Many people believe that any action that insinuates the superiority of a certain group, either within or between nations is RACISM. I love studying histories, travelling and living in places with different cultures. I see this as experiencing the world.
I have noticed that race and ethnicity, because of their identical nature and similar effect on society are sometimes placed in the same category. They are not the same.
As a child, I lived only in my ethnic environment. I schooled there, but learnt about the other regions of the country. We studied things like their histories, cultures, etc. As a youth, I decided to actualize my desires of experiencing the world so I traveled to the west for my university education. I had heard about ethnic discrimination, but I was just experiencing it. Port Harcourt, my home town, and capital of my state, located in the south, is 2nd largest city in Nigeria, 2nd commercial city and 2nd most expensive, It is also very popular for being “the treasure base of the nation”, because of its possession of the nation’s dear and major revenue, oil . Yet, Every time I told someone I was from Port Harcourt, their response was “you’re from the east!”
Although the south has the 2nd largest city, (Port Harcourt) more than half of her population is not from the south. The northern, eastern and western Nigerians do not only control their state’s revenue production activities; industries, businesses, education, etc but they also control those in the south. Meaning, they control our state’s revenues, employments, admissions into universities, etc. Also, after about 50 years of existence, a southerner was finally elected president from the position of an “acting president” (Because of the sudden death of the president, a northerner who he supported as the vice president.)
It seems obvious that these people don’t recognize us as much as we do them, but it isn’t surprising due to these facts.
- Southern kids don’t live the African culture. Our way of live have been adulterated by the “western” culture (Colonial Master)
- We were told about our histories and cultures by our grandparents and parents (not taught in schools).
- Many southern kids have English Language as their only language, but cannot claim it as their native language, because we don’t have the English or American accents. (It is also not Nigerian English accent).
As a southern kid schooling in the west, I was constantly picked on by classmates. I had no culture or a language that backed my Nigerian nationality or any other nationality, so I was named “stateless” (without nationality). I hated introductions, because I had to do a long explanation on my origin as a Nigerian.
The most disturbing fact is that we know that our criticizers have a point. We cannot exactly defend ourselves and have lost our sense of belonging as Nigerians.
Countries have and some are still experiencing ethnic discrimination from simple cases of minority groups, to severe cases of civil wars, or genocides, like the case of Rwanda yet, they should not be compared to the anti – Semitic Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler’s, “Aryan” and “Lebensraum” idea obsession, that brought about his “extinction of the Jews” plan. (the Holocaust)
The effect of racism and ethnic discrimination are destructive to the society, but they are still two very distinct actions, with the latter leaving a deeper effect on its victims. It is obvious that
the thoughts that would run in the mind of a Jew during his annihilation by an outsider, would not be the same with a Tutsi victim of Rwanda, when a people they believed to be a part of slaughtered them like animals.
As a southern kid, I feel it would be easier to handle racial discrimination by a people if you have a sense of belonging with another, than to be ethnically discriminated against, without any place to turn to for comfort. If we begin to take ethnic discrimination seriously, instead of always hiding it under racism, maybe a large number of racist activities would reduce; I’m certain Hitler started his Jewish extinction plan with the Jews in Germany. (Probably known as German Jews)