So I had an assignment on racism and just decided to put it out here because it’s something we all need to be aware of. Nothing much to be said today, see for yourself.
Racism; What the Victims Can Not See!
A race is a noun used to refer to a particular set of people that exhibit similar distinct features (“Race”). For instance, a ‘black’ race comprises all people who are neither Europeans, nor Asians and have a darker skin tone than the both groups stated above. The dark skin tone possessed by the Africans is a distinct feature that segregates them from the Europeans and Asians who have a lighter- usually called ‘white’ skin tone. Racism is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (“Racism”). It also is “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” (“Racism”) Racism has been one of the worldwide heart-striking issues overtime, and is one with memories that can not fade, especially by the descendants of the African Diaspora as they are and have been major victims due to their skin color. It is a worldwide social issue that not just the Black race or Africans experience, but also people of color- which are any set of people who have a darker skin tone than that of the Europeans. This includes but is not limited to Africans, Indians, and Black Americans. Racism and migration stand as one; they are two important societal issues that cannot be discussed separated, one from the other. Racism results from immigration specifically and is experienced more by people of color because they migrate more. They leave their countries to another country which undoubtedly automatically makes them foreigners. It’s understandable if one left his or her country to one where they were still at a point of relatability with the descendants/residents. A situation however, where you leave your country to a totally different Diaspora that comprises majorly of residents that have unique physical qualities different than yours is one that inarguably leaves you standing out of the rest of the population because you are simply odd. This paper explores racism experienced by immigrant West Africans in the global north, giving reference to the novel Merchants of Flesh. It also gives insight on the causes of racism, and the mind attack of the victimized race- the Blacks/Africans and the intensity of the brain drain experienced by the countries in the global north.
Merchants of Flesh; Author, Publisher, Themes, and Setting
The highly research-based novel Merchants of Flesh is a straight-forward book as the title reflects the major theme- human trafficking, which is one among many themes. The novel gives insight on trafficking in West Africa- specifically Nigeria. It is written by Ifeoma Chinwuba and was the first book published by the author in 2003, by Spectrum Books Limited and it exceptionally won the ANA Prose Prize for Literature in 2014 (Mediamax). Chinwuba is a famous Nigerian writer and diplomat. She was a Nigeria’s Ambassador to Ivory Coast and has worked for Foreign Service in Italy. In the novel, she shares her experiences of trafficking and prostitution which she had seen while she was working in Italy through the story of Faith. Faith was a university dropout who was promised a job out of her country that would change her life completely, exceeding what she had imagined for herself due to the circumstances she found herself in. The setting ranges specifically from Benin City in Nigeria to San Marino and Milan in Italy. A few other themes include globalization and its consequences, politics and corruption, sexual politics, culture and civilization, gender, as well as religion.
Brief Overview of the Plot of the Novel, Merchants of Flesh
As stated earlier, the story is based off of the experience of Faith who is a school dropout and is seeking greener pastures. Faith was a brilliant woman, a fast learner whose education ceased causing her to drop out of school due to the lack of funds to continue. This was as a result of her father’s death especially since he was the person sponsoring her education. She had neither a degree nor certificate to get a good job. As well, she couldn’t go back to school to study nursing which she had so much passion for because she didn’t have the qualifications. One can say her situation was a “no-way-forward” one as in such a country as Nigeria, education is needed for almost anything. She settled as an assistant nurse at an abortion hospital where she was paid 1,500 naira a month and dreamt of having her own abortion hospital, although, knowing well that it was almost unachievable. She had neither a husband nor support whatsoever and had 4 children to take care of. Her life was a pretty difficult one and she settled in an unhealthy environment which probably was the best option for her at that time, even as it was not particularly where children should be raised. She had no choice but to accept circumstances and dream of a better tomorrow till she met a lady who promised her a job that was going to pay her at least 70,000 naira a month as it was the minimum salary in Italy, making calculations from the minimum wage rate at that time. Unfortunately, she expected to get a job working in a hospital as she did in Nigeria, washing dishes in a sophisticated restaurant, or picking tomatoes or fruits in a farm. This was not the case. Arriving at Italy, things turned for worse as she was there to be a prostitute.
Racism as Narrated in the Novel, Merchants of Flesh; Stereotypes Associated with the Black Race
Racism is narrated in Merchants of Flesh through the strategic use of stereotypes, these stereotypes typically are the same ones shown in the media today and are still stuck in the minds of the Europeans and people of the White race. The stereotypes start from how Africans are like monkeys as shown in the text, “She had learnt at school that the African people were like monkeys; they lived in trees and went about naked and slept in the same huts as animals. It was the white colonizer who had tamed them.” (Chinwuba 120) There were also stereotypes about Black women being able to fuck and being subordinate and ‘obedient’ to their men as well, “These women know how to fuck, period.” “They are obedient to the men.” (Chinwuba 120) Most African women were nannies and domestic helps because they were mostly uneducated and had no chance at getting the good jobs, even if they were educated, their certificates would be invalid (Chinwuba 120) The author also draws us into how Black people are mostly known for prostitution- which leads to husband ‘snatching’, and scamming as shown in the following quotes; “he had marveled at the ease with which the ladies had followed them” “…our husbands tell us that they are not civilized” “…saying they were prostitutes” (Chinwuba 121) “he was surprised Nigerians were not asking for bribes to release this huge sum of money” (Chinwuba 127) “tricked by a fraudulent crook. Blacks! They were all bad, all rogues” “you could not trust any of them” (Chinwuba 130). There was also some sort of inferiority associated with the Black women as shown from the young Fabio’s story. They were seen to have no manners, as illiterates, and it was a disgrace to have any relations with someone that had a colored skin; “…of all the women in town, why this one? Why a black? (and why an ex-prostitute)” (Chinwuba 122). “The only humiliating aspect was the color of the woman. Why leave his Italian white mother for a black woman?” (Chinwuba 123) They were also stereotyped to be poor, malnourished people who had stunted growth because of a lack of nutrients; “… every day we are told that they all are poor” (Chinwuba 125) “ he had heard that there was so much suffering in their country that people’s growth was stunted” (Chinwuba 130). Racism in the novel is explicitly shown through the various stereotypes associated with Black people which in all, puts them into one box of local, uneducated people who are inferior to the European race.
Thinking Critically; Why are the Victims the Black Race and Why are the Oppressors the Europeans?
Thinking about races and why one race- the European, is superior to the other- the Black race, one would easily say that it’s because the Europeans and the countries in the global north in general are more developed than the global south. This is in fact true as education, employment and infrastructures are most accessible in these areas. On more general terms, these countries are very well developed and have organized political, educational, employment, and infrastructural systems. Unlike the global south for instance, they have access to clean water and resources. This is why people from the global south always want to migrate to the global north; they think that literally everything is better there. Now, looking critically on the issue, it is very obvious that there is not as much migrations from the global north to the global south. Now this is understandable because life is generally harder there if you have no good source of income, but international companies like Shell for example only come because they can make an income from the services they offer to us. There isn’t as much resources available to the people in the global south, and when they do get attention for their work- equaling access to resources to develop them, they hardly ever go back to their countries to make things better there. In more basic terms, the brain drain is much higher than the brain gain. Whenever one’s talent is recognized, he’s either given a scholarship to school abroad, or in some way or the other leaves his country to get more developed in the field as there’s perfect resources for that abroad. These people who are taken out of their countries get the resources and education they need, being excellent in their fields, get good jobs abroad, enjoy the life they are living- especially since they are earning dollars, and hardly go back to their countries to contribute to the poor educational, financial, etc systems. If the routine was that everyone would get education and return to apply the knowledge, making the country and its sectors better, under-developed countries would definitely be developed. Now, most Black people are from the global south, so in relation to brain drain and gain, they are seen as illiterates and under-developed because all the developed ones are already abroad. There’s no moving forward when the developed people are not in the country.
Vulnerability; How Poverty Contributes to Migration, Sex Trafficking, and Slave Trade
Most countries in the global north are widely known for how poor they are. People in these countries suffer things like unemployment, lack of resources, infrastructure, and health care, etc so migration is usually the best choice as they can access these entire resources elsewhere. Most of the time, they are so frustrated about their situations that they would do anything to leave it. At this point, they become vulnerable. They tend to want to try everything possible to make them as comfortable as can be, including rituals and illegal activities. When they are approached with something as great as leaving the country or anything associated with earning a different currency- especially dollars, they are always interested. After all, it’s better than getting their hands dirty with something illegal. They hardly ever mind what the job is or even think critically about the odds and perks of leaving the country, they just do it. As long as they’re making money, nothing else matters. These people are easily deceived by so called employment agencies who work internationally, and they ignorantly let themselves fall into the wrong hands. They are migrated to the global north- the developed countries, thinking life would automatically be easier for them. Unknowing to them, they are neither there for a good job nor opportunity as they thought, instead are either there for slave trade- labor, or prostitution.
Remittances as Selfish: the Long Term Effects of Remittances
Remittances in this case, are money sent back from developed countries by the immigrants there to the under developed countries where they originally are from. Remittances are a great thing. Many under-developed countries feed off of them. People in under-developed countries love to get a currency from a developed country because of the profit they make when they exchange it. For instance, 3,000 dollars is approximately 1 million naira when exchanged as of today. 3,000 dollars may not be as huge as it sounds for someone residing in a developed country, but when it’s sent to an under-developed country, it literally can change lives. A person who had no job and no education, who is sent money from abroad automatically becomes a millionaire in most of these countries. This is also good for the GDP of under-developed countries. People always want to earn so they keep encouraging their children to emigrate out of the country. Now, thinking critically about the long term benefits, sending remittances are in fact, not getting as much outcome as should be. Millions and millions of currency go to these under-developed countries every year but people take it as a personal gain. That’s why the rich simply remain rich and the poor, poor. They never spread money and resources equally in these countries. This can be done either by providing resources, infrastructure, provisions, or handing them out in person to the poor. Instead, these are use as personal profits and help the less-income-class in no way at all. The urban cities in these countries continue to develop and the rural areas continue to diminish because the people who get remittances are only the ones who can afford sponsoring someone in another country in the first place. Moreover, the emigrants hardly ever come back to their country to actually make it better with what they have earned; instead, they become citizens of these foreign countries and take their families over there with them.
Education Indeed! Black People are Rich; White People Take All Their Money
It is understandable how people these days are obsessed with being educated. Education gets you a good job, puts you in a higher class in society, and you have higher chances of earning millions. Now, in such cases where people emigrate to be international students in these developed countries, education drains black communities. For instance, the average tuition fee an international student pays for a year in Canada is 25,180 Canadian dollars as of 2017 (Collier 2013). Most universities feed off of international students- they are the main source of income for these educational institutions. However, converting the rates to a currency from a so called under-developed country like Nigeria, this sums a little above 7 million naira. That does not at all include feeding, accommodation or bills. Almost 2,000 students migrated from Nigeria to Canada for the purpose of education in 2012 (FW 2014) Now calculating on average, 4 years of university for each person with the exchange in 2012 at 1 cad = 0.00635 naira, that roughly sums up to about 180 thousand dollars per person. Multiplying by 2,000 students sums about 355,600,000 naira. This is just a rate for 2,000 students’ tuition fees in 4 years. Definitely, there is migration every year, especially now the Black community- especially West Africans are obsessed with education abroad. Let’s just assume 2,000 students arrive in Canada each year for 4 years, calculating with the exchange as of 2012, that’s approximately 1,422,400,000 naira. This is a very popular tagged under-developed country widely known for its poor economy. This is just statistics based on the exchange rate as of 2012 and for tuition costs of 2,000 students each year for 4 years. Now of course these numbers should have increased with the recession the country recently experienced, and the obsession of education abroad which in turns leads to an increase in numbers of emigrants. This is just one country, picture all the countries in the global north doing the exact same thing, and they are poor? They are poor; definitely, they have to be, because no one in his right mindset would do such and see nothing wrong with it. Talking less of the fact that jobs are not guaranteed, even with certificates from these countries with greener pastures. This has been going on for generations; picture how much of the money and resources they have given away. Canada, is a country filled with immigrants, imagine a world where everyone went back to their various countries, how beautiful would that be? These countries are mentally poor; they have no sense of management and do not see the bigger picture. The developed countries are truly draining the under-developed ones all in the name of education. These countries have more than enough funds to build schools and infrastructures for themselves and make the sectors better but no, they are blinded and brainwashed by the system. They experience racism and are seen as illiterates because they are ignorant to things that are so obvious, they do not think critically nor see the big picture and they spend money extravagantly. Above all, they are not mentally developed and brainwashed enough to migrate to the so called developed countries for greener pastures they already have.
Moving Forward! Steps to be Taken to End These Mind Attacks
There has to be more conversations on this topic. The victimized race needs to step up and see things for what they truly are. We all need to return to our various countries to make it better. Organizations have to be put together to spread awareness. Legislation have to be made; everyone has to return to their countries. That is the only way forward; there is no other way to go about it. The damage has been done but we have future generations coming after us, we need to secure their futures. We need to think critically more often and be open to ideas that challenge the hegemonic system that could actually make the world a better place, and there is no better time to do that than now.
So as you guys see, it was pretty long, but I really do hope you got something from it.
Let’s spread the awareness together!
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