Merit vs Race Dilemma By Ebun Joseph Author -Trapped prison without walls, Equality Advocate

Race and races are products of social thought and relations. They are not objective, or fixed and they do not correspond to biological or genetic reality. Rather, races are categories that society routinely invents, manipulates, or throws out when convenient or when that definition of race has served its purpose.

Though people with common origins share certain physical traits such as skin color, physique, and hair texture, they actually make up a very small portion of their genetic endowment.When we consider the number of things people have in common as part of the human race, it is amazing that societies still categorise based on these few differences which have been proved to have no biological basis.

Many believe that because society frequently chooses to ignore these scientific facts, creates races, and endows them with a kind of pseudo-permanent characteristics. Unfortunately, race still matters today and it still affects the way people of colour get treated, what they can and cannot get and sometimes how high they can rise or how much harder they have to work to climb the same socioeconomic ladders others can climb unhindered by race. Indeed it plays a part in the incidences that happen on a day to day basis to people of colour in what social scientists call a ‘microaggression’. This can include the many sudden, disheartening acts that mar the days of people of color. One Social scientist described it ‘like water dripping on sandstone.’ They can include small or big acts of racism, consciously or unconsciously perpetrated.

Irrespective of how racist acts occur, it still impacts the victim. It includes using racial slurs, threatening to do harm, and possibly inciting others to behave similarly which according to the UNHR is a serious offense, a view many European countries have adopted howbeit on paper. Racism is one of those social phenomena that plays and continues to play a dominant role in society where people of colour are in the minority, not just numerical, it can be political, economic or power relations as we had in Apartheid SouthAfrica and still have in many European countries today.

The everyday experiences of people of colour suggest that racism is endemic and more common place than many European States will like to admit. It also suggests that racist hierarchical structures govern very many political, economic, and social domains and still automatically privileges those it has defined as Whites and automatically disadvantages those it has defined as coloured. This white-over-color ascendancy is a well defined system that operates and has been identified by many activists in the United States. The elastic nature of the definition of white and coloured categorises as coloured white skinned groups who because of their language, religious, or cultural practices and positions them a step lower on the hierarchy from the ‘acceptable’ definition of whiteness.

With policy in place on discrimination, one would expect migrants to report cases of racism, however, this is not the case. The under reporting of racist incidents can be ascribed to a number of facts including the very narrow legal definitions, interpretations and views of what is considered to be racism, which conversely impacts on who is deemed to be a racist under law. This has silenced the issue of race in many establishments such that even the few legal procedures supposed to protect against racism is reduced. Indeed public statistics record only very few convictions related to racism. In mainland Europe including Ireland the widespread reluctance to frame issues in terms of race compounds issues.

Derrick Bell’s book ‘faces at the bottom of the well’ reminds me of the CSO statistics that shows that Black Africans have the highest unemployment rate and conversely the lowest employment rate. Such reports question the claim of ‘equal opportunities employer’ and if it is ‘merit over race or race over merit.’ Mathias Moschel writes that the result is that from a “socio-legal point of view Europe emerges as a place of racism without races and without (or with very few) racists”. We have therefore created the European model of colourblindness which operates on the assumptions that by not talking about race eventually racism will be eliminated. However, that is not happening and racism continues unabated. Many people in their bid to emphasise they are not discriminating end of saying “I don’t see colour.” If you say to a man, when I look at you I don’t see a man, will that not be insulting? I believe people of colour need society to see colour, but to equally respect the colour they see, not to prejudge the colour and not to predetermine what the person of colour can and cannot do based on their race.

If we all continue to gloss over and shy away from race and even trivialize racial discrimination by failing to address the lived experience of racism by people of colour racism will never go away. Unfortunately, silence means consent, rather than elimination of racism. It will enable mainstream society and political parties to continue denying their role in perpetuating structural, institutional and everyday racial discrimination. Words of Army Chief Lieutenant General David Morrison; “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” Madiba spoke up for his people, lets not condemn the next generation by our silence.