“What is death to a frog is fun to a child.” – African proverb
“Everyone is crying out for peace, yes, none is crying out for justice. I don’t want no peace, I need equal rights and justice,” Peter Tosh voiced in his 1977 hit ‘Equal Rights’. It is his criticism of the tradition in our humanity to preach peace and not talk about justice for fear of offending some ‘powerful’ individuals and groups. How do we achieve peace when we are the same ones who consciously and unconsciously deny some others the peace of mind they need by trampling on them? Is it not ironic that we do not want to create a just society, but we want to live in peace?
In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing anti-racist demonstrations taking place all around the world, we have to bring to the fore our own age-old traditions of bias we mete out against people who do not share our uniqueness. Sad as it is, many among us have established ourselves by denying others their right to live wonderfully. We consciously and unconsciously discriminate against others based on their ethnicity, their sexuality, their associations, and on other distinctiveness we have not taken time to understand. We dare to criticise racism, but we do not have the courage to talk about our own discriminatory leanings.
We want to appear awoken and broadminded on the digital plane, but in the physical we are hiding our heads in the sand about the discriminations we dish out to our own. We think we are not as evil as the racists, but how often have we denied and dehumanised our fellow countrymen and women because they belong to a different tribe? It is no secret that some of us treat others as if they are parasites. It is so bad we have even structured our politics along ethnic lines. We need to understand that the fight against racism is a fight against discrimination of every kind. The fight for racial equality is also a fight for ethnic equality.
Some of us have tried to establish our identity as superior through misuse of facts and pseudoscience. We highlight our strengths and use them as tools of oppression over the weaknesses of others. We have organised our identities based on what we can project and what we can hide, and then turn around to discriminate against others. Is it not sad that you would want to know the ethnicity of a person, or the partisan leaning of another before you appreciate that individual? Such an attitude is dehumanising. We may not have extreme racial discrimination in our part of the world, but we do have a discriminatory culture that has over the years placed some people in the lower pecking order. The main difference is that, here, our actions have not generated a hashtag.
Discrimination is more like a hydra, a serpent-like monster – except it is far bigger and older than any of us. The challenge with killing a hydra is if you do not cut off the immortal head, any other head you cut off will generate two more popping-up in its place. We have been conditioned to discriminate. That conditioning is the immortal head of the hydra that we have to cut off. The evidence is captured in ethnic epithets normalised into our everyday language.
Life is such that when we receive warmth and respect, we reliably respond reciprocally. And when we receive hurts, taunts and discriminations, we give back the same as a form of defence mechanism. In a sense, we learn the behaviours meted out to us. Thus, if you discriminate against another, you are not only impoverishing that individual, but also teaching it is alright for that individual to also discriminate against you and others. Great is such immorality.
How can you even imagine, in the slightest form, that another person is or can be inferior to you in any way when study after study has taught us about the diversity of life? The litmus test of our humanity is appreciating the uniqueness of another, instead of discriminating. We are all made in the image of God, religion postulates. That is why Christ warned that whatsoever you do the least of men, you have done it to Him. To discriminate against any individual, in any form, is to discriminate against God. It is a crime that must be denounced by all. A failure to do that prevents the peace we have all be crying for.
As a person is, so does he or she see. That is why many of us have unconsciously acted unjustly in the past and continue to do so, when in reality those attitudes are entirely divorced from fact. We need to understand that an equal treatment of individuals is the foundation for creating a just society. To achieve this, we need to stand up and denounce discrimination of any kind. We cannot plead the golden rule for ourselves and mete out the monstrous injustice of treating others any which way and anyhow we desire. This has to stop, and it has to start with you. As our fathers said, “The stranger sees only what he or she knows”. Let us therefore start understanding our conditioning and actually question why assume we are superior in any form to any other person, for we only know our side of the story…
Kodwo Brumpon is a management consultant and a life coach who inspires individuals, groups and corporate bodies to think and feel that which is true, and empower them to positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions. Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]