A lot is said about racism these days, but often these conversations are selective and pointed, ignoring certain aspects of what generates racism. These conversations’ arguments are so often dependent upon the agenda that is pursued! These arguments’ foundations are based on where we come from, what skin colour we have, how different our features are, etc. The general argument, when you get down to the bottom line, is that because we are different in our appearance, we are from different races.
While it is true that we are different in appearance, are we different races? I think not! In God’s creative design, He made one man and one woman, from whom the entire human race finds it origin (see Gen 1:26-27). So, the concept of racism is then shaped by appearance and not our humanness, for in our humanness we are totally equal, having all the faculties and abilities as does everyone else (including having a soul), irrespective of appearance.
Although we have spoken about melanin, here is a brief reminder from WebMD:
Everyone has the same number of melanocytes, but some people make more melanin than others. If those cells make just a little bit of melanin, your hair, skin and the iris of your eyes can be very light. If your cells make more, then your hair, skin, and eyes will be darker. Melanin is the agent that affects our basic differences in appearance.
Although 13 June each year is International Albinism Awareness Day, September is Albinism Awareness Month in South Africa. Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair and/or eyes. Albinism occurs in all racial and ethnic groups throughout the world. In the U.S., approximately one in 18,000 to 20,000 people has some type of albinism. In other parts of the world, the occurrence can be as high as one in 3,000.
In many African countries, it is believed that the body parts of people with Albinism hold magical powers that can make someone instantly prosperous, powerful or lucky in work, love or life if harnessed by a witch-doctor and made into a charm, amulet, talisman or other potion. Although body parts are harvested in South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi and parts of East Africa are the worst when it comes to body part harvesting.
There is a stigma associated with Albinism resulting in discrimination and marginalization, often in attacks and killings. Often, Albinos are hunted for body parts (muti killings). Sometimes, discrimination is reversed and people with Albinism are ‘deified’ into ‘gods’. Consider this example that I have edited and can be found in “African Human Rights Journal” (M Mswela ‘Violent attacks against persons with albinism in South Africa: A human rights perspective’ (2017) 17 African Human Rights Law Journal 114-13).
On 25 September 2015, two 19 year-old men pleaded guilty in the Vryheid Regional Court to the murder of Thandazile Mpunzi, a 20 year-old woman with albinism, and each was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. The Court heard that traditional healer Bhekukufa Gumede had told the deceased’s boyfriend that ‘muti mixed with the body parts of a person with albinism would make them rich’. On the basis of this the accused concocted a plot to kill Thandazile Mpunzi to obtain her body parts. On the afternoon of 1 August 2015, Mpunzi’s boyfriend lured her to a remote area in the Phelandaba area of Emanguzi in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, where Mabuza and Khumalo attacked and strangled her before taking her body to a nearby forest. The assailants met the following day, mutilated the deceased’s body and left with certain body parts. They later buried the remains of the body in another forest. Thandazile Mpunzi was a victim of violent attacks and killing of persons with albinism for ritual purposes. Based on the belief that the body parts of persons with albinism have extraordinary powers, unscrupulous dealers have resorted to harvesting their body parts with the expectation that these can be used to help them become rich. The body parts are allegedly used as ingredients in rituals, concoctions and potions on the basis of the claim that their magic will bring prosperity to the user.
But then, the truth is that discrimination flourishes amongst the handicapped and disabled, those with various skin diseases and mental illnesses, the elderly and the poor, male and female, those lacking education, those from the wrong side of the railway line, those from a different ethnicity or country … it’s not only appearance, be it shaped in ‘racism or albinism’ or otherwise. It would seem as though we as a nation have a long, long way to go in educating our people as to how many ways we might discriminate without even realizing it. And it’s not good enough saying, “I am not a racist; I don’t discriminate; I do not practice prejudice …” One needs to practice it!
There is a place where no discrimination or prejudice is practiced … and that place is in the Heavenly City where the effects of sin–which encompass ‘racism’, discrimination and prejudice–will be no more. Consider this:
Rev 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Right now, God does not see His people as inferior one to another. Not even one is better than the other or carries more value than the other. Absolute equality reigns where Jesus is Lord! The external and appearance is meaningless, but the soul has eternal value.
Dear God, You are the most awesome Lord, King and Father. How I long for the day when I shall be with You and away from all sin, especially those that divide people … even Your people. To be with You is indeed paradise. As I live out my life on this earth, help me to do so with integrity and in obedience to Your Word. Amen.