Al3irig dasas

Let’s talk about race. We, as Sudanese people, have an issue. A dilemma. Some call it an identity crisis, as in we-can’t-make-up-our-minds-if-we’re-Arabic-or-African (and apparently neither can anyone else in the world) crisis. Others see it as an inferiority complex. I agree with the latter. That’s why we find it so necessary to call anyone of a slightly darker skin shade a 3abid (slave). I hate that word. HATE IT. No wonder the South wanted nothing to do with us. I mean, how much more racist can it get? And then everyone complains about how the Lebanese and such look down on us because, educated or not, we’re all the same colour as the people who mop their floors. And what shocks me is that the people who use that word are supposed to be this country’s crème de la crème. I actually heard a college professor say it, and right in front of one of those above mentioned slightly-darker-skin-shade people as well! If someone called me a 3abid I would sock that someone right in the eye and knock their teeth back into last Friday. WHO, may is ask, are YOU? You’re an ignorant nobody, and I can tell just by observing the range of vocabulary you use to describe others based on the colour of their skin.
This is not a rant about how all people are equal in front of God, because frankly, they aren’t (لا يفرقهم إلا التقوى). It’s about how we seem to be able allocate so much time and effort into labels and rules that are based on something just short of bigotry. How we, as a nation, are caught up between loving ourselves and our country and between hating everything to do with it. We’re smart but we’re lazy. We’re brave but we’re stupid. We’re never on time, and yet when working abroad, we’re the people who set the time! We complain about the prices and the government and weather but do nothing about it. And then, as if we don’t have enough problems, we talk about race. We define ourselves by the ‘degree of freedom’, i.e. 7or (free/fair skinned) or 3abid (slave/black). And then, there’s the mother of all problems: AL3IRIS. Woe become all those who even think of marrying someone of ‘slave origin’! Why? Because ‘al3irig dasas’. Another phrase that I absolutely hate. I remember someone trying to convince me how that whole thing works: apparently, even if that ‘3irig’ was about 6 generations ago, there is still a chance that it will prop up in your children. That vicious, menacing blackness. Nope, it doesn’t matter how educated or kind or religious this person and his/her family is; a 3irig is a 3irig.
This is something that non-Sudanese people cannot understand, because to them we’re all the same colour anyway. But for us, it’s that gigantic skeleton in the cupboard, that murky, muddy poison lying just below the surface of our educated and prosperous society. Everyone talks about it, but no one actually talks about it. No one wants to. And honestly, neither do I. Why? Because it’s insulting and its hurtful and it’s just plain stupid. And the worst thing is that it’s one of the main things that define us as Sudanese people: our racism. For the record, and to be completely honest: I wouldn’t/couldn’t marry someone of the above mentioned, and this is something my close friends know about me. Not because I believe in any of the crap people say or find them in any way inferior; but because this is something that I have found to be so much bigger than me and I just don’t have the guts to fight it. And because, frankly, there is no guarantee that our future is going to be any different, and that my children might suffer the same stupid bigotry from others because of a decision that I made. I have seen enough examples to convince me that it's a lose-lose situation.
Shameful and cowardly, but it’s the truth. And I apologize for that.




Photo is 'My Sudan' by Hala Gaafar, my kid sister (I come from a talented family)
Check out Moez's post on the same topic (but better said, naturally): http://moezali.blogspot.com/2012/02/sudanese-identity.html

Comments

  1. nice topic my house office for eternity :P .. may i add to that ...

    Racism is the big Elephant in the room, that no one speak about.

    i believe sudan as nation is far away from the concept of civilization , we are still just "Tribes"

    the Tribal mentality - enforced by law !- still governs our behavior . we still use our tibe's name and religion in our birth certificate . and that that is the REAL problem . societally still define us by our tribs as if it is a sort of achievement.

    some of us claim that we are a religious islamic nation, and in islam we are equal, in same time society says if your arab your superior .. which to follow ? your religion or your society ? and that is the sudan identy crisis.

    enforcing the Law is only way forward and is the only solution to this criss , Law should be above anyone , and any sort of racial abuse should NOT be Tolerated and should be in fact criminalized . people should not be allowed to be racist and should be charged with racal abuse including your educated professor .

    i will give you an example not even about racism but a similar subject, its about sexsium and how people in uk deal with it .. in a live football match in on the famous tv channels there was female referee refereeing the game, Andy Gray and Richard Keys two of the best commentators of english football were commenting on match , the female referee made a mistake about a offside decision , one of the commentator said on live tv "females do not understand the concept of the offside rule" ... aldonya gamet o ma ga3dt !! .. next day he they both lost their jobs , that statement was considered discrimination against women , fa ma balk bai the "3" word !

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  2. "I wouldn’t/couldn’t marry someone of the above mentioned, and this is something my close friends know about me. Not because I believe in any of the crap people say or find them in any way inferior; but because this is something that I have found to be so much bigger than me and I just don’t have the guts to fight it." - You don't believe it in yet you do by your own admission - "I wouldn’t/couldn’t marry someone of the above mentioned" - you are simply perpetuating such an attitude by what you say you would not do. As a Muslim let me ask you - is this one of the characteristics to look out for when looking for a partner? Or even from an non-Islamic point of view would you disregard someone you fell in love with who met all other "qualities" but perhaps had some hidden "blackness" in the family closet? This is a ridiculous way to think! I appreciate it is a part of the mentality in Sudan but you are educated and yet you are continuing with the very same mentality!
    Interesting post nonetheless. Would you consider writing a post on FGM - the other elephant in the room in most of Sudan - I would be interested in hearing the perspective of an educated Sudanese women on that one.

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  3. Hi Mr/Ms Anonymous. As I mentioned (and as you quoted) my reason of not doing so is "Not because I believe in any of the crap people say or find them in any way inferior; but because this is something that I have found to be so much bigger than me and I just don’t have the guts to fight it." As in, not out of my own free will because frankly I just don't see this as a convincing enough reason in itself to refuse someone, especially in this time where finding someone of religion, education, good family and good qualities is extremely difficuly. However, this issue is not mine alone, I come from a society (meaning mostly family) that completely refuses this issue. And in something like marriage I am not about to go against what my family thinks even if I disagree with it, because as I said, it's much bigger than me and to me it's a losing battle. If you were to ask me, however, if in the future one such person should propose to my daughter (or son), would it still be a question? Honestly I don't know the answer to that. Sorry!
    About FGM, I wrote a couple of assignments about that in my past modules for my masters, but as a scientific rather than a social presentation. Why not? Thanks for the idea :)

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  4. You know Ghazi, you actually have a point.

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  5. sorry but i have to say i am disappointed in "i would not marry one of them", you are contradicting yourself . do what you believe in. don't correct a mistake by another mistake. life is short why live a lie ?

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  6. Let me ask you something Gazi, because I know how close you are to your family. If you had found 'the one' and intended on getting married but for whatever reason, let's say family background masalan, you're parents disagreed. How hard would you fight them and how much would you disrespect their opinion (which you don't believe in) to make it work?

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  7. i don't have to "fight" them. they understand the whole problem in sudan is because of racism. i am blessed with a family that believe in reason and logic. right is always right, and wrong will always be wrong full stop. they thought me to do what i believe is right and to think independently. they will give me their advice about a matter and warn me about possible consequences but they will leave the final decision to me. they always taught me to take full responsibility of any decision i made.

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  8. As for Sudanese looking at others in this respect let us look at how this issue developed. In the past people didn't get out of the cousins. The girl already had her husband, who wasn't even asked his opinion, named for her since she was born. They didn't want the others because they didn't know them. That also because they didn't like their daughters to travel away from their sight and you can hear stories of wives divorced from their husbands by the order of her parents because the husband, who was her cousin, wanted to go and live in Egypt for work. Later on people traveled away and mixed in the new destinations with other people from other tribes. With very much respect of Sudanese to neighborhood they started to accept marrying them. Here the fear of the external vanished because of living with each other as neighbors, and you can imagine how much Sudanese mix with neighbors. You can now notice that whenever two Sudanese meet and speak they find some common relation somewhere and somehow. Therefore when they get a person asking for their daughter hand they ask about him so as to find out who knows him. They become quite afraid of somebody whom they couldn't know any body who knows him or his family. Here comes about al3rig dassas, as you call it. However, this word came from the Prophet Mohammad Salla Allahu 3alaihi wa Sallam, which didn't mean the color, at all. It has much to do, again, with behavior. There are some types of unacceptable behavior which are inheritable. For instance, if it is known about a family who were living on robbery or they were murderers or very savage, or such sort, then it is better to stay away from them, and that is just an example. If you look around you can learn about many girls who were divorced because of manners of her in laws, may be not her husband but that didn't even stand by her side. Some husbands turned later to treat their wives terribly, beating and calling bad names, thus turning their lives into hell. To conclude from that; marriage is not a short trip to Addis or Malaysia, it is rather a long life with other new members in it to bear with all the circumstances of the decision being taken by some other people who read Alfatiha.

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  9. This sould come first:
    hard topic, if I can describe it. However, I feel that the conversation deviated a bit from what I thought it was about. As I see it in Sudan the topic under discussion had very much diluted than it was more than 30 or 40 years ago. It is vanishing by itself and doesn't need to be an issue of warry now.
    To discuss it more closely we have to differenciate between the issue as discrimination between people in general and in marrage. As for the former I think Sudanse people don't differentiate between people in general by colour, but rather they do it, in fact, by other means. For instance people from certain areas prefere their own relations when it comes to giving a job or wasta or even in social life or so, or they do on sexism, as the women find a lot of difficulty in treatment with their colleaques and had to fight a lot to get a fare treatment depending on her qualifications, and even within the family, as they become more happy when they have a new baby girl than a baby boy. There is the say almara kan fas ma bitaksir arras. Or according to their political party, if you don't belong to the rulling party then you are no body, even if you are as white as the milk, specially these days. Other wise people treat each other according to their manners and respect. As for the southerners they were never inferior only because of their origin or colour. There are quite many of them living happily now in the north and no body pushed them back, as they lived happily for tens of years. In fact they used to make problems to others and you can get quite a number of stories from people who were stuck with some of in public transport or in their neighbourhood, not to forget what they did when Garang died. Notherners in the South, who lived all their lives, or those who were teaching in universities, had to run for their lives, which happened before in the fifties and happened many times recently. On the contrary no such treament was applied against any of them in the north. People respect very much figures like Mr Apel Alair and even after war people accepted Garang. Many southers were much liked within working places or with their northern neighours. Many as well maried to nothern girls when they showed acceptable manners and had been Muslims.
    As for the other issue, marrage is more complicated than it is just simply put in this place. I think the people had missed the point that it is a very personla issue and can't be looked at as it is being discussed. It shouldn't be an issue that divide people in that way, and the issue of race or colour should not be put out of context. In many Arab countries people don't accept marrage out of their tribes, irrespect of the type or rank, if I can say, of that tribe, although they all have the same colour. However, they are living happily with that attitude and no body felt inferior or offended or the issue of racism came to sarface. Marage does not involve only the two people who had the contract, but it involves the familites and relatives of both. Girls family had to be very much keen that their daughter will be very respected and well treated by the new family she is going to be a part of, and of course the man to whom she is going to surrender as the leader of her family. In this respect colour is not an issue by itself at all. Now you find all colours in one family, despite their same parents. I personally wouldn't marry a man from one of the countries whose people look down to women, to start with. As well I will not marry a man who speaks a different languge as that may become a sourse of conflict due to misunderstanding. Marrying somebody who has a completely different background may be like having a timed bomb. There have to be always apologies of I didn't mean so and you said so which means so, and so forth. The more homogeneous the couple is, the more there is a higher chance of happier and more settled family.

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  10. Continue..
    As for Sudanese looking at others in this respect let us look at how this issue developed. In the past people didn't get out of the cousins. The girl already had her husband, who wasn't even asked his opinion, named for her since she was born. They didn't want the others because they didn't know them. That also because they didn't like their daughters to travel away from their sight and you can hear stories of wives divorced from their husbands by the order of her parents because the husband, who was her cousin, wanted to go and live in Egypt for work. Later on people traveled away and mixed in the new destinations with other people from other tribes. With very much respect of Sudanese to neighborhood they started to accept marrying them. Here the fear of the external vanished because of living with each other as neighbors, and you can imagine how much Sudanese mix with neighbors. You can now notice that whenever two Sudanese meet and speak they find some common relation somewhere and somehow. Therefore when they get a person asking for their daughter hand they ask about him so as to find out who knows him. They become quite afraid of somebody whom they couldn't know any body who knows him or his family. Here comes about al3rig dassas, as you call it. However, this word came from the Prophet Mohammad Salla Allahu 3alaihi wa Sallam, which didn't mean the color, at all. It has much to do, again, with behavior. There are some types of unacceptable behavior which are inheritable. For instance, if it is known about a family who were living on robbery or they were murderers or very savage, or such sort, then it is better to stay away from them, and that is just an example. If you look around you can learn about many girls who were divorced because of manners of her in laws, may be not her husband but that didn't even stand by her side. Some husbands turned later to treat their wives terribly, beating and calling bad names, thus turning their lives into hell. To conclude from that; marriage is not a short trip to Addis or Malaysia, it is rather a long life with other new members in it to bear with all the circumstances of the decision being taken by some other people who read Alfatiha.

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  11. So ya Um albanat, if your son wanted to marry a girl and the only thing wrong with her was her racial background, would you agree or refuse?

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  12. "the only thing wrong with her was her racial background"
    The "only thing wrong" - what sort of statement is that to make? That is downright racist.
    It seems you write about protesting against a system yet you yourself appear to advocate and maintain this system of prejudice!

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  13. Mr/Ms Anonymous. This whole post has been about how al3iris is seen in a negative light, hence the term 'the only thing wrong'. I don't find that says anything about me, or else why would I even bother writing about this in the first place. Whether you think the opposite is totally up to you.

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  14. I said before that the race in marriage couldn't be taken out of context. That means if there is nothing wrong with her, taking all considerations about the family of course as I made it clear, then there shouldn’t be any race problem, of course. Again marriage is purely personal issue and can't be discussed as a public one, nor any view of a group or individuals could be applied to any others. In general to have a successful marriage it is better to get a wife, or husband, who has the most attributes in common, including family background. If the racism is applied now as it has been in USA and Australia until the sixties by law, and by individuals after that, against blacks or natives, then we can find it important to discuss. This type, however, had never been found in Sudan.

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  15. Hey!

    Reading the post and comments, I have to say I think you're a little conflicted, but I don't blame you at all.

    Our society is so messed up, bound up and up in every body's business - I can't believe we're functioning, oh wait, we're not.

    Look at the rate of divorce, the "phony" marriages, the rife and lucrative prostitution industry and ponder about the social fabric.

    The race and tribe issues have so many negative connotations, it's kind of pathetic to be honest. I won't say it's backward, because we all need that "backwards" time to give us history, but in a world overwhelmed by globalization, even though Sudan remains isolated in many ways and in many parts, how are we not changing the standards.

    To make this comment short, people like you and I, who oppose this categorization to be used against people, should stand up and fight for it.

    I know it's difficult to fight your own family, but think of the bigger picture, and think of your own happiness. If you're already filtering people out because of race, social standing, political stance etc, then where does that leave you.

    When it comes to social equality, it's a cause bigger than you and I, yes, but unlike you, I'd defend it - looking at the bigger picture.

    You can't change the world with a vote only, you have to act it out.

    Keep the posts coming though :)

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  16. Hey Muniblah
    Thanks for your comment, it seems you're also calling me a 'downright racist' but in a nice way ;) You know I hesitated for quite a long time before writing this post and an even longer time before adding that last part on my own stance when it comes to marriage. Not because I was afraid of the lashing comments (I was sure most people would ignore the post and focus on that last bit in a negative way) but because I have good friends whose feelings I didn't want to hurt if this post was understood the way most people took it. I just want to comment on one line of yours: 'If you're already filtering people out because of race, social standing, political stance etc, then where does that leave you'. That's a good question. However, when it comes to marriage one prefers to avoid all potential causes for later conflict and like Um Banat (my mother btw) mentioned, choose someone with the most things in common including background, simply because its easier. I don't agree with 'love conquers all adversaries' because, frankly, it doesn't, and sharing a life with someone else has in itself all sorts of complications and disagreements which pre-existing differences would most likely just complicate. That's my opinion anyway. Of course, as my previous blog makes clear, I'm not married so I wouldn't know for sure :P
    Reem

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  17. I thought : العرق دساس was a hadith, of questionable authenticity though.
    allahu a3lam.

    The only reason I mentioned this piece of information is to shed light on how people can use religion to back any form of claim they make, no matter how ridiculous!

    Racism is a real issue in Sudan, and while tribalism is common in societies of diverse ethnicity, what we have surpasses tribalism! There is no doubt that such attitudes hinder the development of a nation.

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  18. It's a hadith but I think the reference to al3irq is about behaviour and not race. As in, you should ask about this person's family as well as past generations because people who have a family pattern of violence, meanness or even psychotic illness are very well likely to exhibit these behaviours themselves, even if they don't exhibit them now, hence the term 'dasas'. Which I think is good advice.

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  19. People, I hate to be a bore, but this is all rubbish. I mean, where do you all live? In the middle ages? In Nazi Germany? In Israel? Come on! Get real.

    The only reason that Sudanese are these shades of black (and whether you like it or not, we ARE quite black -- unless you happen to be 7alabi, in which case you are regarded even worse than black), is because we are a mix of Cushites, Nubians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, West Africans, Arabs, Europeans, Indians, and a load of other ethnicities. I defy anyone to tell me the contrary. I have studied my own family genealogy, and have found no less than 8 (recent) ancestors who were not from anywhere near Sudan.

    If you were to fall in love with someone who your family would classify as a 3abed (as you say -- I personally never use this word, as we are all 3abeed in someone else's classification, as you, Reem, rightly pointed out), then you would find this person so incredibly wonderful, that you would not even see this in him. You would defy anyone and everyone. Unless you're a wimp, which I don't believe you are, having discovered with pleasure, your musings.

    Times have changed, and mentalities have evolved. If the US can put a black man into the White House, then who are we, the Sudanese, who carry in our very DNA a hodgepodge of ethnic genes, to claim superiority over those darker than us?

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  20. I'm reading this second post.. and I'm already hooked to this blog. Thank you, Reem, for writing about this. My short stays in Sudan, I have to deal with hearing this word (3abid) left right and centre, and even worse how no one seems to find it offensive. Like those who are calling others "3abeed" are any whiter. But it's that subtle little shade of brown that authorises them to label the rest 3abeed. And woe to us "7alab".. we're not even Sudanese. We're called "7alab" condescendingly, and worse, some of those 7alabs actually find it "flattering". It's a vicious circle so engraved in society to the point it's OK for women to BLEACH their ugly dark skin with the most toxic creams to look "beautiful". Because the grow up feeling inferior and ugly because they're brown. Or heaven forbid.. black. Bleaching one's face in a daily routine ritual speaks not only of the toxic effect on these women's health, but reflects a larger very toxic culture :(

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