The Hidden Face of Racism in Libya
Racism is one of the most discussed topics worldwide. Many people face it from childhood and it can have traumatic effects on individuals in different societies. We know that it comes in many forms based on race, color, religion, and ethnicity. Racism can be both obvious and invisible. It is not specified within a certain place or group of people, it can happen to anyone and anywhere.
Libya is no exception. In fact, racism is part of the social structure and it has been this way ever since. I wouldn't say that the entire population is racist but sadly, the majority of Libyans are racists to a point where it became normal. Unfortunately, Libyans struggle to accept each other and since Libya is a very diverse country in terms of tribes, language, intellectual or geographical belonging, and color, many will face the different forms of racism. I, myself, faced racism at some point in my life, it sure has an impact on me but I didn't let it set in but in other cases, it is completely different.
I am originally an Amazigh thus our language is different. Unfortunately, I don't speak the language because my parents didn't teach it to me when I was young and they never use it at home, therefore, I couldn’t pick it up but I do understand it a little since I interact with other family members who already speak it. I wouldn't blame my parents but I still don't know why they preferred not to inherit it to us. Anyway, that caused indirect racism from people from my hometown like relatives and close family members. They claimed that I was trying to be an ‘Arab’ because I couldn't speak the language!
Another incident I faced before is related to my ethnicity. As I said, I come from an Amazighi family but the difference is that in my hometown, origins are divided based on location. My father’s origin was from the down part of the town and my mom was from the upper part so some family members were making fun of the fact that I was from the down part which involved unfortunate families as they describe it. They saw me less because of a geographical location that belongs to my origin! I reached a point where I hated to say where I was from, I always expressed myself as being from Libya and I try to avoid answering at times. However, I am now in peace with it and I am proud to be an Amazighi and that didn’t stop from achieving and having an impact.
This was my story and so many people face worse forms of racism. I have posted a tweet on twitter two days ago asking about incidents of racism in Libya and so many interacted with the tweet and I will share with you some of the replies (they are originally in Arabic):
Dad was born in Alexandria to an Egyptian mom so he spent his childhood in Egypt. He faced accusations that he wasn’t Libyan even though his last name was clearly Libyan but he was greatly under graded because he was born abroad from an Egyptian mother. However, he managed to move to pass it and he didn’t let us, his children, be affected by it by any chance. We knew that after we grew up and now, he is one of Libya’s most known men in the field of
“One day, I witnessed a racist incident for a girl who is 5 or 6 years old. She was with her parents on the road. Suddenly, she saw a dark skin man who was cleaning the street so she told him to go and have a shower (so he can be white), the man didn’t hear her but her mother laughed then tried to cover it up and her father laughed too. In my opinion, I think that their behavior was irresponsible and they should’ve disciplined her and tell her that there was no
difference in colors.”
“Racism is when our parents raised us to know that getting married to a non-Libyan is forbidden and even if she said it as a suggestion, she would face humiliation and she can be punished for that. Let alone, if she is to marry someone who has dark skin color (black).”
“Another expressed that if a Libyan man wants to marry a non-Libyan woman, then, he must be one of the following: drugs or alcohol addict – he has a bad reputation – he suffers from low income – he is probably from a family with bad living conditions.”
“I faced racism because of my color when I was a child. There was this time when a relative of mine stopped me in the middle of our talk to ask me: why are you a “slave” and we are white? I was about to explain to him until his older sister interfered and told him to stop saying this because it is forbidden. I wondered what was forbidden from having a dark skin color!”
These are just a few examples of racism within the Libyan society. It is horrible to still witness it and let generations to come to be affected by it. I believe that this topic should be highlighted in schools, there should be punishments, there should be workshops to raise awareness of this topic because some still think that it doesn’t exist and they don’t see the bigger picture. We must understand that not everyone can get over racist actions easily and they will have a long-term impact that can change their life tremendously.
Here is a link for the tweet: https://twitter.com/MalakLibya1/status/1081187976158285824
A Libyan blogger called Ghada Elshatiti wrote an article in Arabic about racism and her personal experience with it: https://twitter.com/Ghadaelshatiti/status/914637704977092610