Hello my fellow Missourians!
I hope the sun has arrived early enough for you to enjoy the beginnings of spring.
This particular subject is something that I have been struggling with upon my arrival to Morocco.
Racism is always a heated topic of discussion in the United States (US) because of the its long affiliation with slavery. Coming to Morocco, I never expected to be openly discriminated against. I sincerely thought, " I AM GOING HOME". When I say home, I mean Africa. As an Ethiopian Diaspora, I view all the countries in Africa apart of me, I carry a piece of my cultural pride with me where ever I go, especially back home in the US. My expectations of Morocco were much of the same expectations I held for Ethiopia. I was expecting Moroccans to accept me with open arms, open arms for their African sister, but I was wrongly mistaken.
My first encounter with racism was shortly after my arrival in Morocco in August. Sitting in the Taxi, my friends were conversing with the driver about Morocco and my friend said something along the lines of, "I'm so excited to be in Africa". The Taxi driver immediately said, "There are two Africa's, black Africa and white Africa, Good Africa and Bad Africa". The first real conversation we had with a Moroccan man in Casablanca soon painted a reoccurring theme I had with Moroccan locals. This state of differentiating between the white and black Africa.
After this encounter I just tried to brush off the conversation and head to my bed. I had a long exhausting twenty-six hour flight getting to Morocco, all I needed was a bed to just crash. Soon upon my arrival in Meknes I would receive stares, which isn't anything out of the ordinary. Honestly, I wasn't expecting to blend into a homogeneous environment, but I was not expecting to receive the reactions (from some individuals). DON'T get me wrong, I have experienced PLENTY of racism in the US, but in America it's behind closed doors and rude remarks with underlying tones of racism.
The only difference between Americans and Moroccans are people here are more inclined to be open their frustrations with sub-Saharan black people and Americans attempts to hide it. I do want to set the record STRAIGHT by also saying I can understand why some Moroccan locals are frustrated about the migration of sub-Saharan into Morocco. I am not making excuses for Morocco, but what most Sub Saharan people try to do is escape poverty (who can blame them??).
Sometimes people are willing to experience extremes for the taste of freedom.
Immigrants first diverge a plan to make it to Europe through Morocco. Essentially just trying to use Morocco as a transit, not a permanent place to live. First, they travel up through Mauritania, then through the Western Sahara, then up through Morocco. When arriving to Morocco, they head North to the Strait of Gibraltar. The body of water is a 13 km gap between Spain and Morocco. Both Moroccans and Sub-Saharan Africans either try to bribe their way onto the ferry which will carry them onto Spain, others try to sneak their way into the Cebta (the disputed Spainish territory Morocco), and other try and swim across. Those who try to swim across are mostly faced with a deadly fate of being shot, drowning, and very rarely there are some who make it to shore. All illegal citizens whether in Morocco or Spain either, A. burn their personal papers or B. don't bring them, so the government has to deal with them. The government cannot deport them because they do not know the country of origin without papers.
The European Union has now made a HUGE push with additional funding for Morocco to secure its border patrol because of the how many illegal immigrants are making it into European countries. A lot of this racial tension comes from the new immigration laws and previous colonization. Morocco was a "protectorate of France", another fancy meaning for colony. When the French came, they also divided the people of Morocco, between the Amizghr and the Arabs. Of course, like Napoleon said, Divide and Conquer. There was already racial tension between the two main ethnic groups in Morocco, but this additional pressure on Morocco is causing more racial tensions to soar even more with the immigration issues.
This is what is causing racial tensions.
There are many places in Casablanca which refuse to rent to Sub-Saharan Africans. This back lash against blacks has caused many institutionalized systems of Moroccan Jim Crow laws. It wasn't until this year--2014 that King Mohammed the VI offered Sub-Saharan African children (who were born in Morocco) to a Moroccan father citizenship. Do not get me wrong, this is a GREAT step in the right direction, but the root issues for tension should be solved by the governments from which these people are trying to escape from. Most illegal citizens, both Moroccans and Sub-Saharan Africans, experience racism and poverty in Spain.
The grass isn't always greener on the other side.
People in both Morocco and Spain are frustrated. Morocco has a 30% unemployment rate, there are not jobs for those who are educated or those who are not. Which means there is a big competition of jobs for "blue collar" jobs. We see this frustration in the US with the (illegal) migration of Hispanic people. Sub-Saharan people and Moroccans are working for much lower wages in both Spain and Morocco to just compete with the job market. This is just like how the illegal Hispanic are treated in the US.
What is the solution? I sit here telling to you about how I've been called a nigger multiple times on the streets of Morocco and I have been physically assaulted, because I am a woman of color. At first all I could do was sulk in my bitterness, but now I know there are more positive ways to work towards a future of working together. NOW stop what your thinking AMERICANS, we AMERICANS (including myself) have a tendency to generalize people. I have experienced a lot of racism here, just as much as I have experience in America, BUT there have also been AMAZING people I have met here that DON'T care about the color of my skin. The key to moving forward is addressing this situation. I have been apart of amazing group of young Moroccans trying to make a change in Morocco. The first step as an outsider is to support locals to bring change to their communities. Change comes from within.
Many Moroccans are extremely hospitable people (besides Ethiopians [lol]) and have the kindest hearts.
My experience in Morocco has NOT and will NOT be tainted by ignorant people. Of course it does not make you feel good when people judge you based on something you cannot control (my skin color). There is nothing more that I love about myself than the color of my skin. It is a badge of pride that I wear. I'm not going to lie if I told you I haven't wondered how much easier it would be to be white man. The treatment of my friends when we go places, for the most part, is exceptional. Experiencing some of this hatred has made me question a lot of things, but at the end of the day, there is nothing more than I am proud of than to be a beautiful brown woman and if that brings negative or positive understandings, I know I am working for a brighter future where we all work together.
I honestly LOVE Morocco and there is nothing in the world that could ever change the things I have confronted and dealt with here. It sucks that a small minority of stupid people sometimes are the face of the majority, but unlike those people I refuse to generalize Moroccans or Arabs.
I have to remember not that ONE person is not a REPRESENTATION of the whole society.
Love is colorblind.
أحبك (I love you),
Ida Ethiopia Ayalew