by Peace Oluwadara, AJALA

I suffered racial abuse in Bundesliga –Akpoborie’[1]

Policy Issues: Social Change, Social Justice and Inequality.

Ex-international, Jonathan Akpoborie, has reportedly taken the side of Italy striker, Mario Balotelli, for attempting to walk out of the pitch after being racially abused in Brescia’s 2-1 loss to Hellas Verona on Sunday in the Italian Serie A. Revealing that he faced racial abuse during his playing time in Germany, he said “racism in football is one of the most cruel things in the world. I faced racism during my days in the Bundesliga”. Reacting to Balotelli’s decision to walk out of the field, the former player noted that issues such as racism are handled differently by the affected persons. “We have different characters in different individuals, so they also have different ways of dealing with situations like that. Nobody can understand how you feel unless you have suffered the same. Racism is one of the worse things that can happen to a human being.” Akpoborie also stated that football governing bodies (FIFA and UEFA) must do better in handling the scourge.

The Nothingness of Pigment

“With time, the racism spread to more and more cultural arenas. American aesthetic culture was built around white standards of beauty. The physical attributes of the white race – for example light skin, fair and straight hair, a small upturned nose – came to be identified as beautiful. Typical black features – dark skin, dark and bushy hair, a flattened nose – were deemed ugly. These preconceptions ingrained the imagined hierarchy at an even deeper level of human consciousness.”[2]

  • Page 126, Chapter 8, Part 2, Harari’s Sapiens.

For centuries, the westernized societies have succeeded in selling a perception of its superiority over other communities; and not just ‘other’ communities, but over ‘the blacks’. According to Ronald Inglehart and Wayne E. Baker in their article on Modernization,[3] modernization was widely viewed as westernization or the adoption of Western processes, manners and overall way of life. The white race has for so long, ingrained its supremacy over the black folk, so much so that the latter have come to believe it and live with it. Although the years of physically tangible slavery and oppression may have passed, the African/black race seem to have perpetually found an abode in the imaginary prison walls of white supremacy.

In the United States of America, the high concentration of the African-American population in particular areas has also meant that policies or practices that disadvantage the black community continue to wind up reinforcing particular patterns of regional or spatial inequality. Although many of the most egregious policies designed to promote and encourage racial discrimination are said to have been outlawed, there are innumerable fronts on which their effects still linger and interact with contemporary policies.[4]

More worrisome is the realization that Africans/blacks having suffered directly or indirectly from the oppression and subjugation of the white folk, yet exhibit similarly tendencies towards their own kind, on the premise of tribal differences. African countries have today domesticated racism in form of tribal bigotry, preferring one above the other and going as far as killing others as long as they are not ‘one of them’. The dawning of this reality makes the pain deeper and more alarming. Correcting the white man’s perception of superiority may be beyond our reach and ability, failure to correct ours may however remain our greatest undoing.

The Federal Ministry of Information may need to conduct sensitization programs or social media campaigns that promote unity and reinforce the beauty and wholeness of the black race. Regardless of the fact that programs like the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), which was initially established to foster unity in our diversity, may seem to have lost their essence, others can spring up. More importantly however, the black race must show itself to the world, to be deserving of the respect, honour and accord that it so desires; not individually but collectively. We must again succeed on the front of leadership and governance, that it might truly be known that we were deserving of the independence supposedly granted 50 decades ago.

This time, the Pandora box need not be slammed shut as it previously supposedly was, but needs be set ablaze; the doing of which behooves on every individual. This responsibility is an individual one, as the Pandora box exists first, not in the physical walls of an institution, but in the minds of each individual that makes up the society at large. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “no human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. It’s all in the mind.”

[1] This article was taken from The Punch Newspaper. Available at: https://punchng.com/i-suffered-racial-abuse-in-bundesliga-akpoborie/. Date Accessed: 05/11/2019.

[2] Yuval Noah Harari; Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Page 126, Chapter Eight, Part Two.

[3] Ronald Inglehart and Wayne E. Baker; Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence Of Traditional Values.

[4] Jay Shambaugh, Ryan Nunn, and Stacy A. Anderson; How Racial and Regional Inequality affect Economic Opportunity. Available at: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2019/02/15/how-racial-and-regional-inequality-affect-economic-opportunity/. Date accessed: 05/11/2019.