Rarely-discussed toxic form of discrimination still prevalent within Black race
Black-on-black discrimination is a serious issue within the black race that has existed for centuries, from slavery to colonisation to the present day.
Malawi: Political activist Marcus Garvey once said of the black race, "If we as a people realised the greatness from which we came, we would be less likely to disrespect ourselves."
Within the black community, there is a toxic form of discrimination that is rarely discussed. It is about black people discriminating against one another and treating other races better because they believe the black race is inferior to other races.
It is so rarely discussed in black society that I struggled to find the proper terminology to define this form of discrimination during my research on the subject.
Internalized racism, black-on-black discrimination, black-on-black racism, and black self-hatred were the closest terms I could find from various sources. Some black scholars who specialise in race issues have even come to the controversial conclusion that this type of discrimination is the result of colonial mentality.
I considered writing about this topic because I have experienced this type of discrimination. I was in Blantyre a few years ago, hoping to buy some novels from a certain bookshop. The novels I wanted to buy didn't have a price tag, so I asked the black-clad employees at the bookstore to help me.
A Caucasian gentleman needed assistance in the same section of the bookstore where I found the novels. Despite the fact that I was the first person to approach the bookshop employees for help, they ignored me and instead crowded around the Caucasian gentleman as if he were a famous celebrity and began assisting him, even going so far as to ask him personal questions such as where he was from, his occupation, and what he was doing in Malawi.
When the employees finished talking with the gentleman, one of them came over to help me.
My friend (a black man) once told me that he, too, had faced this type of discrimination. He once entered an Arab-owned shop in Blantyre that employed mostly black people. On that particular day, he and a Caucasian lady were the first to enter the shop as soon as it opened in the early morning hours.
As soon as they walked into the shop, one of the owners told one of the employees to follow my friend, despite the fact that he and the lady were the only customers there and the shop was surrounded by cameras.
The owner never told the other employees to follow the Caucasian lady.
My friend, who was aware of what was going on, asked the employee, "Why are you following me? I'm not a thief, so you don't have to do this."
'It's my job, I just have to do what I'm told,' the employee responded embarrassingly.
It was clear that the black employee was fearful of standing up for his fellow black person for fear of losing his job.
During my travels abroad, I witnessed this type of discrimination and heard stories from victims who had also faced it.
When I was a university student in Tanzania, one of our lecturers once told our class about the poor customer service provided by fellow black employees in various establishments he frequented, while other races were given special treatment.'
He cited instances in which black customers who frequented establishments such as restaurants, for example, had to wait a long time to be served by black employees while their white counterparts were served promptly.
This would frequently occur even if black customers were the first to enter these establishments or the first to request assistance.
'I don't know why we as black people do this to ourselves,' the lecturer said to the class of mostly black students.
On a trip to South Africa, another professor at that same university met a similar fate. He told the class about a time when he went into a computer store to buy a battery for his laptop.
A black employee at the shop assisted the professor, who is a black man. The employee requested that the professor take a seat so that he could search for the battery.
A white gentleman entered the same shop just as he was about to look for the battery. The employee quickly abandoned his work and approached the gentleman.
Instead of telling the gentleman to take a seat, as he had told the professor, and that he would assist him after he had finished assisting the professor, the employee began assisting the gentleman and engaging in a lengthy conversation with him, ignoring the fact that the professor had been the first to ask for his assistance.
The professor, shocked but not surprised by what was happening, waited patiently for the two gentlemen to finish their conversation. He realised the black employee was giving the white gentleman special treatment because of his race.
The employee approached the professor after assisting the white gentleman. Because he worked in education, the professor decided to teach the employee about history.
"Did you help the white gentleman while ignoring me because of my race?' 'Are you still influenced by apartheid ideology," the professor inquired of the employee.
The employee froze like a deer in headlights, embarrassed and shocked, and failed to answer his question. He apologised to the professor and promptly attended to his request.
When I was at a university in Tanzania, there was a Japanese student on the campus where I was based. The entire student body on campus was black. The Japanese student requested a private room in one of the campus hostels. Her request was granted despite the fact that it violated university policy, as students were required to share rooms. She appeared to be getting special treatment because of her race.
Black-on-black discrimination is a serious issue within the black race that has existed for centuries, from slavery to colonisation to the present day, and is sadly still being passed down from generation to generation.
As with all forms of discrimination, the solution to ending this type of discrimination is education.
As black people, we must educate ourselves and future generations about our history and culture, and learn to celebrate and be proud of it, as well as the accomplishments of black people in the past and present.
When we witness this type of discrimination, we must stand together and educate the perpetrators.