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