At Primary School and College, I came across the biological phenomenon of ‘Food Chain’ where one animal’s survival in terms of food is the other, and the former is somehow the food for another—this chain can go on for fairly long.
With extensive knowledge on Human Rights and as a growing Human Rights activist, I recently pulled myself together to consider the intolerance nature of some Black people, especially Africans and how we seek not to regard the human rights of certain minorities—because we find the actions of these people religiously or morally corrupt. And that was when this hit my nerve, “the irony in the oppressed, somewhat being the oppressor”.
Throughout history, Black people have been subjected to different layers and eras of abuse, with their human rights being disregarded in most instances, some for as long as 245 years—and I am talking about slavery.
Even today, Black people including Africans are at the end of discrimination, racism and all sort of unfavourable treatments. Women in general continue to be oppressed in many societies. A woman I respect a lot once told me “Chris, being Black may be hard but being a Black African woman is harder”.
From the day the Second World War ended and even before that, various Human Right Laws have been put in place to protect human beings from other human beings—-very absurd but necessary.
I am a strong sceptic of the “State of Nature” theory of Thomas Hobbes and the many other legal philosophers who tow Hobbes’ line that, human beings are naturally brutish and left to our own without any form of “Social Contract”; we will probably kill each other. But the intolerance nature of some people, especially Black Africans somewhat confirms Hobbes may have a point.
Under the current UN Human Rights jurisdiction, Black people fall under “protected characteristics”. It is a violation of our Human Rights and Human Dignity to be subjected to slavery, to be discriminated against by virtue of our race, to be oppressed or treated in any lesser way as a result of our origin, ethnicity, religion or disability.
We shout and scream-Human Rights anytime we feel our rights are being infringed on—-but we forget that, with a right comes a corresponding duty.
As Black People (Ghanaians) protected by Human Rights Law, we are also under a duty to respect the rights of other people protected by the same Human Rights Law, without citing religious and moral justifications. The tension between Law and Morality is a whole discipline on its own and I do not want to go into that—at least not for today.
In my little corner, as much as I have a strong revulsion for religion and its position on the human calendar, I advocate for and will forever defend people’s right to religion—but then, same people I fight for their right to having religion or manifestation of their religion, will never accept or defend my right to criticize religion.
Black people in many cases fall within “a protected group” whose Human Rights must be respected by all, but we continue to disrespect the Human Rights of others, on the grounds that, these Human Rights conflict with our moral or religious stances. Forgetting that, some people may actually be able to disregard our Human Rights on their own moral or religious grounds too. Where will this leave us then?
In the same protected group of people that Black People fall within and so much cherish the rights accorded to us in there, we have homosexuals and disable persons. But when you look around Black People today, we treat the rights of these people (homosexuals and disable persons) disgustingly and many of us do not even recognise their rights.
I have heard many people under many instances say, Homosexuality is evil, it is against God, it is a sin and they will never respect the rights of people who engage in such acts. Such people take my mind to the little community in East Africa or even just in Northern Ghana, where being a disable is not from God, having a disable child is a sin or curse and as such all disable persons are treated with contempt—if not killed at infancy.
So the chain is pretty simple, Black People are protected and given human rights so that “white people” cannot discriminate or abuse us. We are potentially oppressed group in this regard. But then the same Black people (oppressed group) abuse or discriminate against other protected groups (disable persons and homosexuals). Women are protected from discrimination, and some women discriminate against other women, Black people, and homosexuals and disable persons. This is ridiculous but very true…
Why do we need laws to protect ourselves from each other, I once asked. And the answer is and remains, because we are evil and selfish people who only want things for ourselves—and not for others.
The next time you talk about Human Rights or seek to enforce the Rights you enjoy by virtue of being a human being at work, school or when on a frolic of your own, remember these rights are given to you and enforced by the law, not by religion or by morals.
Therefore, when the law has given another person a right too, it is a duty, in fact as someone who wants your rights to be respected, it is an unavoidable duty to recognise and respect the rights given to others by the same law.
The moment you start looking for justifications out of the legal perimeter (being moral, personal or religious justification), then remember you are opening the door for others to also disregard your rights by finding whatever justifications they can come out with—including the absurd justifications the KKK clan and the slave traders had for what they did to black people.
As an oppressed person that the law has been set forth to protect, you owe yourself a duty to uphold the law by not being an oppressor yourself; else you may find yourself becoming the food of another animal—a vicious food chain where there will always be someone on your head, ready to eat away your rights.
This is where the golden rule “Do unto others as you would want them do unto you” by Confucius, found in the Analects (500 BCE) comes to play. Of course, well plagiarised and stolen by religion (specifically Jesus Christ and the Bible- Matthew 7:12, the Hindu sacred literature- Mahabharata, bk. 5, ch. 49, v. 57, and the Buddhist sacred literature- Udanavargu, 5:18).