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Posts Tagged ‘Slavery’

Alright, I know many would squirm  at this topic, but it is; nevertheless, an issue that we have to discuss. Now, I would like to start by saying that this post is based on my own observations and, well, common sense.

Many times throughout my life I have been hearing the same phrase, on and on, about this issue. Some people even go through hoops to make it sound more logical. Some say: “Haven’t you noticed how el khwal (Omani Blacks) are dumb and only care about their traditional singing and dancing?”  I am pretty sure that most Omani’s can relate to this quote. We all hear it at some point of our lives.

Now, there is a twist. Obviously all of these observations by some of these Omanis do not come out of nowhere. Yes, as many of you have observed: The number of successful black Omanis are less than those of “brown – light skinned” Omanis. Someone described a scene to me once of busses loaded with blacks coming towards a “black-less” village to attend a wedding where a black singer was performing. Of course, the description was full of racist and sarcastic comments.

Anyway, in short.. the general idea is that Omani blacks have lower education, lower business successes, lower aspirations, and are mainly good for man labor. Sounds familiar?

Young Omani kids attending school

Now, lets examine this a bit further. Slavery was only abolished in Oman in 1970. Ex-slaves, though not treated as bad as slaves in the United States (in 19th century), were illiterate and their main profession was “man labor”. Oman’s ex-slaves living condition has progressed in the past 40 years. Though racism remains present in the society, the government does not favor or differentiate between races when it comes to education and jobs.

However, we need to remember that these ex-slaves are only two generations behind. Many are well and alive, and they teach their children and grandchildren the values that they grew up with, which are to serve your masters. Also, since many of these “masters” are also well and alive, they encourage these values and teach their kids and grandkids that these ex-slaves will always remain servants rather than equal contributors to society.

Though I consider this to be a major problem in the society, I do think we are living in the “transitional” point. Racism and this sense of belonging are fading (slowly) as these values contradict global emphasis on human integrity and equality.

So back to the point: Are Black Omanis dumb?

Well, in 1994, Richard Hernsterin and Charles Murray, in their book “The Bell Curve,” argued that blacks were inferior in intelligence to whites.  In other words, they argued that for blacks to become intelligent, they had to marry whites. The whiter you are the more intelligent you become. However, it is very difficult for me and many others to accept the idea that the skin’s production of melanin is connected to the brain’s function (intelligence).  Of course, Hernsterin and Murray were proven wrong, but I guess this message did not reach our Omani friends yet.

Here, we should not look at intelligence and success through skin color. Though these “brown-lighter skinned” Omani’s observations of success are somewhat correct, their reasoning is totally screwed up. The fact that some black Omani’s are unsuccessful  is not because the mere fact that they are black. No. It is because of their role in the Omani society as black people. Hence, when we look at this question again, we should not talk about black vs. white people’s intelligence only. Rather, we should look at the quality of the world that these black Omani’s vs. “brown-lighter” Omani’s have lived in.

It is only after that that we can come to the conclusion that the gap in Black Omani’s success vs. “lighter” Omani’s is becoming smaller as newer generations emerge. Their quality of life (from slaves to ex-slaves to a generation of ex-slave parents..etc) is growing better as they become equal contributors to society and compete for a better life.

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Its been a while since I blogged about stuff here in Oman, but there has been some certain things that I see that annoy the hell out of me. As you see from the title, its about people showing off their slaves in Oman…Yes, slavery is abolished.. but apparently this tradition is still alive and well..

A few weeks ago I went to an engagement party “Malka” for someone in the family. The male was a cousin of mine and we were going to see his bride to be. So, we walk in to the living room, sit down.. and I see all these older black women. At first, I thought they were part of their family. I think I was hopeful or being wishful that these people intermarry with Omanis of various ethnic background. Well, I was wrong.

There were many of of these women sitting, then they started serving us food. Going around to give us coffee and sweets. I didn’t think much of it then.

On the way back home, I asked a relative of mine if those women were their relatives, and the answer was “NO!”. They were their “khedaam”, meaning slaves. “Huh,” I said, “we don’t have khedaam in Oman!”, well.. apparently, they were their slaves at one point in time, before slavery was abolished. The “bride to be” family apparently used to own many slaves and whenever they have an occasion they invite their ex-slaves to come and serve the guests. They do pay them though, but the idea was to show off how many slaves they had in order to impress us.

Some people do that in many occasions, such as funerals, weddings, eids, and large gatherings. It gives them a sense of power and importance because back in the day, you only had slaves if you were wealthy and an important person within your tribe.


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