Sun | Nov 29, 2020

Religion & Culture | From Brazil to China: Responding to worldwide prejudice against blacks

Published:Wednesday | November 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMDr Glenville Ashby

I was dazed for a moment, unable to make sense of the many scenes that just flashed before me. I was not dreaming nor was I delusional.

Newspapers surrounded me. And again, I reflected on all that I read, stitching together the avalanche of unsettling news: the cultural bias against blacks in every corner of the world.

And for a second time, with eyes closed, I saw before me Jair Bolsonaro, the newly elected president of Brazil, notorious for his unbridled candour. He repeated his views on black Brazilians: "I visited a Quilombo (settlement run by the descendants of runaway slaves) and the lightest Afro-descendant there weighed seven arrobas (230 pounds). They don't do anything. They are not even good for procreation."


And I saw clearly his thoughts on immigration: "The scum of the earth is showing up in Brazil, as if we didn't have enough problems of our own to sort out."


Jail or Deportation


And as quickly as Bolsonaro disappeared, a map of Israel was unfolded. Israel, the Jewish State where thousands of Africans today are now given a choice: jail or deportation.

The Jewish State that prides itself on defending every Jew alive. This, a mere supposition, according to an Israeli writer, his every line disturbingly revealing:

"The Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia, Hanan Aynor, wrote in 1973 that the Falashas (Ethiopian Jews) were primitive, illiterate, downtrodden and sick ... And 11 years passed (before these black Jews were allowed to return to Israel) during which time thousands of them died in refugee camps in Sudan, and Israel delayed the inevitable (their return) until Operation Moses in 1984.

"Even after the Law of Return was applied to Ethiopian Jews, the Government still raised many difficulties; and that while Israel was very excited about the return of Russian-speaking white people, it rejected for a long time aliyah (right of return) from Ethiopia."


And that infamous Chinese advertisement was running through my mind, so vivid, the laundry ad that featured an Asian woman, stuffing a black man into a washing machine, to turn him into a pale-skinned Asian.

And I reviewed the writings of Pan Qinglin, a member of the People's Consultative Conference, the nation's top political advisory board urging his people to "solve the problem of the black population of Guandong".

His paranoia drew praise. And I read: "Blacks travel in droves ... They engage in drug trafficking, harassment of women and fighting. Africans have a high rate of AIDS and the Ebola virus. If their population keeps growing China will change from a nation-state to an immigration country, from yellow country to a black-and-yellow country."


Astounding, given China's massive economic thrust in Africa.

And my reverie never ceased. And I saw the great nation of India, and my agitation grew, for there lives the Siddis people, descendants of Africans who settled there 400 years ago, becoming mighty in military and administrative matters.

Today it is different, though. And I read an article by Lucy Plumer, part of which read, "The Siddis are Indian citizens, they live the culture, they identify themselves as Indians. The only think that makes them different is their skin colour; outside of their small communities they are considered outsiders in their own land. In India, Africans in general have a bad reputation. They are often labelled as drug dealers, or the women as prostitutes and are subjected to much hostility and discrimination in society."


I shook my head, opened my eyes and stood. With downward gaze I was moved by the headline: 'Leaders around the world react to the mass killings at a Pittsburgh synagogue'.

And I wondered, did any world leader respond to the racist murder of nine members of black church in Charleston, North Carolina, in 2015?

I knew the answer, always mindful of Dr Henry Clarke's admonition, 'We have no friends.'

I ambled to my library and it is there I reflected, my dejection slowly giving way to hope. It is in the Caribbean that I saw promise again. And I recall the words of one, Monique, who had just returned to Dominica after decades in the cold.

She said, "The sad thing is we are adapting some of the most negative qualities of the developed countries. The US is not that great, true blue Americans are moving to our islands by droves to retire and develop businesses, we need to take a step back and consider doing the same. I am happy to be back and want to take advantage of any opportunity to develop my Dominica."


There are Options


And I was becoming more heartened. Indeed, there are options, none more interesting than an initiative promoted by the Government of Ghana. Representative Sheila Jackson of Texas said reassuringly at the US launch of The Year of Return Ghana 2019, "Those who have never been, there'll be a certain coming of age, that will be grander than we've ever imagined."

Hundreds have already accepted the invitation to resettle.

And I thought of Garvey, and smiled - 'Africa for Africans, at home and abroad.'

- Dr Glenville Ashby is the author of the award-winning Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity. Send feedback to or follow him on Twitter @glenvilleashby .