Trigger warning: this article and the associated campaign may contain phrases or words that may be categorized as disturbing, hurtful, and humiliating. 

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Source - The Collegian.com

Sudan is supposed to be venturing into a new, improved, post-revolution version of itself where peace, democracy and development are to be the priorities of the state. Which is wonderful! But is it really attainable when most don’t seem to be willing to put in the work especially when the said work is to change their very own behaviors and address their own shortcomings?

 

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Sarah ElHassan @BSonblast on Twitter; “With this peace treaty we need to start working intensely on society so that this doesn’t end up being mere words on paper and speeches on platforms and so we can truly rejoice on the ground. Because with every “Sudan is the land of diversity” there is a “what’s their ethnicity?”. We have a lot of apologies to make and a lot of healing to do.! 

Hate speech is a personal gain for the offender who manages to maintain certain privileges. It's the entitlement one feels when they engage with the sole intent of charging the environment with dismay, tension, and division. Some might argue that most people don't intend to cause all that but they might subconsciously do. HATE seems far too strong an expression, and it's often associated with insulting words and actions. Hate can induce violence and might seem appalling to practice by many.

“It’s just words, habeebi, they can’t possibly cause as much damage as you snowflakes!" or another favorite of mine “Are we no longer free to express our feelings?”.

I have to admit, I find the latter hilarious and terrifying.

I believe people have complex personalities and are capable of changing for the better. But I’m also a believer in the herd-behaviors of society, as they tend to mimic these acts at the expense of their voice. An example would be of a young man not believing in the misogynistic ways of his community, but still participating because of influence, and to have a sense of belonging to members who act in such ways. In addition, he thinks he's acquiring a masculinity credit, trying to avoid being stripped of his manly status privileges. A lighter skin from the Northern parts of Sudan might realize that they are in no way, shape, or form, superior to other Sudanese tribes, yet they wouldn’t stand up to their families who happen to be intent on discriminating against others on the basis of ethnicity.

The examples are plenty, but it boils down to one thing; we fear that if we stand up against oppression, we will be on the receiving end of it. Not to say that there are no supremacists. Yes, Sudanese supremacists, who enjoy humiliating others and spreading hate just because they feel entitled to do so, exist. Unfortunately, the majority seem to go along with it to avoid being oppressed themselves. Therefore, while they protect themselves from the damage, they partake in these hateful rituals of society, shielding themselves and their socially-deemed-inferior traits and aspects from slander. The delusion behind this belief pains me deeply.

 

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Sudan sit-in, photo by AFP 

 “As long as hate is allowed against one category, hate is allowed against all.”

Another argument I find particularly irritating is: “if what they’re saying is wrong, why are you so annoyed? Dogs bark, eh? We can't bother ourselves with silencing each and every one of them, can we?” But we aren't dogs, nor are we caravans. We’re none of those metaphors. We are people who hurt and who are capable of violence. After all, humans have the tendency to retaliate, and it can be a deadly one.

In an essay on hate speech titled ‘The ‘Marketplace of Ideas’ is a Failed Market’, the author delves into the world of economic theory and psychology to present an analysis of the misconception of hate speech being positive and how that came about, and how we now know of the cognitive dissonance and our ability to hold contradicting ideas while simultaneously damaging our psyche in the process. This conviction that hate speech can be in any way “truthful” or “useful” is untrue and harmful in the subtlest of ways.

“Competition amongst ideas only produces truth if ‘consumers’ of ideas strictly prefer true ideas.”

The thing is, hate speech is not just speech; it’s a weapon. Common people partake in this vicious cycle because it makes them feel good about themselves. In a world filled with struggle, it is expected that people just wouldn’t want to suffer alone, and as much as I hate this phrase, but “hurt people, hurt people”. From bullying in schools to harassment and violence in gas and bread queues, the current state of Sudan seems to be proving this claim. On the other hand, politicians use hate speech to polarize the public. Take Omar El-Bashier, previous president of Sudan, or Donald J.Trump, current president of the United States. They water the quenched tree with rivers of hateful words and acts to fracture their countries, dividing the people and pushing them towards chaotic discrimination and the demise of tolerance. This is especially evident in political campaigns where the candidate targets a specific audience while undermining and devaluing others. They go a step further, utilizing their dog-whistling techniques to urge their target audience to do the same.

 

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Donald Trump on Twitter in response to BLM  

 

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Screen Grab from Ashorooq TV 

I urge you to consider why hate speech isn’t “just words”, and why it shouldn't be tolerated by anyone. Had it been just words, we wouldn’t have seen spikes of civilian violence rise under bigoted regimes. Had it been just words we wouldn’t have struggled with gender-based violence as much as we do. Had it been just words, your typical uncle would not treat a random “wad Arab - North Sudanese” better than he’d treat another Sudanese from other regions of the country, your average “khaltu - Auntie” would not place so much value on the ethnicity of her future son-in-law that she’d abuse her daughter emotionally or otherwise. Had it been just words, a pair of earphones would suffice but they aren’t.

This is not a mere correlation, this is causality. Perhaps the root problem is far more complex than a thousand words article written by just another random person but when your house is on fire, you’d put it out before you start wondering whether or not it was arson. Thankfully, we can afford to debate the cause and effect, and all the little nuances in this ever-so-complex dilemma, but I don’t believe we can afford to debate whether or not hate speech is violent. I don’t, not for a second, believe we can afford to debate whether or not paving the way for discrimination and instigating violence is okay. It’s not okay and it will never be okay.

The divisiveness hate speech creates, the rift between all the different parts of this nation that we continue to propagate by being silent when hate is loud; adrift in the currents of injustice… it all just keeps us on a stiff unmoving hamster wheel. We’ll never be able to move forward nor will we ever manage to climb out. And to climb out - which we undoubtedly need - we, as Sudanese must take responsibility for our words and actions, and those of our community, as a first step to building a peaceful and just society.

PeaceTech Lab partnered with Andariya and SUDIA to produce a lexicon of hate speech and terms used offline and online in Sudan. The purpose of this lexicon is to identify and acknowledge the misuse of these mediums, and to move a step forward to eliminate these practices. To find out more, click here.

Join the movement ما_تناديني# on social media. Express the type of hate speech you received throughout your life.

 

 

 
 

This post is also available in: Arabic