I recently got a tip from a reader regarding another racism incidence with Lebanon’s airline carrier MEA that is not dissimilar to the one that became everyone’s talk a few months ago, culminating in firing the employees involved.
The story goes as follows:
The export manager of a Chinese company was visiting Dubai for a few days after which he was sent by his company to Lebanon to work on a certain deal with a local business. Once his work in Lebanon was up and he had to go back to China, he presented at the MEA counter at the airport but the employee refused to issue him a ticket.
She said he didn’t have a visa for Dubai, which he did. He was also going through Dubai simply as transit to China, which is allowed even if you don’t have a visa. So shouting at the Chinese man, the employee talked down to him, dismissing him. A quarrel ensued, which was only stopped up by another employee interfering and issuing the ticket in question.
I wonder: how difficult is it for MEA to vet its employees before actually hiring them when it comes to the most basic of qualities that people who handle international customers should have? Or how difficult is it to actually have MEA’s employees go through some trainings in dealing with customers in respectable ways to bring them to the 21st century where a passenger isn’t dismissed based on the color of his skin or how stretched his eyes are?
Racism isn’t exclusive to MEA. It spreads to a lot of people across Lebanon with municipalities illegally banning Syrians (and officials who don’t want to do anything about it) to severe discrimination against migrant workers even in the media that should be helping to lessen this among people (link). But the least we should expect is for one of the country’s major companies – especially one that represents Lebanon to the entire world – to be stringent with the image it wants to give to the world.
As for how I believe racism in Lebanon should stop, I quote something I wrote (link) when the first racism incidence with MEA happened:
Racism isn’t also a Lebanese problem. It is a worldwide problem that takes many forms. It transcends the hate towards others based on skin color. It is the intolerance towards another’s religion, the intolerance towards another’s nationality. And if a country doesn’t have a predominant problems with someone’s race, then they probably have a problem with differing religions. It is the problem of “difference.”
We dislike those with whom we can’t easily relate.
So what’s different between Lebanon and those supposedly racism-free countries? It’s quite simple: accountability. And that’s what works most with us Lebanese: a slap on the wrist when we do stuff wrong (fines for smoking, for not putting on the seatbelt, for speeding….)
People who get accused of racism in those countries have consequences to deal with. In our country, racism is met with indifference. A prominent TV anchor was blantly saying that an Ethiopian maid who committed suicide a few months ago was deranged (click here)- and he found no trouble at all in passing his ideology to his viewers. I’m sure he got high ratings for that episode as well.
If that anchor had met the same fate as the employee, people would have known that what he said was wrong. They would have known that talking badly against someone else just because you don’t like the skin they were born in is unacceptable. And they would have realized that it is no longer accepted to have it happen.
Their racism would then regress – it would get suppressed. And that is how other countries do it.