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The Ongoing Silence Of Black Maghrebis and Black Arabs Regarding Anti-Blackness in White Arab Societies

Indigenous Black Iraqi leader Jalal Diab. He was gunned down in 2013 for his fight taken against racism in Iraq/Arab Reform Initiative

Eurocentric authors were the first to favor the false concept of the existence of a “sub-Saharan Africa”. This imaginary line was presented as a separation from the dehumanized and hated black Negroid world (Central Africa) to a much more civilized northern sphere occupied by white Africans.

Due to the very complex ancient past of North Africa regarding immigration and the various waves of colonialism, as well as the Arab slave trade which lasted for 1,400 years throughout the Arab and Arabized world, West, Central and Southern Africans still have no desire of understanding the conception of North Africa. Public events such as the World Cup or African championships are cherished opportunities which help racist and anti-black Whites from the Maghreb to spread their hatred towards the Africans they do not hesitate to call “monkeys” or “n*ggers” in Arabic through social media.

As a consequence, since the Central Africans refuse to understand the North African system, many of them do not even know about the existence of black Africans living in the Arab world as well.

If Eurocentrists, who aim to place white groups as the founders of black civilizations speak about the existence of a white Africa which was opposed to the idea of a black and inferior sub-Saharan Africa, what should we do with the millions of black Moroccans, black Algerians, black Tunisians, black Libyans who are still living in the Maghreb?

Yersterday, white Tunisian president Kais Saied declared that the black African immigrants were a danger to his population as they will eventually change the demographics of the population. If the Maghrebi diaspora is the first to attack the Israeli institutions regarding their strict policies of immigration towards the African immigrants and the treatment of the Palestinians, these same groups rather tend to hide and protect the anti-blackness of their own institutions when it comes to the treatment of sub-Saharan Africans. The discourse of Saied is not surprising at all, as North African societies are rooted in anti-blackness since the Arabization of the region which began in the 7th century.

Arabization is nothing less but another form of white supremacy which became the foundations of these Arabized societies. The same way, the prosperity of the Arab world was forged through the dehumanization and physical exploitation of the black African bodies during the 1,400 years of slavery.

If history proved that black people built the greatest civilizations of North Africa in the ancient world, the black Arabs remain invisible. Their isolation is due to many factors. First, after centuries of Arabization they no longer know who they are and were conditioned to be attached to an Arab identity. (it is also true that many of them can be Arab by blood as well). Then, the Arab identity is synonymous with a form of elevation they wish to access to. And finally, they remain on the side for their constant fear of expressing themselves. The black Maghrebis, like many other Africans trapped in the Arab world, do not fear “fear” itself, but rather want to remain silent in order to preserve their privileges.

In their racial and social hierarchy, the white Maghrebis and white Arabs in the Middle East make a clear distinction between “their Blacks” and the others deemed inferior. The Black Maghrebis, for the most part, do not see themselves like the rest of the Africans since they were formed to see themselves as North African Berbers who belong to a sphere of racial, social and spiritual elevation for closer to the West. They often remain silent in order to protect their own privileges in their own structures.

If thousands of sub-Saharan migrants refuse to understand that migrating into North African nations is a danger to their safety, the black Maghrebis rarely defend them or ask for justice towards them. In these nations, they place a separation between them and the Negroid Africans.

In France, where the Maghebi diaspora is present, well known racist and anti-black Youtuber Bassem Braiki, originally from the city of Lyon and with Tunisian roots, posted several videos attacking black Parisians and black women who found themselves guilty of wearing wigs. Bassem uses his Youtube channel to spew his hatred towards a community he greatly despises. The French-Tunisian voiced his opposition to mixed-race couples, especially between French Blacks and white Maghrebis. However, in his racism, Bassem has one clear exception. The union of a black Maghrebi with a white one seems normal to him, as he considers the black Maghrebis to be the extension of the white ones.

This idea of privilege satisfies the black Maghrebis who feel close to their white descendants living in the North. Yet, the white Maghrebis mostly refuse to accept the fact that the founders of their geographical spaces were not only black Africans but Negroid in terms of phenotype. The same way, the black Africanness of “their” black Maghrebis is used as an example to fight any Central black African who would accuse them of being racists. How could they be racist when Algerians can be black, too? Still, despite this manipulation and the silence of the black Maghrebis, the latter are still perceived as strangers who surely came from somewhere else before they decided to settle in the southern parts of the Maghreb. In reality, these black groups were indigenous to the North but were forced to move south following the constant invasions which took place overtime.

The black Maghrebis remain silent to preserve their own privileges as they enjoy being recognised by their white descendants.

However, one reality should also be evoked. Activists such as Saadia Mosbah, Maha Abdelhamid, Kawlha Ksiksi, or Ziyed Rouine ought to change their society by exposing the racist institutions of their nation. Still, one problem remains. Due to the Arabization and the erasure of the traditional African cultures and identities, the black Arab world has little to no writings left by black Arabized Africans which could help the modern-day populations evolve. As a consequence, the black American problematics are often imported when they do not fit in at all.

Indeed, though black, the condition of the black Maghrebis and black Middle Easterners has nothing to do with that of the Afro-Americans. The blacks living in the MENA region have a dual identity which is geographically African, Mediterranean, thus African and European. They evolve in a space where black people can also be multiracial or grow in multiethnic and multiracial spaces. Hence experiences which are not similar to that of the US American black community. Plus, the black communities living in the south of Maghreb are associated to backwardness, poverty, inferiority and the opposite of progress. In this dynamic of oppression and racism, the position of the Black Maghrebis is similar to that of the Black Dominicans whose despised status is secured by the ongoing feeling of anti-Haitianism which guarantees them a recognition from the white racist Dominican institutions.

The black African communities in the Maghreb who fight against racism are still plagued by the brutality of their condition. They have a hard time standing alone, and can not affirm their identity and race outside of the approbation of their white descendants living in the northern part of the Maghreb. The Black Iraqis from Basra proved as early as the 9th century that they would rather die than submit to the horror of the Arab slave trade. Are the black Maghrebis willing to throw the table for ever or do they want to change a specific facet of their racist white institutions so as to be more integrated in these societies? If they were to follow such path, their condition would mirror that of the Black Westerners who, behind their fraudulent anti-racist campaigns, are seeking white validation.

It is worth noting that the few visible black communities living in the Maghreb and in the Arab world were shown to the world through the Arab Spring revolutions. The 2011 Tunisian revolts led to the rebellion of many isolated groups, including the black ones. Prior to this, the few black Africans who revolted such as Salim Merzoug, were either sent to mental asylums or were assassinated, as illustrated by the case of Jalal Diab in Iraq. Despite the existence of exceptional black Arabs who stand up to fight against racism, the majority is still submitted to their white colonial power for they want to keep their privileges close to them. They often hide behind the shared common belief in Islam and attack the violence of the West to belittle the anti-blackness spewed against them, especially since they do not consider themselves to be black Africans for many, but rather Arab, Tunisians, Moroccans, Algerians or Libyans.

The silence of black Arabs and Arabized blacks regarding Arab white supremacy is no longer rooted in fear, but in total comfort.

By Victoria “VKY” Kabeya, All Rights Reserved 2023

[1] Yusuf, Aisha “Missing in Plain Sight: Who Are the Afro-Arabs and Where Are They in the World?”AMALIAH.com, September 2020 https://www.amaliah.com/post/60270/afro-arab-history-afro-palestinians-afro-iraqis-anti-black-racism-in-the-world-amaliah-identity

[2] Abdelhamid, Maha, “Bourguiba le raciste, l’incroyable histoire de Slim Merzoug”, Kapitalis, June 21st, 2016, http://kapitalis.com/tunisie/2016/06/21/bourguiba-raciste-lincroyable-destin-de-slim-marzouk/

[3] Ezzahra-Bendami, “Black Tunisians breaking taboos” AfricaIsACountry, 2021, https://africasacountry.com/2021/03/black-tunisians-breaking-taboos

[4] INèS Mrad Dali, « Les mobilisations des « Noirs tunisiens » au lendemain de la révolte de 2011 : entre affirmation d’une identité historique et défense d’une « cause noire » », Politique africaine, 2015/4 (n° 140), p. 61-81. DOI : 10.3917/polaf.140.0061. URL : https://www.cairn.info/revue-politique-africaine-2015-4-page-61.htm

[5] Ajroudi, Asma “Tunisia ‘needs a cultural revolution’ to combat racism” AlJazeera, October 15th, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/10/15/tunisia-needs-a-cultural-revolution-to-combat-racism

[6] Cordall, Simon, “What’s in a name? How the legacy of slavery endures in Tunisia” The Guardian, November 7th, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/nov/07/whats-in-a-name-how-the-legacy-of-slavery-endures-in-tunisia

[7] “Black Tunisians push for equality, in face of racism”, ArabNews, 2018 https://www.arabnews.com/node/1404611/offbeat

[8] Grewal, Sharan “In another first, Tunisia criminalizes racism”, Brookings, October 15th, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/10/15/in-another-first-tunisia-criminalizes-racism/

[9] Uddin, Rahyann “Tunisia president warns of sub-Saharan immigration in ‘racist’ outburst” Middle East Eye, February 22nd, 2023, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/tunisia-saied-sub-saharan-immigration-racist-outburst

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