If only we’ll look close enough, and reflect/ponder deep enough, there are lessons unfolding right in front of our eyes that we could learn great lessons from. It is a tragedy if one always has to learn the hard way; through bitter experience when lessons could have been learnt from others’ experiences.
Observe every public fora closely in the New Gambia and without fail you will hear talks of ending ‘tribalism’ and creating a Gambian Identity. The proponents of such notion fall short of defining what a Gambian Identity is or is meant to be. The all too familiar line that we need to put country first and ditch ‘tribal’ identities/loyalties gets thrown at anyone who dares ask. What is ‘tribe’ without identity? Who says such identity is anathema to patriotism; that you can’t be a member of one ‘tribe’ and be patriotic as well; creating a mutually exclusive scenario where non-exists.
Take America for example; since we like referencing them so much. With all its racial identities, and the ever present instances of racism one will always find American to be patriots and proud of their country. Americans will tell you that their individual rights and identities are respected and celebrated. They feel a sense of belonging despite the bigotry and hate emanating from one group towards another in certain cases; the law always protect rights and accords individuals the freedom to celebrate their cultures, beliefes and identities. Black History Month, Cinqo De Mayo, Chinese New Year, etc. are all elevated to the national stage without threatening the existence of the state or the union while at the same time according these groups a celebrated identity.
The United Kingdom comprises England, Scotland, Wales, and Nothern Ireland, but to us British culture, especially English culture is what we identify the Kingdom by even though the Welsh, the Scots, and the Irish are not exactly of the same culture as the English. Each has their unique customs and even languages. There are even claims of cultural components to the Scottish independence bid. More pronounced of such cultural components in pro-independence movements is that of the Catalans.
For a large part, to us Africans Europeans and westerners are seen as homogeneous groups with national identities. We hardly ever see any sub cultures within those countries, much the same as we’re identified by a large majority of them as African, period.
In a recent article published in Public Radio International, Christopher Woolfe wrote:
In 1714, under a new dynasty, Madrid abolished the ancient medieval liberties and institutions of almost all the different former kingdoms under Spanish control. That was also the start of discrimination against the Catalan language, as Castilian Spanish became the official language. The 19th century saw a renaissance of Catalan literature, which helped revive a sense of separate identity…. There were various efforts at self-rule in the early 20th century, but then along came the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Catalonia and most of the minority regions of Spain sided with the leftists and fought against the fascist forces of Gen. Francisco Franco — who was aided by Hitler and Mussolini…. During Franco’s 36-year rule, all minorities were suppressed: their language, their music and even their dancing. Spanish was the only language permitted in schools. Franco also moved poor Spaniards from elsewhere in Spain to Catalonia to dilute the Catalan population. It’s this period that caused many Castilians to become dismissive of Catalan, as though it were just a bad dialect of their “pure” Spanish. After Franco’s death in 1975, Catalans signed up for a new constitution that gave them considerable regional autonomy and control over their language and education. For the last 30 years, most school subjects have been taught in Catalan. That era of discrimination and its legacy help drive modern Catalan nationalism today. <!–[if supportFields]> CITATION Woo17 \l 1033 <![endif]–>(Woolf, 2017)<!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>
The recent surge and rise of right wing politics in Europe and America speaks to such cultural identities in part. All such political movements have a strong stance against immigration, the dilution of European or American culture is often referenced alongside jobs and violence. But at the core is the issue of identity that “too much immigration” is seen to threaten.
Suppressing any group identity is akin to colonialism and domination, and eventually colonialism faces resistance without fail. The call to Gambianize us and forget our tribes is taking on a similar trajectory. One group will emerge dominant without fail and that sense of superiority will eventually be challenged.
So I ask again, what is really meant by a Gambian Identity? And it has nothing to do with patriotism. One can embrace one’s culture and its attendant variables while fostering harmony and peaceful coexistence with everyone else. If every Gambians identity is highlighted and propelled onto the national stage, the members of that group feel valued and a part of a bigger ideal, an ideal they will always be ready to defend and uphold. That is the key to fostering brotherhood and celebrating diversity; not the opposite approach of suppressing individual identities and trying to force one ‘national’ outlook for all. Since we cannot import any new cultures to define who we are, one of the current ones will emerge dominant; by design or by accident and with time that dominance will be challenged. Let’s celebrate each other.
To end; here is a challenge for those who keep peddling the narrative of ‘tribalism’ taking over our country; give examples or instance of such tribalism you speak of. My bet is, all the answers collected will fall under two categories;
- · It is personal; speaks more to individual experiences of bigotry than a collective effort by any group at suppressing others or denying them their due citizenship rights.
- · The second category will be an affirmation of my theory, a theory I will reveal after the answers are collected’.
So challenge your friends and people you know who believe such propositions to be true. Unless there is an alternative description to the word “tribalism”, you’ll find the answers shocking to say the least.
<!–[if supportFields]> BIBLIOGRAPHY <![endif]–>Woolf, C. (2017, October 20). The Roots of Catalonia’s Differences with the rest of Spain. Retrieved November 11, 2017, from http://www.pri.org: https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-10-20/roots-catalonia-s-differences-rest-spain