in a racist world
Bereket Gebru 1-26-15
the ongoing rhetoric and narrative on the equality of all human kind and the
stress on the need to tackle racism internationally, there are clear unequal divisions
of people around the world based on race and color. The international system
runs a de facto designation of status for individuals based on their racial and
color origins. People are either treated respectfully or suspiciously based
just on their appearances throughout the world.
prominent American scholar and writer, Noam Chomsky, identified a hierarchy of
races within the global system. This hierarchy ranks the perceived power
attached to major racial groups in relations to others in the international
system. Accordingly, the following make up the top and bottom tiered racial
groups in the world.
opposed to earlier consideration of Jews as usurers who depend on high interest
borrowing and not an honest hard day’s work, as argued by the Nazis, they have
managed to become one of the most influential people sitting at the top of the
hierarchy of races. After facing a harsh discrimination in various societies
around the world, they have managed to propel themselves up in the ladder of
racial taxonomy. With their firm grip of the international monetary and financial
system and the political clout derived from it, Jews have become the nobility
of the twenty-first century. The fact that the race has been spread around the
world also means that they have some of the most influential people in numerous
countries identifying themselves to the group. This has resulted in the
formation of the state of Israel and its surge in economic, military and
political might over the years backed unconditionally by the strongest
countries in the world. It would not be that far from the reality if I say that
it is one of a handful of countries in the world to whom international laws do
Anglo-Saxons, largely referring to the white people of Britain, US, Australia
and Canada, make up the group at the top of this racial hierarchy. This group
is largely identified by its lineage to Britain besides the fact that their
mother language is English. The Anglo-Saxons have assumed supremacy over their
other European counter-parts as they make a large section of the victors of WW
I and II. The result has been an immense influence and control of international
politics by this group. This group obviously makes the largest group in charge
of enforcing international law as they see fit.
other end of the hierarchy features sub-saharan Africans in general as the
least respected and marginalized group in the world. The history of this group
of people also backs them up as the recipients of aggression from the
Anglo-Saxons and other European people during the colonial scramble for Africa.
They were also abducted from their villages in huge numbers to be used as
slaves in other continents. Regardless of their location, whether in Africa or
in Diaspora, members of this group generally make up the poorest sections of
international and national societies.
distinction can also be considered from the viewpoint of color. Accordingly,
whites who conveniently assigned the name to themselves despite their pink
complexion are superior to people of other colors globally. The major
institutions and systemic relations between nations in the international system
were predominantly crafted by white people in such a way that their interests
would be promoted much more than the interests of other groups. Accordingly,
whites generally make up the most economically, politically and militarily
powerful group in the world.
article by Anthony Mustacich entitled ‘White Supremacy: Exploring the contours
of race and power in America’ states:
absolutely zero Blacks, Latinos or Native Americans involved in forming the
government of the U.S. To this day only one non-white has ever attained the
presidency of the U.S. government, while Blacks make up only 7% of the U.S.
Congress, with Latinos making up only 4%. Although subordinate races have now
been assimilated into American society, the social structure still functions in
such a way that maintains the supremacy of whites, excepting certain token
reforms such as Affirmative Action.
Aside from the political structure, the social indicator
unequivocally confirms that whites are levels above non-whites in the most
essential domains of social life. The supremacy of whites on the economic
terrain is indisputable and highly instructive. According to the U.S. Census
Bureau, for example, in 2005 the median family income for whites was $62,300,
compared to just $36,075, $38,558 and $37,387 for Blacks, Natives and Latinos
respectively (U.S. Census Bureau [USCBJ. 2009. p.38).”
the narratives of modernity as a factor ensuring equality between people and
molding a less violent character of humans does not hold water considering the
great influence greed and war as a means of promoting supremacy have around the
world. All the advancement in technology apparent in the twenty-first century
has created a much pronounced Darwinian society characterized by survival of
translates to an imperialist sort of international system where the powerful go
around dictating what states should and should not do. To maintain the
perpetuation of international political, economic and social conditions that
favor the powerful, those groups go out of their way to topple governments that
prioritize the interests of their people than that of the international
Hebdo vs Boko Haram
have ventured into the inequality in the international system based on racial
and color divides as a result of the large media coverage the recent attacks on
Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris received in international media outlets despite
the very small number of people killed when compared to Boko Haram’s Baga
Hebdo is a French satirical magazine that depicts issues through cartoons that
prove to be very controversial at times. The magazine is known for its
condescending cartoons on many religions especially Islam. It has in numerous
occasions depicted an image of Prophet Mohammad.
a complete disregard and condescension of people’s faith can be considered a
provocation, the repeated depiction of Prophet Mohammad or other religions on
its pages has angered numerous religious groups. The recent portrayal was,
however, too much for three Muslims as they barged on to the magazine’s office
and killed twelve people working there including an editor. The gunmen killed
another five people outside making the total number of people killed by the
attack received uninterrupted coverage in most ‘international broadcast media’
prompting a huge discussion on how terrorism has become the single most threat
to European and American lifestyle. Such acts are always used indirectly to
imply that Islam is a violent religion rapidly becoming a threat to secularism
in Europe because of immigrants.
is really convenient that European countries like France and Belgium which have
not been at the receiving end of high profile terrorist attacks have been
targeted at a time when the argument that terrorist groups in the Middle East
target people of the region rather than their supposed European enemies.
has become a well known fact that the most infamous terrorist groups like
Al-Qaeda and ISIS were established through the support of the same European and
American forced that claim to be their enemies. For instance, ISIS has been
funded by America’s satellite states in the Middle East along with Israel. Not
surprisingly, it targets Iraqis and Syrians as opposed to the coalition led by
the US that conducts air raids against it. Although not clearly stated to whom,
the group sales oil to finance its activities.
European countries like France and Belgium have embarked on a military action
in another region of the world to promote whatever interests they have, in
addition to the obvious potential for retaliation from fighters in that region,
it would also be in the best interest of the state of France to design an attack
on its own people as it would help gather citizens around the issue. This
system has been used repeatedly in various powerful countries as a move of
legitimization of illegal acts abroad.
three days long saga of the Charlie Hebdo attack was not the usual random
killing of civilians witnessed in terror attacks but a calculated execution of
individuals whom the gunmen identified as provocateurs prior to their acts.
Upon controlling the magazine’s office, the gunmen called out the people they
want to execute by name and went on with their acts. The random act of killing
people including women and children characterizing terrorism is not portrayed in
the Charlie Hebdo office attack. However, the section of the attack targeting a
Jewish supermarket only had race as a filter otherwise being random.
the attack, France mourned the victims as forty global leaders joined an
estimated 3.7 million people on its streets to march in a show of unity. US
President Barack Obama was highly criticized by his European colleagues for not
joining the forty world leaders who attended the march in France. Considering
the States’ leadership in inciting and fighting terror around the world, the
public stunt should have been his priority.
the seventeen people who died in France received all the attention and media
coverage in the world, a much more pronounced attack by Boko Haram was taking
place in Baga, Nigeria. In what has been describes by many as the ‘deadliest
massacre’ to date by the terrorist group, Boko Haram militants attacked the
town of Baga in the North-Eastern state of Borno killing more than two thousand
people. Reports have local defence groups say that they had given up counting
the bodies left lying on the streets.
the vast incomparability of the scope of the two attacks, the international
media that in reality are just European and American media focused on the
seventeen dead in Paris. The amount of coverage given, the resources mobilized
and the world leaders involved in the mourning process which spanned days
effectively ignored the two thousand dead in Nigeria.
the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the residents of Baga were not directly
involved in provoking their attackers. The attacks in Nigeria were also not
selective executions but random killings including children and women. The
Nigerian attacks, unlike the French, were carried out by a local terrorist
group on its fellow citizens. It was not meant to punish condescending and
inflammatory depictions of one’s faith.
all these facts protruding, the largest media in the world somehow did not find
a good enough reason in their conscience to depict the Nigerian attacks as
moderately newsworthy. By extensively reporting on the seventeen dead in the
Charlie Hebdo attack and its aftermath while barely touching the issue of the
two thousand killed in Nigeria by Boko Haram, these media outlets clearly
showed their parameters for newsworthiness.
in mind that news is something ‘new’ in a given society, the unexpectedness of
an event dictates its newsworthiness. As has been discussed earlier though, the
presence of an act of provocation on the part of the French magazine by
depicting cartoons disrespecting Islam makes the attack relatively more
expected. An attack ranging a whole town killing two thousand people is, on the
other hand, very much unexpected and hence more newsworthy.
other criterion for newsworthiness that can be raised in positive relation with
the ‘international’ media is proximity. The idea of proximity as a parameter
for newsworthiness has imbedded in it the fact that people are more drawn to
stories they have closeness to. Whether it be geographical or social, proximity
proves to be a strong factor in gauging the relative worth of stories.
being based in Europe and America, the so-called ‘international’ media have
more proximity to the killings in France than that of Nigeria. It would not,
therefore, be too awkward if those media outlets focused more on the Charlie
weeks earlier though, there was a similar terrorist incident in Australia that
involved a Muslim taking hostages at a newspaper. The situation was resolved
after hours with it claiming no lives. The event was much more widely reported
than the recent Boko Haram attacks that killed more than two thousand people.
We can trace social proximity of the British to the event in Australia;
however, the rest of the ‘international’ media were not close to the issue both
geographically and socially. Therefore, the massacre in Nigeria should have
received more coverage in mainland European media than the hostage situation in
Australia as Nigeria is much closer.
why would mainland European media consider a hostage situation in Australia
more newsworthy than the killing of two thousand people in Nigeria considering
proximity is not an issue here? The answer to this question can only lead to
the fact that the Australian state is one of whites as is the case with
mainland Europe. The proximity can be explained in terms of color.
ugly truth behind the parameters used to deny newsworthiness to the killing of
over two thousand Nigerians has to do with the underlying belief on the part of
these media outlets that a threat on the lives of whites is more newsworthy
than the actual killing of thousands of blacks. As has been clearly
demonstration through their actions, the so called ‘international’ media find
the death of seventeen French citizens as more newsworthy an issue than the
killing of two thousand Nigerians. In the process, they have vividly exhibited
their disrespect for African lives. As the saying goes, actions speak louder
than words and this time all non-white people should listen carefully to the
message being transmitted - that all humans are not equal.
is a racist world. Blood indeed is thicker than everything else. So, it is time
for Africans to recognize that and act accordingly. Strengthening the unity and
solidarity of Africans in the face of attempts by outsiders to have us fight each
other availing our resources as a mechanism of keeping our conflicts going is
only building on our humiliation at an international level. Instead of bowing
to the venomous ventures of outsiders aimed at our resources, Africans should
stand together to assert their interests at least in their own continent.
has been clearly demonstrated through the Charlie Hebdo attack, white people
rally to the aid of their own kind despite the possibility of wrong doing in
the first place by those they extend their support to. Instead of focusing on
the wrong act by Charlie Hebdo though, they help come up with philosophical
explanations of its act. Accordingly, the magazine’s mockery of Islam is just
another case of freedom of expression. It is saddening to think that freedom of
expression would encompass insulting a particular social group again and again.
wonder why Charlie Hebdo does not pick on the Jews. May be it is somehow
related to the social group or it is conscious of the strong legal and
financial ramifications an act like that would be followed with. The
anti-Semitic laws are afterall so strict that any gestures, let alone,
depictions and words would be tolerated. Moreover, if the Europeans believe
that much in freedom of expression in the sense that anyone can say whatever
they like, why have they prohibited doubting the holocaust by law. Wouldn’t
doubting the holocaust ever took place fall within freedom of expression?
defending the French satirical magazine’s mockery of religion after the attack,
the editor of Charlie Hebdo, Gerard Biard, said it targets faith only when it
becomes "entangled" in politics. In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the
Press”, the editor said:
"We have a problem when faith and religion become
political, then we become worried and we attack. If God becomes entangled in
politics, then democracy is in danger. Every time that we draw a cartoon of
Mohammed, every time that we draw a cartoon of a prophet, every time that we
draw a cartoon of God, we defend the freedom of [conscience]. We declare that
God must not be a political or public figure. He must be a private one."
the editor’s feelings, other social groups would probably not care at all about
democracy when compared to their thoughts on the role of God in society.
Contrary to his argument that God ‘must’ be private and not a political or
public figure, numerous social groups around the world consider God an integral
part of their social lives. Can we even say that political and social life of a
certain social group can be devoid of religious beliefs of the group? I
personally do not think so.
addition, declaring that God ‘must’ be private in itself is so undemocratic as
it imposes one’s opinions on others. In any case insulting and ridiculing a
social group because it holds a different opinion on the involvement of God in
social life is barbaric. So, I would say that the purpose of Charlie Hebdo has
nothing to do with democracy or freedom of speech but the dismantling of
religious views, Islam in particular, and social cohesion in general.
dealing with this issue, I have identified racism as one of the major factors
dividing social conditions nationally and internationally. Therefore, not using
racial ties as points of unity would be a point of weakness for non-whites.
Accordingly, the injection of racism on the grounds of color could see Africans
stand for each other’s interests more.
marginalization of non-whites in the coverages of what are traditionally called
‘international’ media indicates that those media outlets are not really
international. They are just national and racial media outlets with large
reaches. Therefore, other racial groups need to come up with such big reach
media outlets reflecting their view of the world. Accordingly, Africa needs to
come up with an African media countering the single story by other large reach
media outlets depicting it as poor and violent.