Stereotypes, ethnoreligious hatred and the road to perdition: Part I Act 1 Scene 1: Insults galore

Emeka: This ‘Awusa’ people have come again ooo. How can Musa, an illiterate cowhand, want to be the Class Captain? Impossible. It is you Yoruba people that always tolerate this type of nonsense. You people are too cowardly, you only like partying and wearing big big clothes. This is rubbish.

Musa: You are very stupid, danburuubashege. Who is an illiterate cow hand? Armed robber Emeka. Arne (pagan) kawai.

Tunde: I am definitely not a coward. I use my education and analyse things pragmatically. Unlike you Nyamiri people that will do anything for money – even sell your own family members.

 

Act 1 Scene 2: Mutual respect and tolerance

Emeka: I have lived among the Yorubas and they are very welcoming and accommodating. I relocated to the North because the competition in Lagos was too much. Since I relocated to Bauchi, my business has prospered and I am doing very well. No matter what, I have settled here. My investments are here now.

Musa: We have to admire the hardworking nature of the Ibos. There is no community in this northern Nigeria, no matter how remote, that you will not find an Ibo man selling and meeting the commercial needs of that community. I respect their hard work and business acumen.

Tunde: The northerners I went to school with, were exceptionally very brilliant, and the region provides us with food – grains, tomatoes, pepper, meat, potatoes, fruits etc. Every region has something of value to contribute.

I have followed the increasing vitriol on social media and across our communities and it is alarming on several fronts. It bodes very poorly for our emotional wellbeing as well as our physical health and survival – as individuals, families, communities, and indeed, as a nation, that we continue to fan the embers of discord. If we continue to denigrate and perpetuate stereotypes that fuel ethnic or religious hatred, we would be acting out the classic playbook for genocide.

Make of it what you will but we have governments and government officials at all levels (local, state and federal) that have always and continue to inflame passions through their actions or inactions. It is in their best interests that they fuel this continuing divisiveness. Add to this mix, complicit media houses that propagate sectional sentiments and a culture of ‘copied’ or ‘shared as received’ messages on social media with no attempt at verifying authenticity, and you have a recipe for disaster on the cards.

 

What are stereotypes?

Stereotypes are the perceptions, beliefs and expectations a person has about members of a particular group. Usually, they involve the false assumption that all members of a group share the same characteristics. So, we begin to make sweeping statements such as All Ibos are like these; All Hausa-Fulanis are like that; Yorubas are so and so; All Muslims are like these; all Christians are like that etc.

 

What is wrong with having stereotypes?

Stereotyping often leads to prejudice, which is a negative attitude, or negative beliefs, toward an individual, based simply on his or her membership of some group. More often than not, these negative attitudes and beliefs do not even come from direct personal experience, but from second hand narrations of how terrible some groups of people are, and we adopt such beliefs as our own subsequently.

 

How does all these lead to hatred?

Everything falls into place like a pack of cards.

First, you stereotype a group of people as different and inferior to your group.

Second, you perpetuate negative beliefs and circulate them, thus encouraging prejudice.

Third, you actively take discriminatory action against a group, for example, landlords who specify they don’t want a particular ethnicity or religion as tenants in their houses. Or those who will refuse to employ others.

Fourth, the ignorance about a group of people, mixed with fear from all the negative stories about how terrible such people are, ultimately leads to pure and undiluted hatred for such groups of people.

Lastly, once hatred is established in the hearts, and those who do not belong (out-group) to your group (in-group) become worthy recipients of violence. And the spiral of violence begins.

 

Emotional problems of hatred

Kurt Vonnegut stated that “Hate, in the long run, is about as nourishing as cyanide” and Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted that “along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate”.

Hatred and anger may transiently compensate for feelings of self-inadequacy and envy, but it also causes emotional turmoil and discomfort. But the more lasting but certainly more difficult task is to learn empathy, compassion and respect for our collective humanity. This is the pathway to inner emotional tranquility and emotional maturity.

To be continued.

 

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