I blog what I observe around me, and I end up writing on a wide range of subjects including cultural tourism, customs and traditions, travel, and mountaineering. Specifically, what happens in and around the village of Butiama, the birthplace and final resting place of Tanzania's founding president, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
Butiama Bed & Breakfast
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Letter from Butiama: Racism should not be allowed in today's society
This is one of numerous articles I wrote for the Sunday News (Tanzania) column "Letter from Butiama" between 2005 and 2011. Publication date: 21st January 2007.
There is an on-going debate in the United Kingdom and India sparked off by offensive
comments made by one participant of a reality television programme against another.
Jade Goody, a former dental nurse and
currently participating in Big Brother UK,
is reported to have made racist remarks against fellow contestant Shilpa
Shetty, a famous actress from India.
Goody is apparently also not a very well
informed person. A while ago, she thought Saddam Hussein was a boxer. So
perhaps it is no accident that such an ill-informed person will make racist
comments without considering the consequences of what she says.
One consequences of her foul
language has been the decision by a company called Carphone
Warehouse to suspend its sponsorship of Big Brother. Another company, The
Perfume Shop, has decided to withdraw Goody’s perfume, “Shh..,” from its
She was also sacked from her position
as a spokesperson for an anti-bullying campaign, a responsibility that she
clearly does not have the character to uphold.
By most standards, both the victim and
the perpetrator are extremely wealthy; these are not individuals who go to bed
today with worries about whether they will have a meal tomorrow. Shetty is an
actress with over 30 films to her credit, while Goody has made a fortune simply
from being famous after participating in an earlier episode of Big Brother.
There are far more serious
problems in the world than the racist sentiments of a Big Brother contestant: the threat of Global warming to human survival, the threat of another
possible confrontation between Iran and another coalition force, and the
problems brought upon the world’s poor by malnutrition, incurable diseases, and
unhygienic water supply.
Why should we care? It’s simple: when we
allow bigoted attitudes to prevail unchallenged within society, we provide
space for them to grow and we can risk allowing them to mushroom into
dangerous mutations, especially when they find sympathetic supporters in
It is noteworthy that British leaders,
including Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon
Brown, have condemned the racist remarks.
If you hear a bad record long enough, it gradually becomes acceptable. Racist remarks, heard repeatedly, can change
attitudes and the attitudes can sometimes become strong convictions. When a
large enough group of people adopt those convictions, it is only a step away
before desperate politicians step in to represent those convictions.
The basis for racist attitudes is the
belief that there is a link between a person’s inherited physical qualities and
certain features of personality, intellect or culture. The ultimate conclusion
of the racist mind is that some races are superior to others.
One of those minds from the 19th
Century was of Joseph-Arthur de Gobineau, a French writer and diplomat. He
taught the superiority of the white race over all others, advancing the
hypothesis that the fate of civilisation would depend on preventing
“contamination” of that race by others.
Joseph-Arthur had some admirers, one of
whom was an Englishman called Houston Stewart Chamberlain who expanded his
mentor’s theories and generated such a huge following in Germany that
even Adolph Hitler praised Chamberlain for providing the “scientific” basis for
the superiority of some races over others.
A part of Hitler’s policies were founded on
the extermination of “inferior” races, and singled out the Slavs as a first
step towards achieving his objectives. If successful, his extermination campaign would have moved to Africa.
In more recent times the Apartheid policy
in South Africa, based on racial segregation, shut out the majority of South
Africans, restricting their access to land and economic opportunities, as well
as political representation, because of the colour of their skin.
So we have many good reasons to condemn
what has happened to Shilpa Shetty. While condemning racism, we should also be
aware that sometimes what appear outwardly to be racist attitudes can, in
reality, be more a reflection of the perpetrator’s insecurity than a
statement about her preferred skin colour.
The photos I have seen of Shilpa depict a
beautiful woman, who has a black belt in Karate and speaks several languages.