By Guy Everard Mbarga

Translation: Armelle Mfegue

There are obviously differences in the historical constructions and actual manifestations of this phenomenon according to whether someone is an African in Africa, an afro Colombian, or an Afro-American. It could be confirmed that the number one problem faced by afro descendents is rather that of the racism and racial discrimination they have been subjected to since the time of slavery.

There is however a debate between those who feel that the problem of blacks is first and foremost social (blacks living difficult social situations like other ordinary citizen), and those who think that the problem is rather racial (blacks living difficult social situations because they are black).

In fact, these are two faces of a same and unique reality. All depends on how it is approached. Nobody can deny the existence of great discrimination and racism against blacks of South America, Central America and those of North America. The only importance in this debate (racial or social problem) is centered in the choice of policy put in place to correct the situation: anti-discriminatory and corrective policies of racial inequalities (affirmative action, quotas in public universities for example), or usual social and economical policies in a society where racial discrimination is minor or inexistent (due to the fact of an inexistent diversity) aimed at reducing unemployment or increasing the purchasing power.

In most cases elsewhere, both policies are applied, and even when there is just one, it is when the political power (executive, legislative, judiciary) decides not to pay particular attention to the disastrous economic and social reality that a specific ethnic group is going through.

The majority of Latin American countries for example find themselves in between the worst and better of those who do not act to those who put in place corrective policies. And among the latter, can be distinguished those who do a lot ( and even make a lot of noise) but produce little results in terms of improving the living conditions of afro descendents and on the contrary, those who act least but are more efficient.

Like they say in football, only the results count ; and to follow effectiveness, whether we support the thesis of racial problem or that of the socio economical problem, in contradiction with the percentage they represent, the realities for blacks in the Americas are as follows;

- The unemployment rates are far higher for afro descendents than the general average;

-Their general income is very often inexistent or very low;

-Their political representation is very often low or inexistent;

- The public investments are too often low or inexistent in zones predominantly populated by afro descendents;

- Afro descendents are often tenants rather than landlords of their apartments or land on which they live or exploit;

-The percentage of afro descendent men in prison is often much higher than the average;

-A much greater number of afro descendent women or men occupy jobs as servants, security guards, or other jobs of low income, and which are tedious and dangerous;

-Their image is often more associated with negative and ridiculous values, they are often subjected to denigration;

-Blacks are often under represented or not represented at all on public television and on the media in general;

-Most often, they fight to obtain citizen recognition equal to that of others;

-Their historical contributions to the construction of their nation are most often ignored;

In brief, as far as employment, education, public attention, image, citizenship, political representation, etc. are concerned, afro descendants depend on the "will" of other rather than theirs;

My opinion is that afro descendents of America first of all search for better living conditions, like other citizens. At a pinch, racism that has no effect on their level and their living conditions will not bother them at all. In other words, if the percentage of employment, political and social representation, public investment in their favour, their presence in schools, and universities, incomes, the situation relative to apartment or territory property, the imprisonment rate, etc were equally, equitably, proportionally relative to the general situation, it would not have been spoken about as a racial problem and afro descendents would not have lived it that way.

Racism alone is not a drama. It is when, like in a great majority of cases, it is accompanied by discrimination and leads to miserable living conditions that it becomes one. The only solution for racism and racial discrimination not to have any effect on a great majority of afro descendents, notably Latin America is that they obtain an economic, financial and even if not necessarily, a political independence. The example of the success of other communities and their descendents in the world in the economic view point is an example to follow. These communities by their economic and financial independence are invisible as a problem.

Better still, the manifestations and positive aspects of their lives are sufficiently more visible than their negative aspects.