Algeria is experiencing her own share of ‘Who are We?” in a funny and equally serious intra-African racism. A black Algerian who emerged Miss Algeria last weekend is being told she doesn’t aggregate Algeria as far as beauty is concerned.
But she is fighting back, asserting pride in her pigmentation and her achievement in winning the crown. Not only is Queen Khadija Ben Hamou dismissive of the attempt at ridiculing her physical features such as her nose, lips and skin color, she is also determined to push girls from her region in Southern Algeria to go into beauty contests. Reputed to be the second Black Algerian to win the crown, the division over her beauty status speaks to the old problematic of the authentic African.
Mouna Ba, the BBC Arabic’s journalist who wrote a short accompanying piece to the broadcaster’s story on the Miss Algeria’s racial ordeal said skin color is what tends to define beauty in Algeria, her own country Morocco and North African generally: the whiter you are, in the view of many people in the region, the more beautiful you are. What is worse from her analysis is that Arab North Africans do not have the feeling that they are being racist. And she doesn’t think that is about to change.
What might thus be a minor protestation of the skin color of a Miss Algeria is actually a manifestation of the low ranking for the Black identity across the world and that this is not exclusive to extra African racists. Only South Africa appears to have a state ideology – rainbow coalition – for managing the diverse intra-African identity clashes, especially the racial dimension. How long should it take other African countries to borrow a leaf from Mandela’s country or risk the much feared Black rupturing of international security in response to racism, whether of whites or Arabs?