What you need to know:
- The caste system is a global phenomenon, where black people are subordinates in a society that fails to recognise their talents, let alone their humanity.
- It is a painful truth that young black people like Rashford, Sancho and Saka have to confront daily. It doesn’t matter how successful you are.
The most heartbreaking incident that happened last weekend was the racist abuse aimed at three young black football stars; Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, who missed penalties and were consequently blamed for England’s loss in the UEFA Euro 2020 final.
The hatred that the black players experienced is not new. Successful black folks are punished every day for their accomplishments. We saw it with Meghan Markle and the criticism she received when she spoke out. We saw the double standards applied to the Obamas. Black folks globally live by one truth; you have to work twice as hard to get half as far.
The most painful thing about the players was the fact that these are young – 23, 21 and 19 – respectively– and extremely talented football players who sacrificed a lot for their country, only to be treated with such contempt.
It so happens that I am currently reading Caste, a page-turner by Isabel Wilkerson, who explains that what we term ‘racist’ is really the manifestation of a caste system that places black people at the bottom of the American society. It is an eye-opening book to read, and you begin to understand the ‘why’ behind such treatment.
More importantly, you realise that the caste system is not just an American thing. It is a global phenomenon, where black people are subordinates in a society that fails to recognise their talents, let alone their humanity. It is a painful truth that young black people like Rashford, Sancho and Saka have to confront daily. It doesn’t matter how successful you are.
System built to break you
This is why today’s piece is dedicated to young black people living in a world that is yet to fully appreciate you. First of all, I must assure you that what happened to Rashford, Sancho and Saka in no way represents what every white person thinks of you. That is not how they all are.
That said, in your journey of life, you will encounter a system built to break you. Most times, you will find yourself in situations where your talents, capabilities and accomplishments are overlooked, downplayed and minimised.
There will be times when you will be presumed to be inferior. In all that, never let anyone or any bad experience clip your wings or crush your ambition. It is your resilience and grit will help you sail through a world that has placed so many hurdles in your path.
Put in the work, speak out your great ideas, even when you are not invited to speak, and never allow yourself to be subdued by self-pity and defeatist thoughts.
Above all, you must stay true to your values. Remember who you are and keep your soul intact.
I’ll end with the lyrics of a personal favourite from my favourite singer Aretha Franklin:
"You are young, gifted and black
We must begin to tell our young
‘There's a world waiting for you, you!
Yours is the quest that's just begun’
Dr Chege is the director, Innovation Centre, at Aga Khan University; [email protected]