On the surface, the BBC’s recently aired documentary titled “Rwanda: the Untold Story” is about the politics of post-genocide Rwanda.
After watching the documentary, anyone who is not agenda-driven and in possession of some working knowledge of history and its treatment of the oppressed is likely to notice a familiar underlain narrative that continues to challenge the basic tenet of the equality of human beings.
To end slavery, the most enduring challenge for those in the abolitionist movement was to convince whites – slavers and ordinary people –that blacks were human beings.
It was important to establish this premise before they could invoke the argument that they deserved to be treated with respect and dignity.
The problem with that initial proposition was that it would give logic to subsequent argument both of which, if widely accepted as fundamental truths, would threaten the very existence of the institution of slavery. That is because its bedrock was the premise that they were not human beings, which pre-empted any argument about their human dignity.
Changing this status quo to the acceptance of blacks as human beings would, for instance, mean that they qualify for white empathy. Moreover, with many of the whites of this era claiming to be God-fearing, this mindset shift would call upon them to extend the Christian tenet of loving thy neighbour to blacks as well.
This is important: identifying with the pain and suffering of blacks would lead to mutual empathy and solidarity, something that would complicate plantation enforcement measures such as lynching. For these and similar reasons, slavery would simply become untenable.
BBC’s racist variant
The BBC’s documentary is simply a redub of this racist past. It clearly shows the past as part of the present, with knowledge of this past being crucial for understanding the set of motivations for its production and airing.
With overt racism of centuries past forcing blacks to provide evidence that they were human beings, the more covert variant of this era of race sensitivity still challenges their claim to equal treatment but does this in a more sophisticated manner, often with appeal to pseudo-science.
To have a chance, blacks must look to the Jews for inspiration and hope that they too shall overcome.
Up until the past century the Jews were equally considered undeserving of dignity simply because they were considered a variant of the Negro.
It was not until the rise of the Israel state as an important player in world affairs that the gatekeepers of dignity accepted them as part of the white race. With the credentials qualifying them as human beings, it became that much difficult to deny or belittle the Holocaust, for instance.
One important element to their credit is their sense of unity about their victimisation. Even their version of gutter politics would never descend to the level of questioning the Holocaust, something that unites the worst of political enemies.
For this reason, they are unlikely to become bamboozled by the glitter of a global platform such as the BBC to denounce this collective consciousness on this sensitive matter. They seem to have developed the sophistication to deal with any potential assault on their victimisation which means that they are able to marshal a single voice for mobilising the empathy of the world on the subject of the Holocaust and to use this credit to condemn and to prosecute its deniers across the globe.
Rwandan –African– caricatures
When it comes to us, it appears that we are ever eager to act as tools for our own disparagement.
Our readiness to sell our souls for a penny is the reason white people neither respect us nor think we deserve any dignity. That is precisely because we do not respect ourselves either. Appearing cheap before their audience, we seem keen on undermining ourselves.
Our conduct appears designed to convince them about our ineptness, deserving of the kind of contempt and subordinate status with which they already hold us.
How else does one explain how victims of the worst tragedy in modern history can begin to mobilise the support of bigots – Exhibit A: the disturbing scene on the subject of mummified bodies – in a mission to convince the rest of the world that it never happened or to attempt to undermine the extent to which it did.
The documentary affirms that those with interest in proving the inferiority of a people will eagerly provide the platform for some of their members to prove themselves and their people to be infantile, unfit.
Thus, except for those with an agenda to maintain the pecking order among humans, the entire world’s people of goodwill were losers for it.
The documentary not only served their interests of robbing the victims of due empathy, it also immunised perpetrators and their sponsors of guilt for wrongdoing.
It is in the tradition of a familiar pattern applied for centuries to normalise the oppression of a people.