Beyond the Colour of One’s Skin

The Honourable Robert (“Bob”) Nesta Marley, in one of his most insightful songs based on lyrics derived from a speech made by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I before the United Nations General Assembly in 1963 (Wikipedia), thundered the following words in a poignantly prophetic tone: “Until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned… until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes… everywhere is war.”

Indeed, the world has been at war since the dawn of the human race (not races!) because of the demon of racism. Although science has established in irrefutable terms that there is nothing distinctly different genetically with respect to the so-called races on earth, many different people groups have considered themselves superior to others and have sought to exterminate them and their memory from this planet because of their “otherness”. Hitler and his emissaries of recent history come to mind. It seems many among us today refuse to accept the indisputable commonality of the humanity of all.

I read with great distress and pain the report in the Observer of Monday, November 17, 2008 about the racist backlash that is now taking place in the United States of America in the wake of the election of Barack Obama, a man of African descent, to the presidency of that country. Indeed, it is painfully obvious that the cancerous disease of racism still haunts the human race. I am saddened by this and I am weeping.

I weep for this broken world not because I have had my head in the sand, as it were, since I was born nor because I have just awakened from a long slumber. I weep because some human beings are still stubbornly refusing to embrace other human beings because of their pigmentation. I weep because, in our enlightened age, we seem to be still groping in the darkness of racial discrimination. I weep because, at a time when life-saving hope is being injected into the psyche and soul of the an economically depressed country (the USA) and a hurting world, the forces of un-hope and mayhem are trying to keep us mired in the mud of barbaric and inhumane racial provincialism.

President-elect Obama said the following, in his victory speech, “America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do.” He was correct from many different angles. One of them has to do with racism and ethnocentricity. When will all this end? No wonder many Black people all over the world are trying to become “white” by doing unbelievable things to their God-formed bodies. They are ashamed of their blackness! They think, based on humanity’s “dark” history with reference to the race problem and the current goings-on in the world, that their “somebodiness” is connected to the transformation of their pigmentation.

Obama’s victory should spur us on to believe in ourselves as people of African descent in Jamaica and around the world. We should teach our young people about the achievements of Black people throughout history and the significance of connecting their “somebodiness” to the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin. Our universities, colleges, and seminaries should revamp their curriculum to reflect such a philosophy.

Ultimately what is significant is not one’s whiteness or blackness, but one’s humanness. Oh how I long for a world of harmony among the races and equality and justice for all! I look forward to the day when the “war” of which Bob Marley has sung would end. Christians have been praying for the end of the world. We need an immediate end to the world of racism!

Earlmont Williams

     

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