Racism is indeed an ugly word. Worse still, it is a nasty way of looking at our fellow human beings. According to Wikipedia, it is “the belief that one race or ethnic group is superior or inferior to another race or group of races.”
Based on the previous definition, racism has been around since the beginning of human history. Although opinions may vary, most agree that it is a mixture of nature and nurture that always results in discrimination and prejudice with dire consequences for us all.
Do you remember the Holocaust? That is a classic example of that kind of consequences.
Recently, rapper Joyner Lucas hit America’s top charts with his controversial video “I’m not a racist”. The clip, deeply focused on the social reality of today’s United States, uses very realistic language and props (MAGA cap, dreadlocks) to attack a series of racist and conservative stereotypes, and confront opposing points of view which surprisingly, or maybe not, sound very similar once people take time to listen to each other.
“I’m not a racist” openly addresses a topic that most of us are not comfortable with. It is one that, in some instances, we would rather not discuss at all, since no one likes to be called a bigot, much less to admit, even to himself, that he is one of them.
Even so, when in the video’s final take the 2 starring characters embrace in spite of their conflicting views, we all feel there is an almost desperate hope for reconciliation and understanding.
On the other hand, in Latin America, racism is a big taboo. Our countries are always in constant denial about it.
The myth of “Racial Democracy” that sustains that because “people from different ethnicities mix and interact with each other then everything is fine” is alive and well. Sadly speaking, all over our continent, racial stereotypes abound.
In this regard, racial slurs are part of our everyday lexicon, and people from African or Indigenous ascendancy are usually viewed and treated as 2nd-class citizens by a considerable part of the population who descends from white Europeans.
Unfortunately, not even Costa Rica can show a clean bill of health on those issues. It is a well-known fact that segregation was common in this country before 1948. For instance, descendants of the black workers who helped build the railroad from El Limon to the San José were not allowed to enter the Central Valley. In 1949 President José “Don Pepe” Figueres decreed that this practice had to stop. (El Limón is the province where most of Costa Rica’s “black” population resides.)
Nowadays, in a serious effort to fight discrimination, every August 31st, Costa Rica celebrates El Día del Negro or Black’s Day. On that day, there are parades, ethnic music and food festivals, conferences, and other events that aim to showcase the role that the Afro-Costa Rican culture has played on the country’s history and development.
While it is not likely that racism will disappear from our social makeup anytime soon if ever, any effort in teaching to express tolerance and appreciation towards our differences can be a big step towards achieving a better world.