I made a random comment during a recent Facebook discussion about racial objectification or stereotyping that became a watershed moment for me. I said, “I want to know where did people from so many world cultures learn to hate blackness.” Once those words appeared on my computer screen, I heard a figurative “snap~crackle~and~pop!” as something begin to percolate from the depths of my subconscious. I tasted the bitterness of bile bubbling up into my esophagus and a flash of heat (not menopause related) rushed to my head. I was having a moment of sheer rage. Black rage.
I ‘ve been living in Asia for over two years and I’ve suffered through indignities that are often difficult to speak about and equally tough to write about. One coping mechanism for me has been to channel some of my pent-up emotions into my poetry and writing. I certainly feel better after scribbling my thoughts on paper and/or talking into a microphone for a podcast. Despite the therapeutic benefits of this course of action, I know and, honestly speaking, have known it’s an inadequate response to the problem.
The more I travel outside of the United States the more I’m convinced there is a global apartheid system in place for black people. It’s a system that strips away the rights and privileges that should be accorded to me as an American citizen and confers a lesser, second-class citizenship upon me in many countries.
Let me be perfectly clear what I’m saying: There are countless nations, many of them so-called friends and allies of the United States, that systematically discriminate against, marginalize and otherwise oppress people of African-descent.
These are facts you’re unlikely to find written in tourist brochures inviting you to visit these countries to spend your American dollars. Yet, with a little effort the truth about the treatment of blacks, primarily Africans, in these countries can be found.
For the reader who recoils at the mention of the “A” word, “African”, because you’re Black-American, I just want to say there’s a great deal of ignorance about the amazingly rich and diverse potpourri of blackness that exists in the world. When many people see a person with African features standing on a street corner, even with all our many varied hues and feature combinations, they still think “African”. Therefore, how the world perceives and treats Africans has a direct bearing on how you’re likely to be treated as a Black American.
In other words, the social and economic net that may have been expressly setup to exclude Africans from access to and full participation in the community of nations, ensnares Black Americans, too. My experience with this issue, however, convinces me it’s driven more by an “anti-black” animus than “anti-African” sentiments.
One of the most disheartening aspects of the global apartheid system, specifically as it relates to the treatment of Black Americans, is non-black American expats living in these countries know about its existence and their silence on this topic, for the most part, is deafening.
It isn’t just non-black expats who’ve failed to sound the alarm about these hateful and shameful practices. Black expats, too, try to rationalize and “be understanding” of the pervasive racism in host countries to their own detriment.
A case in point, I was sharing with another Black-American expat a humiliating experience I had trying to hail a taxi-cab after leaving a social gathering one rainy evening. As I told him how cab, after cab rejected me as a passenger, this young man begin to quiz me:
“How were you dressed?”
“Were you at the end soi (street) or the middle of the soi?”
“Are you sure the driver’s understood English?”
“Where was the event? (It could have been in a bad part of the city)”
Although I had an answer for each of these questions, it was clear to me this young man didn’t want to acknowledge I had been the victim of race discrimination. More distressing, from my point of view, was the fact my personal testimony as a black person who’s experienced discrimination on other occasions didn’t count. I wasn’t credible because I was a black person “playing the much maligned race card”.
Only after I told him the whole ugly spectacle had played out in front of an upscale apartment building with a Thai doorman who finally called out to me in the rain and said, “Taxi drivers don’t want to give black woman a ride,” did he begrudgingly acknowledge it was a racial incident.
In a post-racial America where far too many people are afraid of admitting things aren’t as rosy on the racial front as we’d all like to believe, a terrible and dangerous paralysis has sat in. We either fail to act when racial incidents occur which warrant a response or we act too slowly.
The United Nations has named 2011 as the year to call the world’s attention to the plight of the descendants of the African Diaspora. I believe it’s time for people of conscience to speak out about the pervasive and persistent attempts by many nations to deny people of African descent a legitimate role and place in the global community.
While speaking out on behalf of all people of African descent subjected to global apartheid is a good thing, as an American citizen living abroad, I’m required under international law to go to my own government to obtain relief from oppressive and racist policies directed against me as a Black American by a foreign nation.
There is no argument that the American government has a duty to protect is citizens from egregious civil and human right abuses, and, without a doubt the systematic exclusion of Black Americans from full access to and meaningful participation in the civil societies of countless foreign nations warrants government action; although, exactly what action should be taken by the federal government is a matter ripe for discussion.
If global apartheid is to truly end, all Americans, not just Black Americans, must insist our government take immediate steps to confront this shameful scourge.
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