I walk every where in Beirut because its the type of city that allows you to do so. Choosing to walk, however, also means being subjected to racist remarks, looks, finger pointing and last but not least being labeled for something I am not.
I chose to come to Beirut almost four years ago to pursue my studies, to live a different experience in the hip-modern-Paris-of-the-of-the-middle-east; Beirut. Where everything is possible but of course i was wrong. Beirut reflects only what people see in the media or what the media allows people to see. Its complicated and it deserves another post.
The fact is, Lebanon is a place where sectarianism is deeply rooted, tension is constantly brewing and peace is vulnerable. Nevertheless, people live, dream and many succeed in doing what they love best, only because this is Lebanon.
Lebanese people are among the most educated, skilled, specialized Arab people and tend to do well for themselves. Yet, they have a fault.
I was walking down the street with a Sudani friend of mine, out of the blue, a guy walking by points his index finger right in front of her face and says “Inti a7la wahda ya Sowda” which translates to “Your the prettiest, you Black one”. Eliminating the first part of the sentence and focusing on the latter, the guy was referring to the color of her skin. I might be over -reacting – but then again this is sort of a rant that broke the ice after four years, after four year of tolerating endless remarks, looks and unwanted feeling! I had to write and enlighten others how this impacts me.
I refuse to me labeled by the color of my skin because in Lebanon being Sawda (Black) means i either work as a maid or a prostitute. I am a student who happens to live in Lebanon. The feeling I get when someone deliberately labels me without asking, without knowing my being, aggravates me. At times, it makes me resent living in Lebanon.
In every country, you find the janitor, the doctor, the driver and the diplomat, Sudan is no different. The Sudanese who come here are refugees that believe they can get to Europe through Lebanon – which a transit country. Once they arrive and realize they can’t, many opt to live here instead -illegally- of returning to an unpromising country. I, as a Sudanese, am sad to see my country men working in such conditions; overworked, underpaid, at times not treated well, imprisoned and beaten up and deprived of basic human rights. The again, who am i to talk about upholding human rights for Sudanese? When the Palestinians gain some right in Lebanon, then perhaps i can give my two pennies on the issue of Sudanese in Lebanon.
What i resent however, is the feeling many force me to feel. I live in your country – legally. I respect the culture that it, i experience the experience you do, i picked up the accent…i feel Beirutiya to an extent. So, i do not appreciate it when i walk in one of the most hippest parts in town and be called Sawda or $*^&! The people who are labeling me are not, Naeem, the person i buy my coffee from every morning; or the old lady who sells gum across from Universal restaurant; or 3amo Ahmed the security guard who has the M-W-F shift at Main gate. No, It is the people that are educated, traveled, experienced, well read and fortunate people…you are the supposed future of this country. You are the one’s who are supposed to know better, know about the impact of words on others, know more about tolerance and of people from different cultures. Yet, many of you do it anyways and this saddens me.
What i ranted about is not applicable to all Lebanese, i am fortunate to have found many Lebanese friends who share the same views as mine, who apologies constantly and are more aggravated then i am on this issue.
The moral of this rant is simple; weight the words you use and the things you say. Calling me “Ya Sawda”, is racist.
Wa7da Sudaniya fi Beirut.