The ugly shadow: Racism

The human tendency to divide into distinct and exclusive groups doesn’t need much prodding. Racism is alive and well in Bolivia. The premise is different, the names of the opposing sides are different, but it’s still the same seething, separating aversion.

It doesn’t take long for any child growing up in the United States to learn the word racism. It is discussed in schools, as teachers try to prevent their generation’s sin from continuing. It comes across the pulpits of churches, from preachers teaching love and unity. It comes from pot stirrers like Reverend Jesse Jackson and Pat Robertson. There is always a line drawn, and sides are chosen.

It doesn’t take long for any child growing up in the United States to learn the word racism.

Some don’t see the bold line that separates the two sides. When asked what racism is, one Bolivian responded, “Racism is prejudice against black people.” But the line is there.

In Bolivia, the deciding divider in the fight is Spanish ancestry. The mestizos, those of Spanish descent, have dominated since the sixteenth century. In the other corner are the battered and mostly beaten indigenes, descendents of the Inca whose power fell before the mighty Conquistadors.

Despite the differences in origin from United State’s version of racism, the hatred is the same. Political lines are drawn according to racial views. Whether the majority be mestizo or indigene, black or white, those who disagree with the majority face the scorn of the public. Their views are purported to be based only on prejudice. The ugly word, racist, drowns out rational argument.

In the United States, a careful line is drawn for those who support or dislike President Obama. Although the background is very different, the same can be said for supporters or antagonists of Bolivian President Evo Morales. He is indigene, and has proclaimed that his presidency will cast off the chains of Spanish colonialism. It seems that no matter where people are, racism will always accompany them.

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