There are two types of racism:
The un-apologetically direct and aggressive kind. Yes, we're looking at you white supremacists. And the casual, insidious type that creeps into day to day speech and interactions. This second type, likes to be a bit of a joker and will often mask its racism by pretending to be funny. For this reason, it can be harder to detect and call-out. People tend to be more lenient with this kind of racism but we should never underestimate its dangers.
Yes, I am a writer and perhaps more wary about people's word choices than most. But make no mistake about it, words matter. Words are powerful things and impact the way we think. If as a community we constantly feed one another implicit messages of superiority, this will eventually show in our actions. Muslims are not exempted from this.
I don't need to remind anyone of all the Islamic sources against superiority and racism. You can be perfectly aware of these whilst also partaking in racist behaviours or language. Arabs will tell you: 'Of course, we don't think we're better than everyone.' But they will also refer to black people as "'abeed" (slaves), search for the 'fairest' brides for their sons, belittle foreign workers (never the white ones of course) mock the way they look and talk down to laborers.
And no, of course not all Arabs are like this. But it is a common problem, at least in my experience. It's true that such individuals are not ideological racists and we should be very careful about how we label people. That being said, racist language and casual discrimination should not be tolerated.
The shocking thing about racism in the Middle East and especially in the Gulf, is that it's mingled with a strange self-loathing and inferiority. Arabs come in many shades and sizes but we're not ethnically white and a huge percentage of us are brown or black. So in a way this racism is directed at us, at our own communities. Being dark is looked down upon even though it's part of who we are. Unlike white racism which is, in some ways, rooted in a fear/hatred of the 'Other,' Arab racism is an expression of self-loathing and a desire to be that 'Other.' This sentiment becomes even more frightening when you realize that this 'Other' is the white colonizer. People will argue that they hate the West for its colonizing past, while also assimilating white, western standards and behaviours.
We hate you but we want to be like you or at least look like you.
When the West validates the way we look by encouraging tanning and perms, suddenly it becomes fashionable to be dark and have curly hair among Arabs.
This is a very sad place for our communities to be.
But the solution is simple: we need to spread awareness about the dangers of this casual racism and pay close attention to the way we speak about and treat people from different ethnic backgrounds. We need to look inwardly and ask ourselves: have we ever been casually racist? After all, change begins when we confront our own mistakes and prejudices.
Food for thought in this week's post. Racism within Muslim communities is a hot topic these days. Please let me know what you think in the comments. And as always, subscribe on your way out. By doing so, you'll receive a free copy of the top writing and publishing resources that every writer needs!
Now let's end this post on some great advice:
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