Racism and Tribalism: A Two Edged Sword

racism and tribalism on ERN

By now, if you’ve not been living on a rock, you’re probably wondering what in the blue devil is going on in the world as regards Racism and Tribalism. It seems like it’s really the end of the world this time, but then you’re probably asking yourself “haven’t we gone through something like this before?”

Well, that’s a question for another time really. We’ll save it for the “end time signs” thread and there we can hash out all our theories backed up with proof from whatever sources we choose to fortify our arguments with.

The real story lies in a not so little social concept.


Make that two concepts, because really we’re looking at a two edged sword from the standpoint of the average Nigerian/African and the other edge is none other than Tribalism.

Quick highschool lesson.

Racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Tribalism on the other hand is tribal consciousness and loyalty especially an exaltation of that tribe above other groups.

But that’s how we’d describe it if we were gunning for an academic essay.

In simple to explain terms, racism is the hatred of one person by another — or the belief that another person is less than human — because of skin color, language, customs, place of birth or any factor that supposedly reveals the basic nature of that person. It has influenced wars, slavery, the formation of nations, and legal codes. Racism is basically saying “hey, look, my skin is this color; yours is different/ hey this is where I come from, you come from somewhere else, and because of this, I consider myself superior to you”. The most common form of racism is perpetrated by Westerners to non Westerners, particularly blacks and other people of color.

Tribalism on the other hand follows the same concept. The only differing factor, lies in the fact that Tribalism is usually closer to home. The average African can relate to this, because where our countries are combined nations and federations, they are made up of various ethnic groups. Why, Nigeria alone has over 300 of these, and they’re all different. In essence, if members of one of these 300 says “you know what, based on whatever statistic or history, we possess a special reverence compared to other tribes” down to the point where their loyalty to the tribe becomes so toxic it negates any equality, then Tribalism has reared its ugly head.

[Of course, Tribalism could happen anywhere in the world. It’s just thought to have a higher occurrence in places like Africa because of the diversity the continent possesses.]

Now, the average black person has no trouble grasping racism. From the onset of birth, you can almost taste the ‘inferiority’ that the rest of the world looks at you with. Even if you’ve never left the shores of your own country, every black person will be a victim of a racial slur at least five times in their lifetime, because of their race/skin color. Nigerians who grew up in times where the Indians and the Lebanese, and a few other nationalities made the country their residence could testify to this, even if they did not realise what it meant at the time. From a not so subtle covering of noses when you walk by, to monkey gestures, to being spoken to as though you possessed the mental capacity similar to the speed of a snail, you can’t miss racism. Ironically, even African governments contribute to the phenomenon; treating foreigners with special care that natives couldn’t even dream of receiving. And let’s not forget the history books too. Tales about Jaja of Opobo, books like Blood on the Tide, movies like Black November; all a monument to how the western world viewed (views?) the black race as nothing but fodder.

Even a baby would understand the concept of racism, grasping it with those cute, little, curious hands. Ahem.

Tribalism however, not so much. This is because the average individual already believes that he and a fellow person from the same country are the same, save for a few distinguishable factors such as class and education. Hence to think that a person from one tribe of a country could be toxic to another from another tribe in the same country almost seems like a stretch. The mind does not want to accept it. However, deep down in the psyched; it’s right there.

You might not even recognize it as Tribalism because no one ever wants to tag it as that. It exists where there are stories about how terrible a particular tribe is; like how Ebira people from Kogi should be kept at bay, or how the Nupe people are extremely diabolical. It seems like yard talk, right until you start associating with these “no go areas” and then it becomes clear from reactions. It might sound like overreaching, but it’s the very thing that led to the Nigerian Civil War.

Again, to admit to these things is to nail a metaphorical nail on the head, and so nobody ever likes to think of it. Racism on the other hand is a ‘big’ topic because the threat seems to come from an external source. The average individual doesn’t want to talk about tribalism as a thing because then that would mean they’re doing the same thing racists do; only at grassroots level. It gets swept under the carpet.

Ironically and interestingly, when Tribalism, that loyalty to one’s tribe turns toxic and leads to a belief in the exaltation of a tribe over others, it’s only the larvae of racism; waiting to metamorphosize into a grey, stinky moth. And we know what moths do.

They eat away at the very fabric of humanity.

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