When Moroccans make or ignore racist remarks, they undermine traditional Moroccan hospitality.
Casablanca – It was not the first time I witnessed racist remarks in Morocco, but the everyday nature of the comments caught me off guard.
It was just another hot day with the sun pouring out its burning warmth on the streets of Casablanca. The traffic is usually less congested in the afternoon, and I easily waved down a “grand” shared taxi.
I paid for two seats, not relishing the idea of male passengers squeezing beside me, especially on a hot day.
The taxi driver set off into traffic, scanning sidewalks and honking his horn at pedestrians in search of potential customers. Sitting in the front seat, I got lost in thought about my errands and destination when the rudeness of the backseat passengers startled me out of my absent-mindedness.
A lady behind me was mumbling complaints and grumbling insults. To my surprise and disappointment, I found that the lady was insulting a young woman from a sub-Saharan African country. She whispered to the passenger beside her, “I hate them all; they all stink.”
Another passenger replied, “They have become so numerous here. You can find them almost everywhere.”
The woman’s harsh comments astounded me. But it was not the first time I heard such derogatory language uttered against the sub-Saharan community.
It is commonplace to hear people labeling sub-Saharan immigrants as ”azzi” or “azzia,” a derogatory reference to Black skin and an overt manifestation of racism. Unfortunately, discrimination on the grounds of skin color and derogatory language against people of darker skin is gaining ground among Moroccans.
In history, racism was a major part of the political and ideological underpinning of colonialist power in third-world countries.
The attribution of a superior status to some races was a pretext for the real intention behind imperial expansion: Searching for raw materials and cheap manpower. But racism today is showing a new ugly face when citizens of third-world countries display it towards others.
With the arrival to Morocco of a sizable number of citizens from other African countries fleeing plagues and atrocities and looking for better lives in Morocco, the makeup of the Moroccan population is undergoing a subtle, but nonetheless, a real change. Morocco is gaining a layer of ethnic diversity.
However, it seems that not all Moroccans are ready to accept that sub-Saharan Africans have become their neighbors, colleagues, business partners, and even friends.
More alarming is the fact that Moroccans have assimilated verbal abuse towards Black people into their daily language. Rarely do people seem to question the morality of such demeaning language.
It is also appalling to witness the indifference of many Moroccans towards children displaying racist behavior. Allowing such discriminatory behavior is a real threat to social harmony.
It also may incrementally dilute the values of hospitality, tolerance, and equality anchored in the Islamic and the Moroccan culture.
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