It is no question that Lebanon prides itself for being a land based on paradoxes.
Where the government forces its people to travel to Cyprus for civil marriage, but never bats an eye at nightclubs closing at 6 a.m. Where religion and politics are – quite literally – the two nesting pillars, and are more often than not interchangeable. Where our greatest accomplishments consist of being among the top 10 party cities, and breaking the Guinness World Record for the biggest hummus plate.
I love my birth country more than anything in the world. Despite all its flaws and political turmoils, I remain the devil’s advocate. However, there are certain things I will never be able to overlook, nor defend; and that is the Lebanese population’s innate racism and intolerance.
On Sept. 20, Lebanon’s Minister of Education Akram Chehayeb took to Twitter to discuss the Near Eastern country’s refugee crisis.
“Despite all the challenges, we will not allow any student to remain outside of school in Lebanon, whatever his nationality, and we will endeavor to ensure a comprehensive and just education for all,” his words read. “The human right to education is a sacred right guaranteed by all international conventions and laws.”
Such an accepting statement did not sit well with a number of people, and was followed by an overtly racist, some would call ‘nationalist,’ caricature. OTV, a Lebanese broadcasting channel, shared a cartoonist’s take on Chehayeb’s words. The drawing shows two Lebanese students walking to school, only to be greeted with a sign that roughly translates from Arabic to: “We apologize, the school is full of Syrians, Palestinians, Indians, (an offensive word for Black people), Ethiopians, Bangladeshis.”
The Daily Star reported that the cartoon has been removed from OTV’s socials as of Monday, with no response from the channel about the backlash.
It’s no secret that Lebanon has had its fair share of conflicts from the influx of refugees, due to the many strifes the Near East has had to face over the years. Not to mention the unresolved Civil War issues, placing the country in a devil’s palm, where the people live in imminent fear of it happening again. Suffice to say, a country with a pint-sized territory of 10,452 square km bites off more discords than it can chew; and for inexplicable reasons, remains hungry for more.
One thing I have learned since moving to Montreal is how similar we all are once we get over our differences. At times, I have more in common with a Syrian or Palestinian citizen than I do with a Lebanese one who has lived their entire life in the same country as I. I even go as far as relating to many Latinos about similar childhood moments, mostly ones relating to parental disciplinary methods. Because globalization has enabled us to look beyond one’s nationality, and realize that no ethnicity is better than others – especially not ethnicities that live so close together.
As the years go by, I don’t believe the sentence “I am not racist, but” should be tolerated anymore. It is not acceptable to follow antiquated ideals of favouritism, and elitist attitudes, where one believes themselves to be better than others.
I grew up in an environment where institutionalized racism was ever-present, but was taught to treat everyone with respect and kindness. I’ve outgrown, and educated myself out of that innate racial bias, and I am only 22. What’s your excuse?
Graphic by Victoria Blair