Has racism really become a thing of past?

Saad Dosari
Saad Al-Dosari

Saad Al-Dosari

By : Saad Dosari

It is the 21st Century and a lot of us brag about what we, humans, have been able to accomplish throughout these years. The whole world is connected through fiber optics and satellites, robots can perform surgeries on humans, we are on the verge of setting our feet on Mars and soon we will be able to tour the space, just for fun. In simple words, we have laid the foundations of a new civilization and we think we are civilized.

However, this foggy sense of pride and superiority dissipates the moment a very primitive act comes to the fore. Hating, despising, and maybe killing another human being for nothing but prejudiced and arrogant assumptions we have about his or her race or gender. Currently, race has become talk of the day and night in the United States. The streets are boiling with anger, protests and confrontations between the people and the police are taking place over so many racially wrapped incidents. In all of them, a black person lost his life, the white policeman found not guilty!

It is alarming to witness such tension waking up in a country that many consider the leader of the free world. When people thought that the racial background that was so deeply rooted in the American history had vanished, or at least mitigated and weakened throughout the years, it was a surprise to see that it was still alive, resurrecting from the ashes of ignorance to the so many signs that preceded its explosion. Mind you, this article is not about the United States, it is about the Kingdom; maybe it is a good opportunity to ask the tough question: Do we have racial tensions in our lands?

The easiest answer would be snarling “of course not; this is the country of Islam where there is no privilege to an Arab over a non-Arab other than piety.” It is the safe net, the easiest route to escape the reality; the harsh reality is that we hitched the same ride the world is mounting, racism, in so many ways, exists among us as well. There are, of course, exceptions.

Similar to the United States, African slavery has some roots in the Kingdom history as well. Actually, Arabs and slavery go way back in history to the days that preceded Islam itself. For so many generations, it was normal, a socially acceptable practice to have a household full of slaves working in the kitchen, taking care of the house, or working in their masters’ shops.

Some historical documents refer to so many slave markets in the country where men and women were exhibited for buyers to examine and trade. The customary in these shops was to line the slave women on the wall, kids in front of them, and men sitting in the front line while buyers roam the market to check the merchandise. Disturbing, I know!

However, King Faisal abolished slavery in Saudi Arabia in 1962. Overnight, a lot of used to be slaves, of different colors and origins, found themselves free, sharing the land and nationality with everyone else around them. Now after the so many years that followed the abolishment of slavery, it is shocking that the word “slave” is still used on different occasions, and that the feelings of superiority over so many people because of their gender, color, or nationality still exist.

We may no longer have contracts to govern ownership of other human beings, but we replaced that with so many other forms of justifications to look down on people because of their origins. Just look around and check how many people are treating their household servants, and on your next trip to the airport, check out the departure or arrival passports lines and how some nationalities are treated.

Some unverified reports put the percentage of Saudis with a black skin at 30 percent, and 26 percent of them are living below the line of poverty. Worrying and upsetting that some of these Saudis are sometimes harassed and denied access to certain jobs and positions only because of their dark skin.

We need to wake up and purify ourselves of such bigotry and discrimination. The color of your skin, eyes, hair, and the origin of your family does not make you a better person. What makes you better is you, what you do and how you interact with the world around you. We might have been able to build a technological civilization, I am not sure about a moral one!




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