Martin Luther King once said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” And 47 years later, people still have that dream, not only in the US but in many other countries in the world. I for one, still have that dream specifically in Qatar where I have tasted discrimination like I have tasted Pepsi, which is not daily but almost every other day. And I’m 100% sure, I’m not the only person who has tasted it. Discrimination in Qatar is not only based on your color but also your race to even, the car you drive. I’ve been labeled, I feel labeled and every time I leave my home, I remember my label; I’m black and I’m Sudanese. And just like Martin Luther King, I worry about my children (who don’t exist yet) growing up in an environment like this. Why don’t I leave? Because whether I like it or not, this has become my home. I’ve been here for 15 years and so has my family, and I’ll continue being here. And even if I leave, I’ll go back to Sudan, where still discrimination exists but I’m of the more “superior” race, and I just do not want to be part of that.
Qatar is a country that is generated by money, which they get from their oil and natural gas, and most of its people are just like their country. They are definitely materialistic! Not many go far as getting a university degree because their already rich and have an established family business which they’ll inherit anyway. Therefore, their future is secured and they have nothing to run after. Qataris even get paid to get an education. Well, they are only around 300,000 people but yes, the population of Qatar is one million so the remaining 700,000 are foreigners coming from mainly Asia, Africa and other countries in the Middle East, and there are some North and South Americans, Europeans and Australians. And believe or not, you get paid according to the passport you hold, in some cases, regardless of your job position. If you are Qatari, you make a thousand times more than anyone else. Yes, it makes sense because this is their country. But what about the American or British who gets twice the money an Indian gets. So if you want more money, get a European or an American passport but don’t even think about getting the Qatari passport, cause they don’t give it away that easily.
As funny as this may sound but I have been called “nigger” in a country which has nothing to do with the history of that word. “Ya soda” is another word I’ve been called, which is an Arabic word that means black. I’ve heard all these remarks when I’m at malls, parks, and even at school. Being Sudanese is also a funny matter, which is evident when people make comments like “Ya zol” as they pass by me and start laughing. This phrase is used by one Sudanese to another to say, “Hey man!” Arabs, for some reason, find it amusing. So yes, I end up talking back and one thing leads to another. And just like every other country, there are Sudanese stereotypes, which are used against them. Other than being black, Sudanese are also known for being lazy and love sleeping. Although people make it seem like a friendly funny joke, I do feel offended (you may think I’m too sensitive but try hearing it all your life).
I’ve realized discrimination of color or nationality really depends on many things. Not a lot of Sudanese males feel discriminated against because Qataris know that males can answer back, and all that. But girls experience more because they’re not expected to answer back. But if you’re Indian, Pakistani and any other common nationality in Qatar, the case is opposite. The Asians in Qatar usually work as labor workers so if any Qatari says anything to them, they fear saying anything back because they fear to be get deported.
I always feel less of a human being when I’m among other Arabs even if they do not make comments because in many cases, it could be the things they do or they do not do rather than the things they say that offend me. In my school, people make friends with people of their same nationality, which is understandable and common in many countries. But when you are part of a community, it is only fair to communicate with others equally.
For many years the saying “black is beautiful” has been trying to bring power for people of that color but in countries such as Qatar, the phrase doesn’t really exist. It’s actually “white is beautiful.” I can simply explain this from personal experience. I had a friend who was black and drop-dead-gorgeous. Every time I would go out with her she would attract so much attention but only those who were of the same skin color. I actually had some young men tell me, “she’s beautiful but I don’t like dark skinned girls.” It’s even more upsetting when it comes from a guy with dark skin color too. Some young men believe that it would be better to date a white girl, and that white girls are “easier” to be with. It’s just disturbing!
Even little children realize how much skin color matters. I had a friend who has a seven-year-old sister who would come from school everyday and say, “I want to be beautiful. I wish I had lighter skin.” How sad!
I remember a mother of a six-year-old girl was telling my family about a racist comment was made to her daughter. It was her daughter’s classmate, who wasn’t light skinned herself, that called the young girl “black” as to insult her. And this happened in an English school. The mother told off the school right away, and the principal had a talk with the young Qatari girl telling her the common speech that “we are the same no matter what our skin color is.” But does that really help? I really don’t think so! When people made that remark to me, I try to be civil by explaining to them why using words that are racist as are immature. Some apologize but most just ignore me. I just say that they are ignorant and uneducated!
And when people say such racist remarks to you, you end up being a racist yourself especially when the people who say these remarks are of the same ethnicity. I really am speaking personally. I have been roughed around since I was a child (and yes not so severely but yet, it hurts) that I have grown holding grudges and being a discriminator myself. It’s true though; if you keep treating a person in a particular way eventually, he’ll be that way!
Share your story! Or, correct me if I’m wrong.
Well, it is really sad when the wrong thing become natural. I can see that in myself, I am Sudanese too, black & I have a Bosnian friend who is too white and every time we one of us gets angry, we use the color flag as an insult.
It is bad and not good at all, but as you said; if we are born in such an environment (Middle East) where everyone thinks of his race as the most superior we have to face and to live within these parameters. The worst thing I believe is considering race as a reason of survival. For one to have a perfect or a hell of a life because of nationality or belonging.
Thanks for engaging yourself, Yousif. But, I don’t think this just happens in just in the Middle East but even on our own country, Sudan. Yes, we do have to face it but definitely not live with its parameters because then we begin to take part. I try to refrain from doing so. And, race is not a reason of survival but I can understand why you think so. And sadly, that’s how the world works.
Again, thanks for commenting!