the whites at the top, the elites in the middle, and poor natives on the bottom rung.This division corresponded with the pattern of economic domination, with elites companies having the largest control of economic resources and the whites acting as intermediary traders between themselves and indigenous owned capital and most natives were peasants, workers and small traders.

A regulation requiring permission to leave their communities was another policy mainly targeted at the locals.Independent Africa, in a bid to protect indigenous owned businesses from whites and foreign capital, the efforts to confine whites businesses to the cities failed. Violence was used to implement the policy in some countries across Africa. In the 1970s a number of radicals set up a political organisations to fight racial discrimination and they supported “”integration”” of the non-Africans into African societies. Ethnic prejudices have contributed to violence against non Africans. Complications of ethnicity, religion and politics continue as a fuel for the conflict in Africa until today. Racism in Africa has caused war, riots, massacres and eternally threatens peace.International solidarity and networking among organisations working against racism is critical for everyone to learn from each other. In East and Southern Africa, these networks are just beginning, involving intellectuals, students and non government organisations. As a group, women still need to be more involved, given the similarities between discrimination of minorities and women.They are both regarded as inferior but women just like non Africans often become victims of many kinds of racial persecution such as sexual harassment and rape.

One of the victim of racial violence was Australian woman who released her film about her gang raping ordeal in Kenya.Among the restrictions non Africans face in Africa, is they are not permitted to associate with any political organisation or large organisations. Not many non Africans are interested in political activities anyway given the trauma of past suppression.The non-African are still identified as those obsessed with making money out of poor Africans and are seen as rich, exclusive, and involved in collusion to fleece the locals.They are “”foreigners”” who came to exploit the natives from pre colonial to date.Such prejudices lead to the conclusion that indeed Africans are racist and are an impact of the racial policies of the present African regimes.The prejudices led to non Africans becoming the main target of anger in every crisis from robbery with violence, rape, economic sabotage, illegal deportations, destruction of properties to mention but a few. In a certain way, to be targeted for vilification in African countries, is official recognition and an indication of a degree of respect especially if you’re white but that doesn’t happen to people of other races who are not Africans. In East Africa, Asians especially Indians are visible as the high achievers in school classes, as surgeons and as residents of high income areas. Arguably, this success threatens them as it did in the era of late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s  Asians policy.

Non Africans are stereotyped through the media as gluttons who are just here for economic colonisation. A desire to help the “foreigners adapt” results in attacks on the elites who are blamed for turning locals into slaves. In its own unique way, it is a racist way of thinking among Africans and World know what happened to Chinese investors under the presidency of Michael Sata in Zambia.Despite almost all Africans proudly believing they are not racist, the anti-elite culture doesn’t always equip them to deal with cultural diversity. Africans attack the cultural traditions of India because they are seen as elitist but thats not the case for us who know Indians in and out. Likewise, black Africans criticise non dark skinned Africans for being racist, while some others criticise non local Africans for being racist. Upon being criticised, the targets from non African countries don’t change their cultures, rather, they just assume Africans are being racist again.And why not?Africa is known as the continent that handsomely reward corrupt, political cruelty, ignorance, discrimination and now, racism is common place and well rewarded, respected and justified by the Africans themselves discriminating people based on their background and culture.I have learnt that, when it comes to racism in Africa, there are different categories of people.

There are Africans that abominate bigotry, racism and misogyny in all its forms and make no exceptions for this behaviour and others attest to execrating racism, but find problems with other minority issues such as marriage equality where the moralists want to see them dead and then are those that are overt in their hatred of one or many minority groups and make no apologies for their views.A good example are christian religious leaders who continues to come out clearly against same sex marriage. Unfortunately, the large number of Africans fall into the latter two examples.As libertarian who is quite vocal against racism and any form of discrimination, I encounter many Africans who attest to their anti-racism views and support for the cause for equality for the people living in Africa, but in the next breath will find a reason to exercise bigotry against another minority group.Racism is the cause of governmental policies that subvert non Africans in Africa and is the cause of one-sided journalism in mainstream media but thanks to social media, non Africans in Africa have a voice.Racisms remains the cause of intergenerational trauma from pre colonial days to this day.Dealing with prejudice is a way of life for many non Africans in Africa.The facts is that systemic racism against non locals remains the most invisible barrier whichever country you go and its debilitating to experience it, because it is like fighting shadows which is always there, but hard to shew.

Contador Harrison