Friday, 13 June 2014

Facial features and ethnicity don't make you a criminal

A colleague recently mentioned that during her courses in law school, the Criminology lecturer gave a descriptive analysis of what criminals look like – red eyes, gaunt face, square jaw and unkempt appearance. According to this particular lecturer, all criminals are physically identified with such an appearance.
From a very early stage in our development, we are trained to associate certain physical traits with criminals. Perhaps this is the root of the malaise that currently plagues the country’s legal authorities.
In graphic novels, the villain is always represented by gaunt and highly exaggerated features, whether male or female; the villain and criminals are always easy to recognize physically by their racial and facial features.
In the last few days we have seen politically driven racism take on shocking proportions among the general public – hateful comments made in public forums have metamorphosed into open racial attacks against innocent citizens of Somali ethnicity; reports have come in of Somali people being forcefully ejected from public service vehicles.
We are certainly a nation of bigots; this fact is displayed every 5 years during ethnically motivated elections in which the electorate predictably votes in ethnic blocks in a sham of a democratic process and consistently flawed electoral process.
It is the national narrative to segregate and even isolate millions in ethnic enclaves leading to a national mentality of “it’s our turn to eat.”
Political office is seen as an ethnic entitlement especially among the ruling elite; the very idea of an inclusive national ideology is completely foreign.
It is an ingrained and incontrovertible attitude; that we are not one nation with several ethnicities but simply a country of various ethnic groups all claiming superiority.
Woe unto the other ethnic communities that do not gain political office in significant numbers, woe betide all those who are not Kikuyu or Kalenjin.
Ethnic profiling, of Somali or any other ethnic community ,is not only unconstitutional but an egregious form of state driven discrimination, one of the worst human rights abuses that any law enforcement authority can come up with.
It simply means that by virtue of your god given features and being born in a certain community you are a criminal. It is a completely irrational line of defence to use in a war against terror and certainly has no merit or legal basis whatsoever.
Given the national propaganda being driven by what I consider the cheapest sort of idle bigots among the political class, it is no wonder that any person who stands up to this sort of tyrannical racism is branded a “terrorist sympathizer”. Journalists, human rights defenders and clergy who have been vocal against this sort of blatant discrimination have faced a backlash of hatred for their stance.
When it comes to national security, it is incumbent upon us as citizens to unite and consider security for all while protecting the fundamental freedoms and rights of every member of society. Ethnic profiling is illegal; using absurd means like ethnic facial features to identify criminals is illegal and cannot stand up in any just court of law.
We deserve proper answers to the terror threat. It is time that the state authorities stopped the shenanigans and produced tangible results in terms of increased security.
Most certainly it is time that this country learned that targeting certain ethnicities and propagating absurd blanket stereotypes is not only divisive, petty and immature it is an ugly approach to nationalism that leaves all of us vulnerable to attack.
Twitter: @bettywaitherero

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