The Black Lives Matter Movement is causing everyone, especially in corporations, organizations, and universities, to suddenly wake up and take stock of the “unconscious bias” within.
It’s now the new buzzword, which translates to: “learned stereotypes that are automatic, unintentional, deeply ingrained, universal, and able to influence behavior.”
The term is used to largely refer to white bias against Blacks and people of color. But there is also the not too often talked about unconscious xenophobia against immigrants and, the far less discussed, unconscious immigrant bias towards Blacks––including Black immigrants from their own countries.
Yet, it is as real as apple pie. There are many immigrants from Asian and South Asian nations, from Europe, Australia, and the Middle East, who hold unconscious bias against Blacks.
Recently, the West Indies cricketer Darren Sammy told the story of how he was called ‘kaalu’ while playing in India. I later learnt from my research––and which was also confirmed by Desi comedian Hasan Minhaj––that the term is as derogatory as calling a Black person the “n” word. Minaj also confirmed that the term lives on in Desi communities here in the United States.
Arabs use the term ‘abid/abeed’ to refer to Blacks while many Asians too have adopted the “n” word in referring to Black people. White Latinos, interestingly enough, are also biased against Black and Indigenous Latinos; and even Indigenous Latinos also look down on Black Latinos.
In the Caribbean, we are special and not always in a good way! There is blatant racism in some countries where Black people and people of color dominate. Take the Dominican Republic, for instance, where ‘Antihaitianismo’ is very present.
The bias translates into even hatred against non-Haitians who look Black or are dark and have what is seen as “bad hair.” Many tell how they are told not to marry Black people or even see themselves as Black but ‘Dominican.’ This, even though it’s obvious to anyone with eyes to see that they are––well Black! That translates to how they view themselves in America upon migration and how they interact with and view Blacks here.
In Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, there is a different kind of racial issue, where the Black descendants of slaves and the Indo descendants of indentured servants share a tolerance. But there is always the ever present unconscious bias that spills over into the obvious at times of elections.
Immigrants from these countries migrate with these biases and pass them on to their children born in America. Some Indo-Caribbean immigrants, upon migration, expand that bias towards all Blacks in their new society, whether African Americans, Africans, or other fellow Black West Indians, and stay pretty much to their “own.”
So deeply entrenched is it, that children are often threatened with exclusion from their families should they marry a Black man or woman. Others are warned beforehand about not “mixing up with those people;” and ugly stereotypes are used to refer to Blacks even as they are often viewed with suspicion, condescension and as less than.
By contrast, and much like immigrants from the Asian continent, there is great celebration if their child marries a white man or woman.
Yet, the irony of all ironies is that in America, these immigrants too are viewed by many whites as “less than,” and face the same racial and social injustices meted out to Blacks.
In 2020, as we face heighted xenophobia and as we see a rise in white nationalists who seek to reverse changing demographics and the loss of absolute white hegemony, immigrants must also begin to stamp out the anti-Black biases within themselves, their families and their communities as well.
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow