Racism reigns in Lebanon: “But you don’t look Lebanese”

Lebmonage

Lebmonage

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In a country where racial classifications create social hierarchies that assert the superiority of white skin and Caucasian features, and the inferiority of “black” skin and Asian features, interracial and interethnic couples in Lebanon are abhorred, stigmatised and socially ostracised.

“I’m a stranger in my own country,” Saeb Kayali, a Thai-Lebanese, told Al-Akhbar.

“Demeaning gestures, head-shaking, stares, and under-the-breath comments are the most passive of the reactions we get in public,”

“I remember once a woman asked my friend, who happened to be right next to me, if I spoke Arabic,” Kayali said, “And I always get questions like ‘Where are you from? Lebanon. No, where are you really from? Ummm, Lebanon. No, like where are your parents originally from?’ And even after I explicitly tell them that I’m Lebanese they just continue asking.”

As Kayali narrated countless instances of “misunderstandings,” Lebanon’s racial bigotry, whether conscious or unconscious, and the long-ingrained notions of racial inequality, are very clearly present in today’s society.

Power institutions, including the societal body, are not only combating interfaith marriages but also interracial ones. While the need to overcome the former has vigorously surfaced in the last few years, the latter is still to be acknowledged and defied.

Blatant racism

“Demeaning gestures, head-shaking, stares, and under-the-breath comments are the most passive of the reactions we get in public,” Pi, a Filipina woman married to a Lebanese man, told Al-Akhbar.

Racial intolerance in Lebanon has caused the alienation of mixed-race couples from family members, who disown them for marrying someone they consider to be ‘inferior.’ People of African or Asian heritage are automatically associated with allegedly ‘inferior’ domestic workers by virtue of their phenotype, and their identity is accordingly erased and replaced by an array of racist stereotypes.

“At first we didn’t even hold hands in public. Then I asked him how is it okay for others to express hatred but not for us to express love?” Pi added, “now we act like any endogamous couple and if someone is disturbed he or she can simply look away.”

“His family didn’t speak to him for five years,” Pi said, “they didn’t even know me, but my Filipina features were more than enough reason for them to disapprove of our marriage.”

According to Rana Boukarim, spokeswoman for the Anti Racism Movement in Lebanon, “Many families eventually come to accept the interracial marriages, which may be seen as a decrease in racism. However, when questioned, these family members, who were initially against the idea, often say ‘but she is different from other Filipinas’.”

Moreover, couples who are driven by love to cross the color line face socially-constructed derision because they, and their mixed-race children, provoke the invisible yet existing laws of racial segregation.

“They used to call me Oreo”

“I remember one time, light-skinned Lebanese students refused to sit next to an Afro-Lebanese kid because they thought his dark skin color was ‘contagious’ and they feared they would turn black.”

Mixed-race children face blatant racism at school as their fellow classmates fail to censor their speech. While interracial couples are mentally and psychologically aware of notions of race and the difficulties that might be ahead in ethnically homogenous communities, their children are not.

“Back in preschool, kids used to call me ‘blacky’ or ‘Oreo’ as if my skin color is my name and identity,” Walid Yassine, a 22-year-old Congolese-Lebanese told Al-Akhbar.

“I was called ‘the Chinese kid’,” Kayali said, “even though I’m not half Chinese to begin with.”

Thrust into a world of racial stereotyping, mixed-race children experience disparities in self-esteem, self-degradation, and identity-related struggles. Unless the child is aware of his or her mixed heritage, overcoming the internal turmoil that could result from such confusion could take a lifetime.

“I felt different and I knew I looked different but I didn’t understand why I was treated differently,” Gabi Kheil, a 24-year-old Gabonese-Lebanese told Al-Akhbar.

According to Charles Nasrallah, founder and director of Insan Association, when introducing an Afro-Lebanese to a class full of light-skinned Lebanese children the first reaction has always been very aggressive and abusive.

“We’ve had incidents where the students would spit on the dark-skinned kid, call him names such as ‘chocolate’ or ‘Sri Lanka boy,’ push him around and beat him, throw water at him ‘to wash the dirt off his face,’ and refuse to engage him in playground activities,” Nasrallah said.

“I remember one time, light-skinned Lebanese students refused to sit next to an Afro-Lebanese kid because they thought his dark skin color was ‘contagious’ and they feared they would turn black.”

Ensuring a healthy educational experience for multiracial children by enrolling them in a school that celebrates cultural diversity is not an option in Lebanon. Mixed-race Lebanese experience conflict and periods of maladjustment during their development process, something that the association seeks to address.

“All schools in Lebanon lack racial tolerance,” Nasrallah added, “thats why we founded the Insan school and the Insan program to psychologically support and prepare marginalized students, including biracial ones, for the integration in a Lebanese school.”

“Adaptation and acculturation became easier as I grew up,” Yassine said, “Once my classmates were able to see beyond the color of my skin, making friendships wasn’t a problem anymore.”

“Children can be the meanest, but they are also the first to rise above racist stereotypes and garner acceptance,” Nasrallah declared, “once they get to know each other, the dark skinned student and his classmates tend to become good friends.”

Difficulty in entering the workforce

Prejudices and preconceived notions have yet to be dispelled from Lebanon’s society largely because regular and intimate contact with those considered to be racially different is not fostered and encouraged.

The implications of these stereotypes go so far as to affect the social class and job opportunities of biracial Lebanese.

Kheil experienced direct racism when she worked as a flight attendant for Middle East Airlines.

“A Lebanese woman got furious after I accidentally bumped the trolley into her chair,” Kheil said, “ I apologized but she felt offended when a ‘black’ woman like myself dared to address her and tell her to calm down.”

According to Kheil, the woman, who bragged about holding a British passport, called her demeaning names and directly referred to the “inferiority” of her dark skin.

Even though Kheil called security and filed a complaint, nothing happened.

“If we were in Britain this woman would have been detained and the racism wouldn’t have passed unnoticed,” Kheil exclaimed, “but unfortunately we are in Lebanon.”

Kheil quit her job and hasn’t been able to find one since.

“I thought I was being self-conscious but one company manager made it clear that I’m ‘too dark’ for the position,” Kheil added.

“I wasn’t accepted in many jobs because they thought my looks would ‘shock’ customers,” Kayali said, “but I learned to take advantage of my unique looks and I applied to Chinese and Japanese restaurants where I was instantly accepted.”

But according to Ahmad Dhayne, an Afro-Lebanese young man, this has not been the case.

“I have never experienced direct racism in the workforce because my confidence and my attitude demand that people respect me,” Dhayne toldAl-Akhbar.

Born to an Ivorian mother, Ahmad’s Lebanese father passed away while his mother was still pregnant with him.

“At age two my uncle brought me with him to Lebanon because my mother wanted me to have a better life,” Dhayne said, “due to multiple reasons I lost contact with her for 18 years.”

In 2011, 20-year-old Ahmad decided to go to Africa and reconnect with his mother.

“I feel Lebanese and despite my skin color I have never felt anything but Lebanese,” Dhayne added, “but I also wanted to embrace my African heritage and my Lebanese family supported me in my decision. It was the best decision I have ever made. I feel very blessed and very special.”

While Dhayne was lucky to have a family that tolerated, embraced, and even celebrated his African heritage, others lack this support system.

“A Congolese acquaintance married a Lebanese man and they had a child. When the husband died, the Lebanese family took the child away from the mother so they ‘could raise him to be Lebanese.’ The child grew up hating his African heritage,” Boukarim stated.

“Lack of knowledge and communication make for hostile attitudes,” Nasrallah affirmed.

However, this is starting to slowly but steadily change.

Changing faces

Embracing Lebanese mixed-marriages only if they include European or fair-skinned individuals is an unfortunate characteristic still very much present in Lebanon’s society, deeming those with white skin and Caucasian features as superior to others.

In today’s ‘global village’ the opportunity to interact with different races has dramatically expanded. Even though today’s generation care less about racial segmentations, in matters of intimacy mixed-race individuals face challenges similar to the ones their parents confronted in the past.

“I dated a Lebanese girl for two years until her father found out,” Yassine said, “he almost had a heart attack when he saw that I was dark skinned.”

“And do you know what the funny, or perhaps sad, part is? She is half Lebanese half Ukrainian,” Yassine added, “a man in an interracial marriage and has mixed-race children rejected me because I’m mixed-race.”

“One thing that has always bothered me is that my French-Lebanese friend is endorsed by others despite her mixed-race origins just because she is blonde with European features,” Kayali declared.

Embracing Lebanese mixed-marriages only if they include European or fair-skinned individuals is an unfortunate characteristic still very much present in Lebanon’s society, deeming those with white skin and Caucasian features as superior to others.

The history of systematic subjugation in addition to the enclosed patterns of discrimination still at play has left an enduring scar on the psyche of darker-skinned Lebanese that today many tend to use skin bleaching, straighten and dye their hair, and even undergo surgery to get certain European-based phenotypical characteristics that might give them a sense of belonging.

Nasrallah narrated an incident where a Syrian boy and a Lebanese-Gabonese boy were pulled over by the police as they were on their way to the Insan Association. The officers only demanded the papers of the Lebanese-Gabonese because of the color of his skin.

“The officers wanted the papers of the dark-skinned Lebanese and not the light-skinned non-Lebanese,” Nasrallah stated, “how can one expect the citizens not to be racist when even the police, who supposedly represent the government and state, are racist?”

Even though the Lebanese constitution states that “all Lebanese are equal in the eyes of the law,” having a weak government bureaucracy with legal loopholes permits unequal access and little protection of mixed-race Lebanese. National cohesion is almost non-existent because Lebanon lacks national programs that promote multiculturalism and racial tolerance.

A survey of Lebanese resorts conducted by Lebanese NGO IndyAct in 2013 shows that all of the 20 beaches investigated barred domestic workers from Asia and Africa from going into the pool.

“A dark-skinned ambassador’s wife was asked to get out of the swimming pool in one of Lebanon’s resorts because she was mistaken for a maid,” Nasrallah said, “In Lebanon even the elite cannot escape racial discrimination.”

Even though Lebanon’s government has warned beach clubs against any internal regulations based on race or nationality, discriminatory acts persist without legal repercussions.

“Neither the constitution nor the judicial system can help you when you experience chronic racism,” Kheil declared, “you need to fight back on your own every time.”

“I realized that one can fight racial hierarchy with social hierarchy. When I go out with my friends for lunch we sometimes pretend that I’m the son of Thailand’s ambassador in Lebanon and suddenly everyone treats me differently… with more respect,” Kayali said.

“I don’t let race over determine my existence,” Dhayne stated, “on the contrary, I make others feel that they are unfortunate for having a single racial heritage.”

http://electronicresistance.net/opinions/racism-reigns-in-lebanon-but-you-dont-look-lebanese/
 
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  • HannaTheCrusader

    HannaTheCrusader

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    yeah we think we are the master race....its all the brain washing they give us at schools and songs as lebnan ya 2out3et sama wa wa wa usual saff 7aki

    while in reality we at the bottom of the human race...and we have a long way to go up

    although to be fair, many younger generation are not racist and are quiet open to others and respectful.....
     
    Lebmonage

    Lebmonage

    Legendary Member
    yeah we think we are the master race....its all the brain washing they give us at schools and songs as lebnan ya 2out3et sama wa wa wa usual saff 7aki

    while in reality we at the bottom of the human race...and we have a long way to go up

    although to be fair, many younger generation are not racist and are quiet open to others and respectful.....
    there is no harm in being patriotic and proud of one's own country, people, culture. however, that shouldn't be the reason for disrespecting others and treating fellow humans like animals or even worse. we as Lebanese should even be very open minded because we travel a lot and the majority of Lebanese on earth reside outside Lebanon. the older generation had a problem. it is the environment that caused it. when we discriminate amongst ourselves, what would you expect towards others? discrimination is at the heart of our political life and system. there are sectarian quotas for government positions, even the highest posts on the land.
     
    Bandar

    Bandar

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    Why does a "Thai-Lebanese" have black skin?
     
    Lebanese Pride

    Lebanese Pride

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    No such thing as a "Thai-Lebanese"... you're either Lebanese or you're not, simple really.
     
    dodzi

    dodzi

    Legendary Member
    there is no harm in being patriotic and proud of one's own country, people, culture. however, that shouldn't be the reason for disrespecting others and treating fellow humans like animals or even worse. we as Lebanese should even be very open minded because we travel a lot and the majority of Lebanese on earth reside outside Lebanon. the older generation had a problem. it is the environment that caused it. when we discriminate amongst ourselves, what would you expect towards others? discrimination is at the heart of our political life and system. there are sectarian quotas for government positions, even the highest posts on the land.
    There's no harm in being patriotic and proud, but being patriotic and loving your country involves criticizing it when it is wrong, and naming all its faults that can be improved. One of the best things you can do for Lebanon, is telling it to its face that it is a third-world country, with backwards mentalities, a deficient democratic system, full of racism, sexism, homophobia and warmongers...

    Facing the truth and trying to build a better Lebanon is being patriotic. Defending it or making up excuses will lead to status quo.

    The problem is, one Lebanese looks outside and sees beauty and progress, the other crawls back to his cave and believes he lives in paradise...


    No such thing as a "Thai-Lebanese"... you're either Lebanese or you're not, simple really.
    Not sure what you meant by that. But a Thai-Lebanese or a Lebanese-Thai is a person sharing both Lebanese and Thai descent.

    If you meant that a Thai-Lebanese should be considered as Lebanese in Lebanon, then I agree, but if you mean that that person needs to choose between his two nationalities, then you are living in a dark and archaic past!
     
    The Jade

    The Jade

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    Not sure what you meant by that. But a Thai-Lebanese or a Lebanese-Thai is a person sharing both Lebanese and Thai descent.

    If you meant that a Thai-Lebanese should be considered as Lebanese in Lebanon, then I agree, but if you mean that that person needs to choose between his two nationalities, then you are living in a dark and archaic past!
    Dude, he's ouwwet...he already lives in a dark and archaic past!!!
     
    IsaBells

    IsaBells

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    Isn't the woman in the picture the same one that made headlines for losing her job at mea because she's black, Gabi something? which then turned out not to be the case at all since she was already bad at her job?

    With that said, yeah the Lebanese can be unbelievably racist! But we're getting more politically correct with each passing day, it just takes some time to erase all the damage done by older generations!
     
    Jo

    Jo

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    Master Penguin
    Mixed couples face widespread discrimination



    EBRIN, Lebanon: Claude and Seble smile mischievously as they recount how they met five years ago. Husband and wife, they sit on the couch in their home in the quaint town of Ebrin, Batroun, overlooking the sea, and exchange a sly look as the question is raised. They are murky on the details.

    It all started one night in Djibouti. Seble was on vacation from her native Ethiopia, and Claude had moved to the country from Lebanon to get a job as a metal worker. “We were both out on the town,” Seble begins. “And I wanted a tattoo ... ” “And I do tattoos,” Claude interjected, before they both began to giggle. “And we got married, and that’s it!”

    They married one year later at a church in Lebanon, where they now reside with their two children. But they have had to overcome many hurdles to their union. Like most interracial couples in the country, Seble and Claude consistently experience discrimination, whether in public, from institutions, and sometimes even within their own families and social circles.

    Seble had heard of the discrimination against African migrants in Lebanon, and was petrified before she came. Unfortunately, her experiences here have confirmed some of her worst fears. She recalled a trip to a restaurant where she and Claude bumped into a friend of his mother.

    “She said to my husband, ‘You’re bringing an Ethiopian to a restaurant!’ She was shocked,” Seble said. “He told her that I’m his wife and these are our kids. She said, ‘Do you speak Arabic?’ ... I didn’t say anything. She said, ‘You, speak!’”

    [...]

    - See more at: Mixed couples face widespread discrimination | News , Lebanon News | THE DAILY STAR
     
    HannaTheCrusader

    HannaTheCrusader

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    Well

    We are thought since our childhood that lebnan is special wa lebnan ket3t sama
    My favorite hubris , Europe was created by a lebanese woman wa wa
    Lest not we forget , we invented the alphabet and discovered America


    Such fallacies and inaccurate historical facts , end up making the majority of lebanese think we are Gods gift to humanity

    When We grow and enter the real word,many realizes that lebanese as viewed as bottom feeder in many societies ( that's not true, but that's a fact we have to live with ) so you can imagine the shock many experience, So they take their frustrations on the foreign help And Darker skin .

    Although lately , I have observed that the younger generation is not as racist as the older one, ( within the christian community) as for the muslim ones, from my intercation and experience , they still very racist and openly calls blacks 3abeed .....

    Compared to the gulf and other muslim nations , lebanese people are angels :) when it comes to racial issues ..so imagine

    PS : worst racists offenders are the female ,who they think they are God gift to the the males who are God ' s gift :).....on couple of occasions, I had to shout on some women at airports, because they were whining , how a black custom officer was searching their luggage and insinuating they will dirty it , NO JOKE .....
     
    Last edited:
    light-in-dark

    light-in-dark

    Legendary Member
    It is hard not to be as we are racist.
    It is our arabic inferiority genes christians or Muslims, we are the same racist people. We can make partition and descriminate in our same family.
    For example, yes he is from haddad family, but he is not from jib mhkail (mokaddam el 3ayleh decades ago), he is from jib mil7im who was the peasant in the village.
    If you are black in Lebanon and you have a lot of money, no one looks at your Color. We are so superficial. Even clergy who should not be like that, they are this poison cookers ( not all of them).
    I will stop here to let someone else continue.
    But wait a minute when you are in a whole region like that (from Irak, Jordany, Syria, Palestine, especially Israel). Look the Falashas what they are living in the new haven Israel. So finally, yes as lebanese, we have to be less racist but we cannot be to different from what happening around us and in the world. Even here in Canada's there is racism.
     
    Robin Hood

    Robin Hood

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    We always complain about how Israelis are racist, yet we do the same if not worse.
     
    Hameed

    Hameed

    Well-Known Member
    yes you don't look Lebanese !! else how can I identify someone if my country becomes multinational .... where GOD has made us many.

    Those who truly want human rights should work against military industrial complexes not silly slogans like women rights and racisim and bullshit like that.

    do you think the black aren't racist ? do you think Europeans aren't racists ?! .... wlak Lebanon is being emptied from its original people and you dare talk about racism ?!

    rou7o afflo hek thread me2reef mitelkoun !!
     
    Hameed

    Hameed

    Well-Known Member
    Mixed couples face widespread discrimination



    EBRIN, Lebanon: Claude and Seble smile mischievously as they recount how they met five years ago. Husband and wife, they sit on the couch in their home in the quaint town of Ebrin, Batroun, overlooking the sea, and exchange a sly look as the question is raised. They are murky on the details.
    [...]
    - See more at: Mixed couples face widespread discrimination | News , Lebanon News | THE DAILY STAR
    wleh ma tala3 bi bayto ... law 2edeer yetjawaz benet balado ken tjawaza .... shu enno habileh hal daily star <== what an israelie newspaper printing inside Lebanon
     
    HannaTheCrusader

    HannaTheCrusader

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    wleh ma tala3 bi bayto ... law 2edeer yetjawaz benet balado ken tjawaza .... shu enno habileh hal daily star <== what an israelie newspaper printing inside Lebanon
    What's wrong with his house ???
    It looks homely, clean and very livable


    Wooowwww, that's low , even for you

    Mfakkar lebnan is populated with rich people...
    Poverty is not a crime nor to be ashamed of

    He is even considerate , having built a protector around the heater .....loving father
     
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