The 2018 World Cup is over. The world stopped briefly, or so we would like to believe, especially on those days when our favourite team whether from South America or Europe played. The World Cup is held once every four years and this year the 21ST FIFA World Cup was held in Russia. There are some among us who are still going through a period of mourning, while there are those who are still basking in the fact that France emerged from group C to become the eventual winners of this international football competition. Perhaps most troubling about the World Cup is that many of us without much thought gave support to countries which in the past have embraced a racist ideology. To be ignorant of the law is not an excuse; the same argument can be made for not knowing one’s history. Marcus Mosiah Garvey expressed it most eloquently when he said, “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” It was pathetic at some juncture to see the unreservedly support many of us from the Black race gave to those teams from the former colonial masters. It was not that too long ago, that many Europeans countries had black people in human cages parading and exploiting their pleasure. Our kinfolks were stripped of their humanity and decency for the gratification both sexually and emotionally for the Europeans. Yet, many among us readily don T-shirts of the former colonial powers, as well as proudly displayed flags of these countries, namely Belgium, France, Spain, England, Russia, Italy and Germany on their cars, in their homes and business establishments. On the other hand, one could hardly find the flags of the five African representatives in the World Cup, namely, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia and Nigeria. As a society Jamaica has not fostered a culture of reading and as a result this sad period of history is unfamiliar to many. This is problematic and exposes a gap in the education system in that history is an optional subject. This once again underscores the importance of empowering the minds of our people. I dare say that critical thinking which is one of the pillars of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) is not sustainable unless History becomes one of the foundation courses in our education system.
Human Zoos and Crimes against Humanity
Some will argue that this story of Human Zoos explains how millions of westerners were manipulated into a belief in the inequality of races. What began as a fascination as argue by some clearly turned into racial discrimination and cultural division. As recently as in 1958 in Brussels, Belgium had a human zoo with a Congolese village which was on displayed at Brussels World’s Fair. It bares thought how could people of African descent give their support to teams from Europe in light of the atrocities inflicted upon our African brothers and sisters who were caged like animals in human zoos all across Europe. Are we so forgiving as a people that we have in less than sixty (60) years chose not to remember the pain, humiliation and suffering of our African brothers and sisters? We should never forget the Transatlantic Slave Trade which saw the forced migration of between 12 to 15 million Africans to the West Hemisphere between the 15th and 19th century. This period of enslavement of Africans is also referred to as the African Holocaust. We should make parallels to the Jews who never forget their history. Do we need to be reminded why there is still discrimination in many societies based on the colour of one’s skins? The savage exhibitions all across Europe including Norway and North America, as well as the accompanying suffering and pain endured by native and indigenous peoples should become a lesson in history which we should ensure never happens again to humanity. Many European societies starting from the end of fifteenth century developed a bizarre habit of exhibiting exotic human “specimens” whether this was in Paris, London or Berlin for those who saw themselves as belonging to a superior culture and race. This strange behaviour did not only apply to the Africans. In fact hundreds of indigenous people that also included Moors, Tartars, Indians, Pygmies and Turks were shipped and put on display for white Westerners to view. These ethnological expositions or Negro Villages were called as Human Zoos, where humans were exhibited publicly, usually in a so-called natural or primitive state.
While many Europeans capitals and societies saw themselves as culturally superior, when an objective analysis based on the international tenets of human rights is done it will show that these Westerners were the ones who were culturally inferior. Let us not forget that Argentina which was one of the more popular teams in the World Cup has had a history of racism as well. Argentina’s 1853 Constitution makes it clear there is a preference for European migrants. Although there has been some legislative reform to address racism in this South American country more needs to be done as racial discrimination persists against indigenous peoples, immigrants, Afro-Argentines, Jews and Arabs. Fortunately, while we no longer have human zoos, it is most unfortunate that we still have racism and discrimination all across the world which presents itself in various forms. The fear of those who do not share our skin colour, or religious beliefs, language, value systems have created many divisions and walls among and between peoples. It is interesting that many African migrants regardless of History still view Europe as the continent on which they can have a better life. It is painful to hear of the stories of these migrants almost daily who perish on the high seas as they attempt to make to Europe for a better life.
The More Things Change
Anti-Semitism another form of discrimination is once again on the rise in Europe. The world continues to watch Hungary who under the current Prime Minister Viktor Orban continues to create structural barriers to force out, or prevent “others” from settling in Hungary. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, of the right-wing Fidesz Party, does not want more immigrants in Hungary. He has called a plan to distribute applicants for asylum among EU member states “absurd, bordering on insanity.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) have been lukewarm regarding their rebuke of the unfolding events in this NATO country. One might argue that other European countries have their hands full as they try to contain the rise of far-right political parties in their own countries which have become increasing popular and attractive to many Europeans in recent times as the re-emergence of racism rears its ugly head. Do you recall the sentiments in Europe and the lack of action leading up to the World War 2? We clearly have not learnt much from history.
The Way Forward
Sports is a powerful medium through which global partnerships should be encouraged and promoted, however, sports can also be used as a political tool in order to sew divisions among peoples and cultures. Our attitudes towards race relations must take into account a history which some would like us to forget. Perhaps something good will emerge from the victory of France. France has been receptive of refugees and migrants and this fact was reflected in the racially diversified national team at the World Cup. Maybe, just maybe the drivers of this culturally revolution will be the young migrants whose parents risk it all for a new day and a better life. Undoubtedly, the past must be interrogated in order to move forward. In order to move forward indigenous peoples, as well as, those belonging to cultures who have been abused and discriminated against must bear in mind the past and forge ahead with a new narrative for the future.
All men and women are made equal regardless of race. The stark reality of this discourse is one in which the legacy of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and a new form of colonialism are very much alive and kicking and lives on in multiple forms. The time has come for all of us to make a concerted effort to learn about our history.
In the words of Elie Wiesel, neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim, silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
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