Europe's New Racism: Causes, Manifestations, and Solutions

By Evens Foundation | Go to book overview

RACISM AND POVERTY IN A
HUMAN RIGHTS PERSPECTIVE

Bas de Gaay Fortman


Introduction

After the British colony of Northern Rhodesia had acquired its independence in 1964, the new state of Zambia was proclaimed as being based on ‘the nonracial society’. In the light of all those years of racial discrimination – not less humiliating than in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) – this meant a step of revolutionary significance. Typically, in those days there was little doubt that a new constitution and a new political regime would serve to wipe out racism just like that; we still lived in a time of faith in the ‘engineerability’ of society.

It was a few years after independence that I was personally challenged to rethink the nonracial society in some of its aspects. Waking up in Kasama Inn, a government lodge in the outlying North of the country, I saw a gentleman standing at my bed. He introduced himself as Mr Mulenga, Chief Enumerator for the region. His duty was to count me and to ask me some questions in regard to the new Census. ‘Sir’, he went on, ‘are you an African, an Asian or a European?’ ‘But Mr Mulenga’, I protested, ‘this is a racial question and we are living here in the nonracial society!’ ‘No Sir’, the Chief Enumerator replied, ‘in South Africa you would not be asked the question. There it is the authorities that classify people. Here people can say for themselves with which group they identify. And that information is important for government. For example, if inequalities correspond

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