By Promise Adiele
Prejudice looms large in literary criticism where it inevitably acquires multiple, hydra-headed extensions such as racial prejudice, ethnic prejudice, gender prejudice, religious prejudice, professional prejudice, and many more. Of all the palpable extensions of prejudice, racial prejudice is arguably the most prominent in the world because it has generated tensions and unease of different temperaments over the years. Irked by the brutal racial prejudice under the reprehensible apartheid era in South Africa, Athol Fugard in his celebrated play Sizwe Bansi Is Dead demonstrates the grim, emasculating order that black South Africans had to endure.
Through a clever transposition of identities by his remorseless friend Buntu, Sizwe Bansi assumes the personality of a dead man Robert Zwelinzima who has a work seeker’s permit. Sizwe Bansi then sends a letter to his wife informing her that Sizwe Bansi is dead. For the blacks in apartheid South Africa, one must die to live. Dying to live and living to die are implicit realities that victims of racial hegemony all over the world must reconcile as a vital matrix of the temporal process. Also, it is the need to portray the invidious racial contours in the US that Richard Wright wrote his award winning novel Native Son. In the novel, Bigger Thomas, smarting from a perverted racial society, is forced to assert his humanity by criminally murdering Mary, the daughter of the corrupt, exploitative Mr Dalton. Wole Soyinka’s poem Telephone Conversion and Buchi Emecheta’s novel Second Class Citizen also address racial prejudice. Then enter Kurt Zouma.
Kurt Happy Zouma is a French footballer of African descent who plies his professional career in England with the West Ham United football club. Recently, a video footage showed the French footballer mistreating his cat. Following the video evidence, there was a general outcry from everybody condemning Zouma for mistreating an innocent cat in an unconscionable manner. West Ham football club reacted by hitting Zouma with a fine of 250,000 pounds which represents his wages for two weeks. Furthermore, Adidas, a renowned sportswear manufacturing company, withdrew their deal with him. His younger brother Yoan was banned from playing for his club. Both brothers could be jailed for four years if they are found guilty. It is wrong for anybody to brutalize an animal, especially a domestic, innocuous animal, and on that score, Kurt Zouma is wrong.
However, having apologized for his mistakes, one is instinctively motivated to look beyond the kicking of a cat and wonder why his punishment should be so damning and life-threatening. Beyond kicking the cat, did Zouma commit any other offence? The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty against Animals (RSPCA) has reacted quickly by taking the victim cat away from Kurt Zouma. Many people, celebrities in England and around the world, are calling and mounting campaigns for the immediate sacking of Zouma which will end his means of livelihood and career in England. However, West Ham Scottish coach David Moyes has shown Zouma support by playing him in the match against Watford`. Also, West Ham fans sang songs to support Zouma during the match. Some people have called West Ham’s support for Zouma ‘vile’ insisting that the soccer star should be punished more.
The Zouma imbroglio has once again opened another critical vista in the unending, endemic issue of racism across the world. It will be understandable if Zouma’s cat is taken away from him after issuing an open apology to everyone for what he has done. But to insist that Zouma must die because he brutalized a cat can only be interpreted in one way – killing a mosquito with an AK-47 rifle. It becomes more disembowelling to note that many black players in Europe and elsewhere are subjected to racial abuses. FIFA, the world soccer governing body and several national football associations have made fighting racism a serious issue but it appears that these demonstrations are mere paper tigers without any serious threat.
I read where a certified, racist English man averred that brutalizing a cat is worse than racism. That kind of comment can only embolden racists to continue in their condemnable behaviour. What is the punishment for those who racially abuse others? Has Adidas as a company banned or even punished anybody under contract with them involved in racial abuse? Zouma’s punishment goes beyond his cruel attitude towards the cat. It is simply because he is a black man. The man who said that cruelty towards animals is worse than racism should be arrested immediately and prosecuted because he is advertently submitting that the lives of animals are more important than the lives of black people. It is this kind of dubiousness, innate insincerity, and intolerable exposition of latent racial cognition that has sustained racial slurs and abuses in Europe and most parts of the world.
How on earth can a normal person argue that cruelty towards animals is worse than racial abuse? No wonder some footballers have refused to participate in the act of kneeling before football matches because they know it is all demonstration without any iota of sincerity to fighting racism. Those who think that Zouma should be punished further should look at themselves a second time in a mirror and summarily submit themselves urgently for a psycho-analytic examination. During horse races in Europe and other parts of the world, horses are whipped mercilessly to the point that some of them die after sustaining severe injuries. I do not have any doubt in my mind that Kurt Zouma is hounded and maligned because he is a black man…simple. Any other argument over this matter borders on primitive sophistry and morbid racial prejudice.
Beyond racial prejudice, different parts of the world are torn to shreds by ethnic prejudice where people show an undue, reckless preference for people from the same ethnicity with them even in the face of proven mediocrity. Between racial prejudice and ethnic prejudice, there is certainly a thin, veiled line. There are many detribalized Nigerians, yet many more are hopelessly steeped in the cesspool of ethnic mindset. To such people, excellence can easily be defaced as long as a person from the same ethnicity with them gets the nod. It is disconcerting when people considered as enlightened show a disgraceful manifestation of ethnic bigotry privately and in public places. He is an Igbo man. Therefore he can do no wrong even if he is a proven criminal. He is a Yoruba man, even if his underbelly oozes stench and his outer robes are redolent of incompetence, we accept him. He is our man. He is Hausa/Fulani, even if he daily stews in the juice of incompetence, a retarded nitwit, we must identify with him. He is our brother.
He is Urhobo, Kanuri, Efik, Ijaw, this and that ethnicity therefore, excellence should be slaughtered and buried. Ethnic prejudice does not respect education or enlightenment. Those who claim to be educated are more immersed in ethnic prejudice than those who are not so educated. It becomes more dispiriting that many government officials, those we entrust with public welfare are ethnic jingoists. It is laughable to see a reincarnated mediocrity in human form desperately seeking social acceptance and in doing so, latch on ethnic sympathy to achieve hopeless intentions. They are everywhere.
Recently, various news outlets were inundated with reports that a certain Deputy Commissioner of Police Ibrahim Babazango fumed with raw rage and threatened to maim another Nigerian, Vincent Umeh for buying a piece of land near him. According to available information, the high-ranking DCP of Police from Adamawa State vehemently opposed the idea of having a man from another ethnic group become his neighbour. He threatened Mr Umeh that his security will not be guaranteed in his new location. Ibrahim Babazango’s anger is simply because the said Umeh is from a different ethnic group and the police boss cannot imagine living near someone from another ethnic group even if he is a Nigerian. Since the case broke out, no arrest has been made. If indeed our country is matriculating towards a new, one Nigeria order, DCP Babazango ought to have been arrested by now. But no, our ‘One Nigeria is non-negotiable’ is a mantra to assuage timid, defeated consciences. In the main, we can say that ‘One Nigeria’ is a mirage of our contentiously varied tendencies.
Kurt Happy Zouma is traumatized today in Europe because he kicked his cat and the entire white community want him dead. That is an obvious case of racism at its destabilizing best. Babazango’s case in Nigeria is also ethnic prejudice at its abhorrent best. There are many other cases of prejudice around the world and even in Nigeria. Some people are ready to defend their church and the pastor to death even if the pastor kills their mother. He can do no wrong- religious prejudice. For such people, even if the pastor wages clear war against humanity, violating the preordained moral codes of all existence, those who worship him will rise to his defence. If that criminal seeks public office and he is from their ethnicity, why not, let him assume office, he is our man. If that rogue calls down thunder and brimstone on the rest of humanity, and so, is he the first person, they are witch-hunting him because he is from our side. The earlier humanity is divested of the vicious stranglehold of prejudice and its multiple dilapidating ideological entrenchments, the better for the world. Hello, world!!! Kurt Zouma must not die.
Promise Adiele PhD
Mountain Top University