Lebanon’s Colored Shades of Racism

Wel lebneneh? El lebneneh 3onsore. El lebnene 7mar. El lebnene sheyef 7alo.

Those were some of the answers some Lebanese decided to come up with to the question asked by the Cheyef 7alak video above.

People are failing to realize that the video is not of real students in a real classroom situation and is an exaggerated representation of Lebanese society.

Therefore, the entire country is judged accordingly.

Is Lebanon a racist country? Sure, we have racism. But is everyone a racist? No. The correct designation for Lebanon would be: a country which has many racists. And this description applies to every single country on this planet – all 200 of them, with slight variations in the description.

I’m currently in France for a neurology clerkship at one of their country’s and europe’s leading facilities in the field. I see patients on daily basis who are losing their mind, therefore many of their social inhibitions, and who say whatever they feel like saying. I’ve also met enough French people to last me a lifetime and I’ve discussed with those French people politics on more than one occasion. And one thing has come very clear to me.

They are racist too.

“Est-ce que tu as voté, madame?” was something a physician asked a woman who thinks she’s still in then 1900s when Mitterand was running for elections. She shook her head. The physician asked her why. She replied: “Les memes personnes gagnent toujours… les Arabes, les Noirs, les Chinois….”

The physicians and interns, some of whom were Arab, took it with humor as they do everything in this country apparently.

But I knew better.

One of the many discussions French people seem comfortable to have with me as a Lebanese Christian is about Islam. And if you heard the things I heard, you’d be offended as I was – yes, even as a Lebanese Christian. Note that the discussion happened with Holland-voting people who should be more “tolerant” to the “others” in their country than right-wing voters.

So France is a racist country. Typical flawless Lebanese logic. Right?

No. Why? Because even in France, you will find people who do not think that way and who are open to other people around them. Just as it is in Lebanon. I would even argue that there are as many people who are worried about Islam in France as there are people in Lebanon who don’t like black people.

Racism is not a Lebanese problem and we might as well stop making it seem that way. Racism is a problem that derives from the basic human fear of difference – we are automatically inclined to like those that are different from us less. Those differences might be the color of their skin, their religion, their political views, etc….

The French, however, would say we are the retarded society because we can’t accept those who are different from us skin-wise. They fail to see that they are not accepting those who are different from them religiously. Even the French atheists have no problem with the Christians but have problems with taking in the French Muslim population.

And by the looks of it, it’s the same across Europe. It’s the same in the United States as well where you being from the Middle East comes with a baggage of stereotypes. The only difference between all those other “better” countries and us is that they don’t see it as a bad thing to have in their society. On the contrary, it is a constant matter for political debate that benefits different parties in their quest for political power.

In Lebanon, on the other hand, we absolutely love to bring down the Lebanese. Houwe sha3b bhim, sha3b 7mar, sha3b bajam…. And the list goes on. Sure, there are many things that we need to work on as a society, including racism and looking down on people from different nationalities. But we need to know that not everyone thinks this way and the majority might not be this ignorant. And if there’s anything that I’ve come to realize with me being away is that the good in us is absolutely great.

And if there’s anything that still makes me proud about my country it’s all the good that we, as people, have achieved again and again.

Our political problems? Sure they bring you down. They make you lose hope. They make you lose pride. They make you want to leave. They make you want to give up. Sometimes you try to change your community and sometimes your community breaks you down. Sometimes you stick around. And sometimes you just leave.

And it is when you leave that you see exactly how great the Lebanese really is – when they are in a country where they have to live by law and regulations and where their ambition isn’t limited by wasta. You randomly encounter a middle aged man who hears you talking Lebanese and see his eyes light with pride only to find out you should be proud of him being the head of neurosurgery at the hospital you’re working at.

You see other Lebanese who have managed to become interns at one of France’s most competitive medical programs. You find other Lebanese who have fought adversity and tough conditions to get into a Masters program in France.

You find other Lebanese who are heads of banks and enterprises. And you also realize that when the French talk of you as a Lebanese they don’t put you in with those “others” that they dislike. Why? because you as a Lebanese are their boss in more than one field.

Does it make me proud that the French don’t think that low of me? Honestly, I don’t care. Does it make me proud that my people are excelling in their country? Yes. Does it make me proud that my friends can actually apply to scholarships and not worry about getting rejected just because they don’t know someone? Yes. Does it make me proud to see my people reaching places despite their hopeless, country-less country? Yes.

Does it make me proud to see the achievements of my countrymen in spite of all those other countries that have turned their land into their playground? Yes.

El Lebnehe sheyef 7alo. Beddkon l sara7a? Bi7e2ello. 

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10 thoughts on “Lebanon’s Colored Shades of Racism

  1. I agree with everything you said except with the following: “El Lebnehe sheyef 7alo. Beddkon l sara7a? Bi7e2ello. ”
    There is no such thing as a racist country or people. Racism is a state of mind, a mindset, that unfortunately a large number of Lebanese people can’t get over. You can’t deny that in the video, the stereotypes that were being mentioned are true. I guessed what everyone would say the minute the nationality was mentioned.
    We think, as Lebanese, that we’re better than everyone else, but we’re not. We still can’t agree with other Lebanese, or respect or tolerate their beliefs (please don’t tell me it’s not true).
    I was educated in a French school under the French system and we were brought up never to ask personal questions about the person next to you “What is your religion”, “Do you believe in God”, “What is your sexual orientation”, “Why won’t you eat this” and that is something that was always natural to me: To never ask these questions and to think of the other person as a human being. I was in school with French, Egyptians, Canadians, Syrians, Palestinians, Italians, Senegalese and so many other nationalities and it never occurred to me to ask any of them them what they were. We only cared about WHO the other person was.
    I’ve been living in Lebanon for 8 years and I thank God I wasn’t brought up here. Especially when I hear what others around me think or how they react to people just because they have a different nationality, religion, ethnicity or a skin color. It’s going to take a lot of time before we stop being racist towards other nationalities.
    Let us first stop being racist and feel superior to other Lebanese first.

    Reply
    • My last sentence was geared more towards the Lebanese who have actually achieved something, be it in Lebanon (few as they may be) or abroad. Not at those who continue to live in a mental dark age, regardless of how few or many they may be.
      I’ve written many times that our educational system needs to change. But even if that changes, the fact that our regions are almost always purely of one sect doesn’t help.
      You’ve had many different nationalities with you in class of many different backgrounds, obviously. This wasn’t the case for me. My class was 100% Christian in Lebanon’s Christian heartland. The first time I met a druze was when I went to AUB.
      But despite that, I think I’ve managed pretty well. It depends on the way you think of others, I suppose. And the people who think like me (assuming that means being more open to others) is growing.
      Sure, the stereotypes for different religions and nationalities are still there. But that doesn’t change overnight. It’s a work in progress. And I guess that despite the political instability and all the crappiness that wants to put us backwards, we aren’t really losing ground that much.

      Reply
  2. Hello …
    “an exaggerated representation of Lebanese society.” Really? you actually think so … where are you living? this video is an accurate representation of the Lebanese! saying other wise is a deluded opinion.
    also you said : “. I’ve also met enough French people to last me a lifetime and I’ve discussed with those French people politics on more than one occasion. And one thing has come very clear to me.
    They are racist too.”

    REALLY? do you understand what racist means? having a problem with a person’s religion and politics isn’t Racism… its intolerance to religion and politics… and though it is bad , it is not Racism.

    “Racism is not a Lebanese problem” but it’s a problem in Lebanon
    you see in France , they used to be mostly racist , but after media and intellectual highlighting of the problem and laws being pushed in place , the French system has evolved drastically, where as the Lebanese are still stuck in the stone age.

    when a French person fears Muslims , he fears the stigma that Muslims have attached to their religion. and Muslims world wide aren’t doing enough to change that idea.

    An idea is only as good as its implementation . SO , if Muslims implement Islam ” wrong” and become terrorists and kill innocent people, the Idea of Islam becomes that action. IF Muslims really wanted to fix that issue then they should
    1. not kill innocent people
    2. not condone such actions
    3. condemn such actions on the streets with a VERY loud voice!
    4. and join the mourners of the innocent and fight with them against those bad Muslims

    But do you see that? … No…
    in the many events that radical Muslims did, not one of them was TRULY condemned by moderate Muslims …
    one event sticks out most is remembrance day in England 11/11/2010
    where English people have a 2 Min silence to honour their dead in all of the wars they fought.
    Its an English tradition that began from the WW1
    A fanatical Muslim group protested in the 2 mins of silence chanting ” your dead are in hell” and stuff like that .
    some Muslims condemned fair enough but that wasn’t enough as many other Muslims condoned it! If Muslims are Serious about changing their image then they should have took the streets and attacked those fanatics and and showed the true stance of Islam to the world.
    But of course none of that happened.
    So the problem really isn’t with the French or the English, it with the Muslims.
    their time will come one day though. just like the Christians had their little revolution and they attacked the church , the time will come when Muslims attack their mosques and retaliate.
    Islam is still in the medieval era … so until then
    BUT! people that hate Islam aren’t Racist ! they are intolerant of religion…

    “The French, however, would say we are the retarded society because we can’t accept those who are different from us skin-wise. They fail to see that they are not accepting those who are different from them religiously”
    We (Lebanese) also don’t accept those who are of different religion! and they call us a retarded society not just because of Racism BUT also because we are an impolite egotistical blind intolerant stupid idiotic mules that can’t even decide on one history because of a divided identity that we still are unable to unite! a People that can’t seem to grasp the idea that we need trees to live, a people that are so hopped up on tradition that they are ready to kill to preserve such outdated ideologies! a people where a Family can have a military wing! and ITS NORMAL!
    a people that keep electing the SAME morons to run our state! making sure the Mafia never dies!!!!!!
    THAT’S WHY WE ARE THE RETARDED SOCIETY WE ARE TODAY!!!!

    You also stated!
    “Does it make me proud to see my people reaching places despite their hopeless, country-less country? Yes.”

    country-less country… is Lebanon , home of the Lebanese… we are Lebanon my friend.
    when you say hopeless Lebanon , you’re saying hopeless LEBANESE too
    the Lebanese didn’t leave because they felt like it . they ran away! they couldn’t fix their own home so they left … every Lebanese abroad is a failure to his own nation. he’s like an army man that defected because he saw that they are losing …
    A warrior that surrendered his honour because he wants to live…
    A writer that removed an article because people told him to be silent!
    Lebanese that left Lebanon by migration don’t make me proud. they are the ones that left us here.
    If I one day migrate and leave this country , I WILL NOT LIE TO MY SELF ! I will know that I am a defector, I am a person that just couldn’t do it… I ran away with my tail between my legs!
    all of them have given up…
    AND do you know why Lebanese end up running away… the main reason why Lebanon will always be plagued by morons that govern this country and why our nation will never prosper!
    its because of one sentence that sums up all of our faults and all of our idiocy
    “El Lebnehe sheyef 7alo. Beddkon l sara7a? Bi7e2ello. ”
    THAT IS the main reason…
    the video at the very top of all of this article is exactly What the Lebanese need
    enough of this nationalistic patriotic blindness , open your eyes to your countrymen and understand that we are the last creatures on this planet that have the right to boast about ourselves!
    when we all as Lebanese Finally TRULY comprehend how stupid, idiotic and retarded we are, we will finally start making a Lebanese Identity that will make all of us proud!

    Fadi Ramadan

    Reply
    • Hey Fadi,
      Thank you for your comment.

      I know racism is discrimination when it comes to race. That is why precisely I added the sentence “with slight variations in definition” when I spoke about it. To me, racism is when you differentiate between black, white, asian, etc…. To many, it is when you differentiate. Sure, it’s not entirely correct but it gets the meaning across and the sentence I added satisfies me.

      Your argument regarding Muslim is categorically flawed to me. ONe would argue the same thing about the Syrians, Sri Lankans, Egyptians in Lebanon, etc…
      The Syrians killed you for years and years. They haven’t condemned that yet. Stereotypes.
      Some Egyptians have raped your women and killed them. Stereotypes.
      Some Sri Lankans have been abusive to families. Stereotypes.

      And the list goes on.

      Just because it feels nice to somehow blame the Muslims for their predicament – it sure comes with a nice wrapping – I wouldn’t dismiss the French “racism” at all towards them. Some French people hate the Algerians in their country. Is that not racism? Some French people hate the Moroccans. Is that not racism?

      And the list goes on.

      Just because you believe French media has helped them get out of the dark ages doesn’t mean they truly have. Racism and discrimination will always be there – it just takes more acceptable forms in current times.

      Reply
      • The French media managed to change millions of people , and it did so by showing the French how wrong they are , with small video clips , like the one you posted and ranted about.
        Racism will almost always exist, but to tackle it you must shine a spot light on it!
        the video posted serves that purpose. having a problem with it , and defending the Lebanese and downplaying our society’s problems helps no one.

        “Your argument regarding Muslim is categorically flawed to me. ONe would argue the same thing about the Syrians, Sri Lankans, Egyptians in Lebanon, etc…
        The Syrians killed you for years and years. They haven’t condemned that yet. Stereotypes.
        Some Egyptians have raped your women and killed them. Stereotypes.
        Some Sri Lankans have been abusive to families. Stereotypes.”

        Religion and race , or nationality are two different things, simply because a Nation isn’t a moral ideology.
        When a person says they are English, it’s wrong to start thinking that they are all pork eaters, or they all like to pray on Sunday.
        when a person says they are Christian however , its right to think that they pray on Sunday.
        when a person says he’s Muslim then you can assume he doesn’t drink or eat pork.
        when a person is black , that doesn’t mean he loves chicken.
        but when a person is Christian that means he loves Jesus.

        A religion has inherently aspects attached to it because its a moral , and behavioural society
        where as, a race is a biological aspect.
        So two Sri Lankaian people can be 100% different but two Muslim can’t.
        So your argument has no place in my point.
        the faith is the people that hold it, so its up to them to fix the image.
        Around 500 years ago Christianity was considered by the majority as a religion of death and destruction, until the Christians reshaped it and fixed the image of Christianity to make it more peaceful and loving. same will happen with Islam , it already started to happen with all this talk about Jihad in spirit where they explain that Jihad is a battle with oneself to reach peace.

        Religions encourage being stereotyped. a Muslim should uphold all Muslim values to show the face of Islam to the world!
        So what face are we seeing now a days and are the Muslims doing enough to justify their actions? and condemn the ones “ruining Islam’s image to the world?”

        Listen , I know you are person that believe in god the trinity , hell and heaven, and you believed in Santa clause when you where young and if you tell me what sect you are I’ll be able to know you even more! only because you identify as a Christian.
        I am allowed to stereotype you 🙂

        Perhaps the only thing I can almost be sure of, if you only identified as Lebanese is that there is a big chance you love Labneh …

        Cheers
        Fadi Ramadan

        Reply
        • Fadi and ellie it seems u guys are arguing about things u clearly do not understand. I happened to stumble upon this article and feel the need to ask. Have any of you been subject to racism in lebanon ?
          I personally am half – lebanese half- african. Been here for 3yrs and I was and still am a huge victim of racism everyday . None of u can truly say you know what It’s like to not be accepted by any side of the dual nationalities . I left africa because I was too white to be accepted only to come here and find out that I’m also actually to black to be lebanese . Constantly stopped and accused of stealing my own car . Can’t walk on the streets without being called a “asupia” or some kinda shit . So pls leave the arguments to people like me who don’t have a country that they are accepted in, always expected to become a slut or simply accused of having a slut mother . I’ve been here three years and things haven’t changed at all even my friends who are now officially over – sensitive when they here the word but still choose to make fun of anything I do that is remotely or closely linked with blacks or sri lankans, the only upside is that I get a real f**king thrill from beating up strangers on the road or arguing with the darak and being threatened by weak white people. This went on for so long that I have now resorted to being racist myself I’m so used to it to the extense of that being my defense mechanism against the whole world .
          So if you don’t mind next time u wanna write about racism ask some “victims” not the racists

          Reply
        • I agree naomi, Lebanese (including you and I ) are racist pigs! and they will breed more racism … Sadly when an article defends Lebanon to be a country that isn’t racist i’m naturally annoyed.
          I may not be of a skin color that would provoke racism in Lebanon but i understand what you are talking about , I may not Fully understand until i’m in your shoes for at least 3 years! for me to have the slightest idea of how it is. I’m sorry that you are discriminated against because of the color of your skin. i’m sorry that you are feeling more and more racist. all i can say is , FUCK THEM! FUCK THEM ALL! beat them to death if you can ! make sure they all suffer horrible horrible deaths! kill every last one of those racist bastards! and if i’m one of them then kill me and dont look back! you have my blessing!
          Kiss emon kilon!

          Reply
    • They can think whatever they want. For every Lebanese causing trouble in Australia, there are 10 that are better citizens than the Australians themselves.
      Either way, the “Australians” are ones to talk about kicking people out of their country. If those people have the citizenship, they are as Australian as the next person on the street. And if those people have the Aussie citizenship, then it’s up to your law enforcement to throw them all in jail and I would totally be in support of that.
      If they’re not Australian, you are also welcome to kick them out of your country.

      Reply
  3. It’s disappointing that you think its an exaggerated account of the racism very much rampant in Lebanon. And then you proceed to deflect in a longer essay on how the French are racists too. Yes there may be racism in France and in order countries, but how on earth does that even relate to the racism in Lebanon. Racism thrives freely and there is societal and political reluctance to grant migrants workers and foreigners basic rights. I suggest you live like a migrant worker, preferably female, and see how it feels on your skin when you get slurred, belittled, and essentially treated as inferior not worthy of any respect or rights. Lets see how you feel about men feeling free to touch and grope you because they consider you free game. Afterall you are not Arab, white or Lebanese. You are not very clued in about how Lebanon is. Denial wont further any solution.

    Deflection is the worst kind of defense. Thats essentially saying “look others do it too”. That does not remotely address the problem in Lebanon. The racism in Lebanon has free hands, no restrictions and is rampant. If you compare it to France, there are in fecct laws in place in most european countries to combat racism. So while racism may exist, it does not enjoy free hands. Try putting your hand on a black female and you will be smacked with sexual harassment. try calling somebody the N word, and you will land yourself in court faster than you can blink. Lebanese need not fear any government intervention or police cases. They have free hands to do as they like. So can we move back to Lebanon and the racism in Lebanon? What others do or dont do i irrelevant. Its deflection and seeks to revert attention away from the problem. And that mindset is exactly the reason racism is rampant in Lebanon. And why you will never be able to get rid of it when you are too busy dfelcting instead of admitting the problem and its effects let alone combat it. Racism is legitimized by law in Lebanon. The stearetypes are inherited. Huge problem. Address that. Stop deflecting. Its like further insulting the victim.

    Shame on you. You had a brilliant opportunity to address a very crucial issues, and instead you deflect and start blaming others. Look whats others are doing. As if thats going to helpmatters.

    In order to welcome you into reality I highly recommend you reading a few articles on this issue:

    http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/19169
    http://www.economist.com/node/21555951
    http://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/10/world/meast/lebanon-racism-migrants-sting/
    http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2012/May-09/172777-young-black-and-in-lebanon-youth-of-color-face-discrimination-racism.ashx
    http://www.ipsnews.net/2010/08/lebanon-racism-legitimised-by-law/
    http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/10/27/photo-exhibition-highlights-racism-against-lebanese-of-african-and-asian-heritage/

    Also check out thjis piece on social media tweets.
    https://stateofmind13.com/2015/03/23/on-lebanese-racists-the-guy-who-wouldnt-shake-hands-with-a-black-person-because-hes-afraid-to-get-the-color/

    There is no excuse to stay ignorant in this day and age. Face up and be part of the solution. Not the problem.

    Reply

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