Racism Never Starts with Hate but Love

Eight years ago, Barack Hussein Obama was elected as the first African-American president of the United States of America. This happened in a country, where a hundred and fifty years ago, it was OK to buy and sale black people. Furthermore, for the first time in the history of mankind, the most important person in the whole wide world was a black person.

And the second this happened, that very moment when Obama became the leader of the free world, all the racial problems that plagued the world where thought to have vanished. Few countries in the world have fought the rise of cultural diversity more violently than America, so when Obama was elected, everyone thought, this is it, no more racism. And it was a reasonable conclusion to reach, because, after all, he could not have been elected to office by non-whites only, but with a little help from the average white voter. If history is anything to be guided by, nothing ever comes to an end (except disco!). And especially not the issues of race, not unless all of mankind, truly and physically, becomes color blind, like (most) animals.

The fact that race still matters shouldn’t at all be surprising to any of us. Yes, the election of Obama was spectacularly significant; it did send a shock wave all around the world. We were even rooting for him all the way here in Ethiopia, although as Ethiopians, one of only two African countries, along with Liberia, that have never been colonized, we don’t really have firsthand experience with colonization.

Race isn’t an affliction that has been troubling the world for centuries or even millennia. As far as historians could quarry, mankind has always classified itself into categories of black, white, yellow or beige. That is how we have identified ourselves. No mere civil rights movement or historical milestones can change that reality. This very simple fact became obvious with – not so much the rise of – but the election of Donald J. Trump. During the last year and a half, the media, and everyone else around the world was confounded by the ascendancy of such a candidate, from a fringe status to president of the most powerful country in the world. Political analysts have explained his rise a result of America’s middle-class economic angst, as they have never been beneficiary of the gradually recovering GDP.

Now, the election is over, and we have the benefit of analyzing it in hindsight. And, obviously enough, the economy had nothing to do with almost any part of that brain-numbing election. What was on the line was something far more multi-layered and controversial. On a BBC program, the program’s host reflected to a couple of commentators, (I am just rephrasing here), “Isn’t it ironic that the first African-American president of the U.S. was succeeded by a man endorsed by White Supremacist groups?” She was right, it is very ironic indeed.

The show proceeded to trying to understand the true racial and gender-specific causes behind the election. Everyday Americans, being interviewed on the show, made the reason they voted for Trump far clearer than any political pundit or commentator has been able to. One voter, complained how, since Obama was elected, it was starting to feel, more and more, like white people were becoming the minority. There were just too many non-whites around, too much diversity, an assortment of way too many races and cultures. For him, and this was what amazed me, that although this wasn’t necessarily bad thing, it was, in his own words, different.

Mark that last word – ‘different’. It isn’t really a very racist thing to say, is it? He didn’t claim that non-white people were inferior, or in any way, undeserving of social benefits or privileges. They were just different. How does racism begin I wonder? When I think of the word, more than anyone historical figure, the first that comes to mind is Adolf Hitler. A racist to end all racists, the Ku Klux Klan, was child’s play compared to his Nazi.

Hitler came to power in Germany in the early 1930’s. From the beginning, his feeling towards Jews was an open secret. Of course, he didn’t announce, or spell out his vision in any way, that he would one day green light such a scheme entitled the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’. Still, it was very obvious he didn’t like one particular segment of society.

As WWII was coming to an end, he rounded up all Jews and placed them in ghettos. To the very end of the war, the brutal and systematic wiping out of 6 million Jews was kept a secret, but every citizen knew, far before the Holocaust, Jews were being massively and inhumanely mistreated by the state. And how did he, and his cronies, justify this atrocity? By telling their citizen that it was OK to hate Jews, or by insisting that since the German blood is so pure and supreme, all the Jews that threatened to poison it should be annihilated?

Racism never starts with hate, it always starts with love. All the dictators and the autocrats of the world have ruled in the name of love. Love for nation, love for one’s race. Racial intolerance always begins when one race is afraid that its cultures or traditions are being threatened in some way, when change is on the horizon. In other, more succinct words, the ugly wounds of racism will be reopened every time one group suggests the other is ‘different’. People don’t need to believe another race is below that of their own. All they need to do is recognize that it is merely different, unfamiliar, and alien. Then the floodgate will be opened, and we know – we have learned – how hard it is then to close it again.

By Christian Tesfaye
Christian Tesfaye is a Film Critic whose interests run amok in both directions of print and celluloid/digital storytelling. He could be reached at christian.tesfaye@yahoo.com.

Published on Nov 22,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 864]



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