Interviewee: Chelvin Ramsamy
Special Assistant Advisor (Regional Integration) for the African Union.
Interviewer: Atlanta Mahanta, Sr. Multimedia Journalist, THE TIMES OF AFRICA
Q. What are the possible strategies to manage xenophobic bullying?
A. Hello, I am Chelvin Ramsamy and I work as Special Assistant Advisor for the African Union in Ethiopia. So as part of my work in the regional integration department, I deal with all the 55 African countries. Thank you for the question. So I think that is not exactly bullying but it’s racism because it’s deep-rooted in, for many years. And it is also multifaceted. So it comes in different forms. It may be a school, it may be at the place of work. It may be in the society itself. We see it in all the African countries and it comes in different forms. So if you go to South Africa it is fine, but it’s not the same as here in Mauritius, in Ethiopia, it might be different where there are more fair people. It differs from place to place. Going back centuries, we have actually seen the history of all the racism itself in Africa, if we look back 30 years from now, in the year 1990, so in South Africa, there was the Apartheid that ended. And this was all due to the efforts of one man, as we knew it’s Nelson Mandela. So he showed us a way that we can manage xenophobic bullying in Africa would be through our commitment of young people. Young people are the advocates, so we can sign petitions with the system, lobbying the government, we can go against the system and show where they’re all failing to understand the potential of young people and how we want to represent the continent. I have also noted the recent case of George Floyde murder in the U.S. which has triggered African emotions to start the protest again against racism. There is another way to end xenophobic bullying would be to write and draft letters, sign petitions, for example, UN, human right council, we can highlight the issues and make the government accountable, how things should be and where things are going wrong in Africa. We need dynamic citizens. I would say, the mass plays a critical role in Africa. Because Africa, as you might already know, it has the largest population of young people in the world. And by 2050, we expect that the number of our people in Africa will be twice the number of young people compared to Europe and Asia. So this is really how we see it and is really a huge asset. There is also a negative side but young people are the future. They can be the one who would change the future of the world and manage xenophobic bullying in Africa. So my bet would be for the young people who deal with people, they are more dynamic, they are more critical about analyzing things. And also they know how to use advanced technology and make a better African continent by managing and ending xenophobic bullying in Africa.
Q. How does transnationalism redefine racial discrimination in Africa?
A. So, the first thing that we must note here that you must understand here is what is transnationalism. Transnationalism refers to the diffusion and extension of social, political, economic processes in between and beyond the sovereign jurisdictional boundaries of nation-states. International processes are increasingly governed by non-state actors and international organizations. I would define between the different people from different nations, different states, different countries and their cultures and how they can come together for a better one for a better society and work together as one big family. In Africa, we have seen for several years there has been racial discrimination, the Europeans they came here, they took slaves. This was in the past, but now when interacting with each other, it opens the gateway, it makes people more broad-minded. When you interact you come to know the different lifestyle and habits which contributes to the big picture representation of a culture. You get a different perspective with more compassion and you also become more helpful to people. In fact, transnationalism, we see that in many countries now in Africa, for example, let me take my example. here, in Mauritius, where we have Hindus, Christians, Chinese, Muslim people, we call it rainbow nations. We handle our differences without discrimination, especially in my circle. In this way, we may blur all kinds of racism. Why transnationalism issue is more important than ever before today, I would say it from a perspective of the African Union and Regional Integration, we have “African Continental Free Trade” agreement (AfCFTA). It was supposed to be implemented this year but due to COVID19, we had to postpone it to 2021. It is based on the premise as one single continent and all countries would come together for trade. It breaks trade barriers, for years, we have seen that trade between African and European countries and other countries are rising. But trade among African countries is very low. It is expected to build relationships between different nations in Africa. We are also envisioning having a single currency. Trading will become easier than ever before. This will also lead to a visa-free continent. This transnationalism will help to diminish racial discrimination.
Q. Will the practice of cross-culture interactions and marriages blur the stereotypical eyes?
A. With the practice of cross-culture interaction, in this contemporary century, I would say we see many examples of intercaste, interregional marriages. People are more compassionate, and its collaboration of two different communities, states, nations which led to reduce discrimination and also racism. It has brought more acceptance and adoption of different cultures and lifestyles. We have our global citizens in the promotion of these practices. The world is a small village where everyone is connected and can live together. It is already happening if we pick any country and will find citizens from many other countries in universities or workspace. The concept of global citizens is already established. In order to promote cross-culture marriages, it is also important to consider the level of education as I have said education is the most powerful weapon, which you can change the world to educate the people who come to you and to educate the communities in Africa and also around the world. And through education platforms why not try to change the mindset of the people, why not promote cross-cultural interactions. This is the kind of world people are dreaming of. This dream should come true for us.
Q. Thank you for highlighting the better side. What about the drawback? I wouldn’t say negatives, but the drawbacks. In any interfaith marriage, the differences are more than the child struggles to adopt the lifestyle from both sides and acceptance in the society is bais. How can this child who is a hybrid can tackle this situation?
A. It depends on the mind set up of society. Right from the school, it starts. We can’t change others but ourselves first and at least in this matter of acceptance and adoption. I would actively recommend and say that social virtual groups can do is to go to the front and explain to these communities about differences and how to live together by complimenting each other. This is only how we get progress. We can at least try to educate people and sensitise regarding these issues.
Q. To what extent would you attribute racism in modern society to racial mythologies?
A. We have read about the apartheid system ending in south Africa long back. The apartheid system in South Africa was ended through a series of negotiations between 1990 and 1993 and through unilateral steps by the de Klerk government. These negotiations took place between the governing National Party, the African National Congress, and a wide variety of other political organisations. The notion was the same as living in harmony in Africa or the US or UK. But some issues took its root between the black people and the white people in the city of Bridgestone, Cambridge. When people actually do it to find the tribe to vindicate for the rights, they try to protest for their rights. It was then and now things have not changed yet. If we take the case of George Floyde as an example in 2020. In modern society, we must raise questions on digital platforms which is very easy to access these days. Because for example, these white people, these younger generations, I would say they have a role to play to be a responsible citizen. Each individual matters how they react and think. We need people in there as of today in the US in particular, this racism is a huge problem. It is increasing day by day and getting worse day by day. Our generation is responsible for projecting it to different directions. Nelson Mandela is an icon for us to make us believe that a dream can come true. But now our dream is different. It’s not only limited to the nation but the world. Also, we are becoming diaspora in many other nations. We have to make it accountable as racism was legal long back as slavery, capitalism, colonialism.
I have visited many African countries, we deal with African embassies, at my personal level and professionally to contribute to the development of the continent. I can write to them for the schemes, conducting meetings with foreign affairs, conducting sessions, bringing interconnection relations with other different continents. This session breaks the ice between Africans and other people from different continents. Foreign affairs and embassies are the ones who deal with other countries, we get real information from other countries. And where and how I can move forward addressing the progress of the African Union. We highlight problems and solutions and later implementation of the solutions that’s why open discussions are very important.
Q. How do we tackle the root of racism through education, cultural awareness and the environment?
A. As I have previously stated, it is deep-rooted in our society. It’s been a part of society for several decades. I’ve seen it between the African countries and the European countries. For many years, we have seen how the French, before they came to Africa, they came here, the project colonized many parts of Africa. They will certainly in India, the British people, they’re also in India. And how can we tackle racism with the help of education? I believe in that, as I said, education is the most powerful weapon through which we can change the world. We should target people from a very young age. We can teach them that the system that has been running, we should explain to them that this is the system that has been happening for years. But yes, there are changes right from kids, education, incubating them, the values, norms and how to respect other people, cross-culture and accepting the differences and how to live together as one family. And when they grow up, we know I’m sure that when they grow up, they will become responsible citizens. They might become leaders who run the world to move towards and make a better future. How can we tackle the root of racism, control of cultural awareness starts from the family. I think here, the government has a very important role to play. In fact, the minister of family planning, he or she has a critical role to play. He/she must go to different communities personally, officers over there. And try to inculcate not only the kids but the family members, the parents themselves, they should try to become more compassionate, try to think of a better future, try to think of better tomorrow in the context of cultural awareness. It’s all interlinked racism will fade away if u inject the information in the right way and at the right time. Environment refers to the people you live with, socialise with, friends and society. Let’s take a rough example of our food habits, outfits, these are their identities where they exchange information. They form the link. And the government and media also have a very important role to play as most of the information people consume from the government portals and media houses which forms a portrayal of the communities. It starts from me, to blur or to erase racism, as a citizen, as state advisor in office space, as a family member, how we react and act to things.