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15 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 14 August, 2019 11:04:36 PM
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Racism harms black people most. It is time to recognise ‘anti-blackness’

A one-size-fits-all approach to discrimination fails to grasp its impact on different minorities. Anti-black racism should be classified separately
AHMED OLAYINKA SULE
Racism harms black people most. It is time to recognise ‘anti-blackness’

There is a tendency to classify all victims of racism under the label “people of colour” or “black, Asian and minority ethnic” people (shortened to BAME). However, this generalist approach fails to account for the varied ways that racism affects different races. There is anti-black racism, anti-Asian racism (which affects east Asians and south Asians differently), anti-Arab racism, even sometimes anti-white racism. To be clear, all these strands of racism are significant, and we need to work to eradicate them all. Yet, historically, it’s black people who have most often found themselves at the bottom of the pile.

In Brazil, black people are still treated as second class citizens; in India, students of African origin are persecuted

Look at the figures: according to the UK government’s race disparity audit, relative to whites and Asians, black defendants at crown court were the most likely to be remanded in custody. Between 2017 and 2018, black people in Britain were approximately 10 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people were, and three times more likely than Asians. Black Caribbean pupils were permanently excluded at nearly three times the rate of white British pupils, while black people are more likely to be unemployed and homeless than all other racial minority groups.

This is not only a British phenomenon. In the US, black people are more likely to be arrested for drugs offences even though they are not more likely to use or sell drugs, and as a result make up a disproportionate amount of the prison population. They also have a higher chance of getting shot by the police than white or Hispanic people. In today’s Brazil, black people are still treated as second-class citizens; while in India, students of African origin are persecuted. In South Africa, a majority black country, 72% of the country’s private farmland is owned by white people, who make up 9% of the population. During the apartheid era there was a clear racial hierarchy: whites at the top, Indians and “coloureds” in the middle, and black people at the bottom.

Historically, though slavery covered a range of civilisations, countries and races, for the black race its legacy lives on. From the 16th to the 19th century, around 12 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas by European slave traders. Millions more were born into slavery and spent their whole lives enslaved. And after slavery ended in the US, African Americans were subjected to segregation laws, the denial of civil rights and lynching.

And between AD 650 and the 1800s, almost 10 million Africans were sold by Arab slave traders to Arabia and the Indian subcontinent. In fact the Arabic word abeed, which means “slave”, is still used to describe black people in countries from Algeria to Yemen.

In her book White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo notes that black people are the “ultimate racial other”. In the US, they are called “nigger”, in Brazil they are termed macaco; in South Africa, they are nicknamed kaffir; in India, bandar; in China hak gwai.

Even though there is a dictionary definition of anti-blackness, it hasn’t yet gained much traction. The political class does not grasp its toxicity. We’re currently in the middle of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent, so it is an appropriate time for anti-blackness to be classified separately from racism and given its own prominence. The one-size-fits-all approach to tackling racism leaves undersupported the racial group which suffers the most brutality, hatred and discrimination. Furthermore, in white-dominant societies, blackness has come to be a synonym for crime, laziness, poverty and low intelligence.

A key step in bringing anti-blackness to the forefront is by developing a working definition. This could cover caricatures, stereotypes, disparagement, the perception of black populated countries and the trivialisation of transatlantic slavery. As a precursor, there needs to be buy-in from governments, regional bodies, international organisations, academia and the global black civil society.

Ultimately, it is crucial to call out the most toxic brand of racism. We need to sear anti-blackness into our collective consciousness, so as to put an end to the mistakes of the past and the present, which have brought so much misery to so many people.

Ahmed Olayinka Sule is a

writer and social critic

 

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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