By Debbie Ogunjobi
A few years ago I wrote a column about political correctness. Back then I was as bemused as most people were by the new movement of protest about people’s use of language and expression. I do fully understand that certain words were unacceptable and could cause hurt and offence to a person, a group of people, a sex or even race.
Being a black person of African descent and a female to boot, I have experienced my share of hateful words. I have been called nigger many a time and I am sure most women have been referred to as the female equivalent of a dog in heat severally; people say bitch real easily!
I do think silly expressions like “vertically challenged” to describe short is ridiculous when people are getting killed by labels that define them by skin colour and sexual orientation. I won’t miss hearing the word nigger or bitch again as I understand the pain caused by the use of words that is meant to denigrate and humiliate others.
Hate words are coming back to popular culture and they are encouraging the use of violence by people who are finding expression in violence and hate.
There are general words that most people consider hateful and the most common words are those used to racially profile a people. Black people have been called by so many names that I am not sure what is what anymore. I remember Negro, then Niggers, and lately we have become people of colour.
I choose to be called a person and I don’t think defining me by the colour of my skin is appropriate as my colour has no bearing on my person, intellect, ability and most importantly the content of my character. Racism should be a thing of the past just like slavery but they are both scourges that are still prevalent in our world despite civilisation.
My first taste of racism was an eye opener. In my student days, I had sought a vacation job while on holiday in England. I passed a phone interview to get a job as a doctor’s receptionist and I had been excited to attend what I had been told was a mere formality to meet the manager of the practise.
The long and short of it was that she had got the surnames mixed up and had thought she had offered the minimum wage paying job to an English rose who had to her dismay turned out to be a black undergraduate student. Her response to my enthusiastic announcement of myself was a resounding “Oh my God; you are black!”
That was over twenty years ago and racism is still very alive and well. I blame it on ignorance and insecurity but I am revising that opinion to make room for a dangerous belief system that has permeated some cultures and even civilisations such that it has become a way of life for some people to see others as beneath them and in some cases even made the excuse for victimisation and hate crimes.
Racism has been brought to the front burner lately by the use of hate words in the English premier league. I was personally irked by the accusation that Liverpool footballer Luis Suarez used a hate word 7 times in a face-off with another footballer.
He apparently said he does not speak to Negroes and my normal amusement is turning to fury!! That’s not ignorance; that’s an outright justification for hate that fuels crimes like murder and grievous harm. That’s the justification for the murder of Stephen Laurence (18 year old boy killed by racist thugs in England) Anuj Bivde killed this last boxing day and several others who have been killed needlessly over the years.
Hate is such a heavy and bitter emotion that it seems to poison everything and everyone it touches! I can’t claim to love every single person but I do try not to hate anyone as I find it does me more harm than them. I always thought it was just the black and white thing between those of us in Africa and Caucasians so you can imagine that I was a bit confused to find racism in other cultures that discriminate not because of colour but the shades in colours.
I have a Chinese friend with pearly white skin who told me years ago that she was black because she was a shade darker in whiteness or paleness! She was not accepted by some people in her native country because she was considered inferior.
The caste system is rife in India as well and it seems most cultures are not immune from racial profiling. Racism is endemic and even in the governmental systems. It’s in the forms we fill, just like religion and it is time it is taken from the realm of political correctness to become a vanguard that has worldwide support.
The world is waiting to hear what becomes of the allegations against the English football captain John Terry and I wonder who truly believes what anymore. Is racism a belief that is swept under the carpet but truly endemic in the western world?
Yes, we have the 1st American black president but who can forget the tea party and the other groups bent on proving he is not even an American? Any discrimination is an expression of hate! Colour, beliefs, orientation are not enough reasons for discrimination and profiling.
They cannot be justification for name calling and any crime. People are people; persons deserving of respect and acknowledgement; there is no colour better than the other. Only one colour is relevant when it matters; it’s red!! The colour of the blood that runs through all our veins; it makes us all equal and human; one and the same!!