Civilized people understand that freedom of speech has its limits
I am always so grateful to my maker, my family and all my experiences that have given me opportunities to learn and grow. I never take for granted the extraordinary opportunity that I have enjoyed for two decades to study at the best institutions in America: learning from esteemed professors, and studying a variety of topics. I recently shared a Facebook post regarding the capture of a non-Nigerian, non-Black man, misrepresenting himself as a ‘Nigerian Prince’ in order to defraud unsuspecting Americans and other victims. Consequently, my wall was subjected to a barrage of unwelcome myopic types with an agenda that I would rather not spend an iota of my time on. I deleted some: one of the crazies so boldly criticized me for having been a financial advisor at Bank of America (of course, the lunatic checked my profile), insinuating that BofA was a scammer—which I have never known it to be. BofA remains one of the most egalitarian and most respected banks in the world. Again, I do not spend my time on the lunatic fringe.
I took over a year to thoroughly study critical race theory books, when my ex-wife was a law student at Harvard. I studied the works of luminaries such as Professor Charles Ogletree and Randall Kennedy, both of whom I was fortunate to meet personally. In fact, Professor Ogletree gave me an autographed copy of one of his books, which he credited my ex-wife for editing, The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Race, Class and Crime in America. Combining these studies, with my religious and moral studies, and my rich Yoruba culture, I have an appreciation of why majority cultures in any nation, should in fact bend over backwards to accommodate and protect minorities and marginalized groups among them. It is reflective of the decency of mankind regardless of our circumstances.
Ironically, it is with this concept of protecting the interest of the minority from the potential tyranny of the majority, with concepts espoused by Alexis de Tocqueville and James Madison, that the electoral college was enshrined into the American political landscape, in selecting the U.S. President. So, the American concept of sensitivity to the marginalized and persecuted, appears to have paradoxically ushered in a wave of persecutors into power. Those propped by an apparatus meant to make Americans sensitive to the minorities, rage against sensitivity towards minorities.
America, like other western nations, has inherited the Judeo-Christian tradition, which has its roots among Jews from the Middle-East. The codification of their history, customs and laws in the Torah, and Christian Holy Bible, remain guideposts for the ideals and values of western society. In the Pentateuch, the great law giver, Moses, repeatedly instructs the Jews not to mistreat foreigners in their midst, but to in fact protect them and treat them exceptionally well as though they were native citizens of Israel. (see Exodus 22: 21, and Leviticus 19: 34). Additionally, Deuteronomy 10: 19 says, “So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” I know of at least eighteen verses in the bible, that command that foreigners should be treated well. This reflects the ideal of protecting vulnerable groups.
Even prior to giving these laws to treat foreigners and strangers well, we find examples of how the patriarchs showed great hospitality in welcoming strangers. So, Abraham had prostrated to visitors, welcoming them into his home. He baked them bread from his finest wheat, after washing their feet. Unknown to him, his guests were angels. (See Genesis 18). When two angels sent to destroy the city of Sodom, accepted Lot’s invitation to rest at his home, but were besieged by a mob, who threatened to rape them, Lot, Abraham’s nephew, begged the mob not to harm his guests but (alarming, but this reveals the reverence for the protection of the vulnerable stranger under his care) to take his two virgin daughters instead as propitiation. While this example sounds horrid today, it instantiates the high esteem the patriarchs placed on protecting vulnerable foreigners among them.
My Yoruba culture similarly is known to treat foreigners better than those within the fold. Yorubas, whose largest city is in Lagos (which incidentally is the largest city in Africa), are famed for their hospitality towards strangers. And like Abraham prostrated to the strangers who visited him, so are the Yorubas known for prostrating to strangers and bending over backwards to accommodate them.
Today, I am fortunate that I am a law student and I have studied the U.S. Constitution. The Spirit of the American Constitution is manifested in its protection of not simply individual rights against a potentially tyrannical or oppressive and a more powerful majority or group, but in the protection and security of vulnerable groups and others that are marginalized. Thus, the 14th Amendment was created to protect the liberty and ensure the equality of newly freed African American slaves, who clearly were vulnerable to animus from a more powerful majority. Today, other minority groups invoke the spirit of the 14th Amendment in protecting the fundamental rights of a suspect class and ensuring their equal protection before the law.
Being tolerant, either racially or in terms of religion, for a member of a majority culture often means being more accommodating in order to ensure the minority groups can exercise equality enshrined in the law. It means being more sensitive to the hardships or realities of a persecuted group. Such tolerance does not call for “color-blindness” – which by default refuses to acknowledge that persecution of marginalized groups exist, which makes their status and treatment different from the treatment of members of the majority culture or group. (In fact, for many, colorblind in America is a euphemism or proxy for racist).
Being sensitive to the experience of a vulnerable group or minority, means for instance, that men must be more sensitive to the travails women are subjected to in a patriarchal society, and face the fact that an underling, who has been sexually harassed by her boss, may not immediately come forward in compliance with, perhaps a statute of limitations or any rules in the law, that require victims of sexual assault to immediately report it, but without safeguards for protecting her job, in which she is paid a fraction of her white male colleagues’ income, and through which she must maintain a home, despite her paltry pay. It means dealing with the reality that a vulnerable victim of sexual assault without a legitimate means to survive, other than the paycheck from her abusive boss must consider the cost of facing reprisal action from the predator’s powerful associates (who may be equally guilty of perpetrating the same crimes against other vulnerable women). The consequences of a more powerful though villainous opponent (who is a law breaker), pulling out all the stops to crush exposure of his misdeeds, should cause the majority to be more sensitive to the plight of the vulnerable minority in seeking justice and true equality before the law. It requires empathy among the majority, for the minority.
I called the non-black man colluding with people operating from Nigeria, who may or may not be Nigerians (Nigeria is host to everyone: whites, Arabs, Chinese, Indians and many more), a bigot, because he at least fits the context of being culturally and racially insensitive in the harms he inflicted, by posing as a Nigerian Prince to defraud others. The Nigerian image has been maligned by some, who are indeed Nigerians that have been convicted for fraudulent activities, but there are many who serve as great examples of what is noble in their character. Unfortunately, as has often been the case for people of African descent, the misdeeds of a few are colored and exaggerated to the perils and smearing of the image of all Nigerians. It has been the modus operandi of bigots. And they rave the most, inundating the media and misinforming an unsuspecting American public of the identity of “the Nigerian.” We are not unaware of the age-old techniques of misrepresentation. Indeed, empty barrels make the most noise: it is akin to the propaganda of the Nazi and tactics of Goebbels. Because we know, we must be quick to extirpate that insidious cancer that masquerades as something innocuous, when it is not the case.
The criminal was racially and culturally insensitive to the extent of willfully disregarding the harms his misrepresentation would continue to cause an already maligned group. In fact, he chose to exploit it. (The fraud scam often involves posing as a rogue Nigerian official seeking a foreign accomplice with a foreign account, to siphon off his or her embezzled funds through. Unsuspecting victims, who wish to get rich quick, bank on the endemic corruption among Nigerian officials, to hit the jackpot through this scheme). Anyone who is racially insensitive, and wishes to show his or her bigotry in support of anyone contributing to the staining of the Nigerian and black image, can do so on somebody else’ wall. Not on mine.