Lebanon has institutionalized racism in a such a way that people no longer realize the impact of certain actions and words on others. Some just pepper their racism in such a humiliating way and consider it something normal.
Racism is the “belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination.” Tourists from Asia/Africa, Lebanese mixed with other nationalities, Arabs etc… and migrant workers.
Migrant workers are part of our society. We live together and we work together. Work against salary. Nothing new under the sun.
Some of them has been living in Lebanon for more than 10 years. Naturally, they get married and/or have kids. Some of them are single moms; in some cultures, being a single mom is not the end of the world; it is what it is, and the child gets registered under his mother’s name.
Kids grow fast. Parent(s) will want to register their kids in school; give them an education; something many of them were denied access to in their home countries for various reasons (poverty, living in a remote area etc…).
I was playing with Jalal* a few days ago; he is bright, smart and speaks better Lebanese than I do! Jalal stopped playing for a second. His face became very sad and serious. When I asked him what was wrong, he looked at me and said: “Today, my friends in school came to tell me not to play with Kasun* because he is black and his parents are Sri Lakan… My mom is from Africa, my dad is Egyptian but I’m Lebanese!” He then went running to his mother and asked her: “Why is your skin color darker than mine?”
Jalal’s mother is concerned. What will happen to her son and his friends at the public school when they realize he’s not Lebanese? Will they stop talking to him and marginalize him?
I hear this “children are our future” line during almost any occasion… looks like our future is bleak… What exactly are we teaching our kids?
Note: Names* have been changed to protect the kids’ identities.
Who are Jalal* and Kasun*?
Jalal* is a 4-year-old boy Born in Lebanon to an Ethiopian mother and an Egyptian father. The couple was in love. When the mother broke the news of the pregnancy to the father, he beat her up, ordered her to have an abortion and left her. The mother decided to have the baby no matter what. She registered him and raised him alone. She enrolled him in a Lebanese public school. Growing up, the boy started inquiring about his father. His mother explained in words he could understand and took him to meet his father. Jalal’s father decided to move back with his family.
Kasun* is a 4-year-old boy. Born in Lebanon to Sri Lankan parents who came to this part of the world with hope to get a better a life for them and the families they send money to every month.