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The hatred of the other

A few days ago, Herman Grech reminded his Facebook friends that when it comes to the hatred of the other, amongst the Maltese there are some who seek to excel in their ways of showing everyone how low they could stoop. I cite his post verbatim: “We have just uploaded a picture on Times of Malta showing a dead (black) baby picked up by rescuers off our shores, as his parents presumably tried to seek a safer, better life. These are two of the first comments posted on our Facebook page. The thick, ignorant rage, the disgusting hatred knows no bounds.” 

Reading those foul comments I realized that one could never get “used” to such hatred. Such tirades are a reminder that even after Seneca Falls, after Selma, after Stonewall—indeed even after Auschwitz—the hatred of the other seems to run unabated. 

This is what I often call “the fascist within us”. It is that false sense of privilege, by which, letting oneself be possessed of such abject feelings, one refuses to be critical of one’s base instincts and goes on to do the worse to those whom he or she deems to be somehow inferior to him or herself. 

I refuse to call this prejudice a result of fear. Those who are honestly afraid of something tend to feel weak and would never attack those whom they fear.

I refuse to call this prejudice a result of fear. Those who are honestly afraid of something tend to feel weak and would never attack those whom they fear.

Rather, I would blame the hatred of the other on the lazy ways that drive one to view the world with the same immediacy by which many would refuse to think and go on to denigrate women, make fun of the disabled, hate minorities, and detest anyone different who comes their way. 

I say this because when I, as a Mediterranean person, felt being racially prejudiced against, it always came from white privilege fuelled by ignorance and laziness. I remember when I was a student in Britain in the early 1990s, I was once threatened by a white man who accused me of being complicit with the Lockerbie disaster, simply because I told him I’m Maltese after he sensed my accent and asked me where I came from.

I also remember how a neighbour objected to myself and my wife moving into his neighbourhood, because he did not like the way we looked. I only understood why he hated us when another neighbor, a retired Scottish teacher, befriended and told us that the guy said we were Iranians. 

I also remember how recently a deranged woman told us to “Go back home” in the Subway in New York City, simply because we happened to be speaking Maltese between us. 

All of these aggressors were white. 

In contrast I always remember the very first time we visited 125th Street in Harlem and went shopping in a predominantly African American area. Going by the myths about Harlem, we were initially apprehensive, only to find courteous people and kind words wherever we went. The gregariousness of Harlem remains a place that we dearly love.  

Back in the 1990s I remember how a 19 year old, Anthony Erskine, was beaten up to death in Stratford upon Avon. His mistake was confronting his white neighbours who continuously tormented his family and made fun of his mother because she happened to be … Maltese. 

One can still read about this tragic story online in the Herald Scotland.

Young Anthony Erskine, who weighed a mere seven-and-a-half stone, “was punched and kicked to death in the front garden of the family home after remonstrating with youths who abused his 53-year-old father.” Following Anthony’s tragic death, his twin brother Ian also died. He took his own life, mainly as a consequence of what happened to his brother. 

The Erskine story is heartbreaking. But to any Maltese racist who somehow feels privileged or superior enough to look down on others because of the colour of your skin, this should be sobering.

Perhaps reading Ian’s story on The Independent, Maltese racists could see this from the perspective of the son of a Maltese woman who brought her children in the best way she could, sending them to good schools, and like a good migrant mother, making the best of her new life in Britain, only to see her two boys die tragically thanks to racial aggression.

Somehow, many Maltese think that they — being “white” and “Christian” — are immune from racist abuse. Yet racial prejudice is not as elaborate as some make it. It is the hatred of others, and no one is immune. Together with the dehumanization of Africans, racism targeted Catholics as well as Protestants, the Irish a well as the Italians and Spanish. Instead of the Italian migrant, the target of prejudice is now the Puerto Rican or the Mexican. If it is not the Jew, now it is the Muslim.

Those of us who opt for a rational and intelligent view of the world know very well that of all nations, Malta must be at the forefront in celebrating the tapestry of difference which makes humanity in all its beauty and potential. Yet, we still have many amongst us, who, in their laziness and insecurity, prefer to spit venom and indulge in hate towards others.

Maltese racists forget that their victims could well be themselves in another country, where far from white and Christian, they will be seen as immigrants “coming in to take someone else’s job”.

 

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