*This is being posted now that I have completed my Peace Corps service to avoid censorship*
Having grown up in America literally born on both sides of the color lines. I have never felt more exposed to latent, so in your face white privilege and racism than in Morocco. I wonder if I notice it more because I look Moroccan and I am surrounded by a majority of white PCVs and white PC staff – not the (Host Country National)HCN Staff.
I have talked with other volunteers of color in the country and we notice that we get a different level of treatment pretty much everywhere we go – either alone, with other volunteers or host country nationals.
What does white privilege and racism look like in Morocco?
White or those thought to be white volunteers don’t get asked for a HIV/AIDS test to get their residence card done- but one of my fellow PCV’s who is black gets told she needs one. This then gets excused by outright lies (at the time) that there is a change in the procedures for how a non Moroccan gets their residence card done.
It was true that a year later the residence card rules changed requiring documentation of a clean bill of health – certifying that one is HIV/AIDS free however when – she was the only one asked to give such documentation its a form of white privilege and racism – African on African-American – blows ones mind.
When traveling on public transportation – some Moroccan’s tell people – even other Moroccans- with darker skin tones that seats are full when they are empty because they don’t want the “African,” sitting near them. Ironic given Moroccan’s are African. They may have some roots in the Arab world that brought Islam to their country but – your born in Morocco – you live on the continent of Africa – your freaking African – own that – instead of buying into the ideology of Arab superiority and African inferiority.
At our most recent regional meeting one of the new PCVs asked to get copies made of a few papers at the front desk- they were happy to do it for her but when I the brown PCV asked I got sent to the hanut across the street. Why offer that service to the white person but not the brown one?
In the minds of many of our counterparts there is a sense of prestige to work with a “white,” foreigner – weird I know but really true. Moroccan’s are quick to claim a relationship with the “white” foriegner but not the brown.
I have also found many Moroccan’s believe that individuals with darker skin tones have AIDS/SIDA – its a popular and unfortunately common urban myth here in Morocco. The irony of this is that Morocco has no central database that collects the data on HIV/AIDS positive tests from all the independent and national labs the way the US does – so the reality is that AIDS/HIV is a untracked epidemic in Morocco with no real numbers leaving Moroccans with a false sense of health security.
I notice how Moroccan’s go out of their way to help the white foreigner and are welcomed but if your not “white,” you aren’t seen as worth much especially in the case of many PCV’s to the people we work with.
Why is this you maybe wondering? I have a couple theories on why. One the media that Moroccan’s have access to and that they themselves produce – place extreme importance on the having white skin as the ideal of beauty. While not every Moroccan may feel this way- its obvious in the gap between generations – that European and western beauty ideals have become the new standard just check out a Moroccan fashion/beauty magazine. If a picture is worth a 1,000 words – these tell the story of the Moroccan subconscious.
I find it extremely uncomfortable as an American of color to never see any programming that has individuals of color in positive roles on the TV channels in Morocco. Having had Big Mama’s house referenced and Eddie Murphy in Dr Doolittle thrown up as the main images that Moroccan’s have of African Americans is really disappointing and worrying.
And why are all the programs with Asian’s always having something to do with karate or some other martial arts? One good friend put up with being followed around and called “shinwah,” his entire service.
Even the Moroccan produced shows aren’t as popular as the dubbed and imported soap operas from Turkey. Mexico etc with light skinned European looking leading actors.
I was personally told by my at the time fiances family member that I should use bleach cream because I was to dark to be attractive to my fiance.
I find on a religious note a lot of this signs of deeper issues within the Ummah – the deep racism and discrimination against those with dark skin across the world. Especially knowing that our prophet (pbuh) addressed this issue with a clear answer.
“There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white — except by piety.”
I wonder what this will lead Morocco to with regards to women’s mental and physical health with outside beauty standards leading the way to ingrained self hatred.
What are your thoughts and experiences on being brown with regards to white privilege and racism in Morocco?