Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Self-esteem and Discrimination

As someone who grew up in war conditions and lived as a refugee for a long time, I'm  sometimes considered by many people in the 'west' to be prone to (or have)  low self-esteem, be poor or illiterate.  Living as refugees or displaced persons, who depended on the good will of others put people in a situation where they don't think much about themselves. But that's not everyone though.

As I stood by our front desk at my place work talking about Race and Identity in relation to my book, Is 'Black' Really Beautiful?, the issue of why many African peoples in North America become so over-sensitive when racial issues come up! For many rational people, this owes its origin to slavery and racial segregation.

But one of my coworkers, a person  of European descent, was surprised to realize that her 'black' friend, a very intelligent woman, easily becomes irritated by simple things she [friend] considers racist. The friend considers any mention of a watermelon racist; and complains a lot about 'white privilege.' This means that discrimination is considered something 'whites' don't face because of 'white privilege.' In any discussion between 'blacks' and 'whites', 'white privilege' issue comes up!

While racial discrimination is not something anyone can deny, it's sad to make everything about race. Racism has been taken to the extreme extent that any expression of racial pride by people of European descent is considered morally suspect. These people are human and should be allowed to express, freely, the pride in what they've done and who they are.

We shouldn't make ourselves emotional prisoners of Europeans utterances. We shouldn't feel emotionally hurt when things like watermelon are mentioned. We can't feel emotionally paralyzed if we're called monkeys. When are we going to have emotional strength! Don't we have things to say that can make Europeans emotionally hurt? And if they can't get emotionally hurt then we need to learn from them to be emotionally strong.

Inter-racial relations work well when we are honest with one another. This sounds utopian but it works!

This mindset has been adopted by some South Sudanese.  Simple things are tribalized. This speaks a lot about how we feel about ourselves. When we misconstrue what other tribes say about us, then the chances of us living together in peace are compromised. Instead of understanding issues in the manner others intended them, we simply rationalized them in the way we want regardless of the plea by the people who first spoke the words to us or about us.

Instead of focusing on important issues like police brutality or discrimination in the justice system, we complain about being called monkeys or calling people racist when some, like my co-worker, mention watermelon or fried chicken. We can't put our emotional health in the hands of others but then blame them when they can't take care of our emotions.

Developing strong self-esteem can help one in distinguishing between actual Racism and misunderstanding. We can't call someone racist when they are being proud of themselves or when they say something that offends us even when  they didn't mean to offend us.

A person who's well grounded, with strong self-esteem, thinks beyond the simplicity of everyday insults; and works towards changing the bigger things that affect the lives of the discriminated groups in a significant manner.


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