Racism, Where Is Your Sting?: A provocative look at the beginning and the end of racism


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Racism, Where Is Your Sting? by Dr. Tangumonkem is a wide-scoped exploration of racism and eradication based in a theological foundation.


Each time the issue of racism is mentioned, tensions immediately run high, reason is thrown out the window, and emotional outbursts run rampant. Even though a lot of effort has been done to fight it, the devastating consequences continue to this day.
In this book, Dr. Tangumonkem challenges the status quo and presents a perspective that is both provocative and inspirational. Contrary to what you hear from those stoking the flames of racism and fermenting hate and bigotry, we are not at the mercy of racism. In fact, he dives deep into history to explain why the tendency to be racist is present in each one of us, regardless of skin color. The good news is that the victory has already been won — all we need is to live it out. When we stare right at this supercharged issue with fresh, unfiltered eyes, a seismic shift happens. Perhaps, the light at the end of racism is in sight.

The book Racism, Where Is Your Sting?: A provocative look at the beginning and the end of racism by Dr. Eric Tangumonkem is a wide-scoped exploration of racism based in a theological foundation. Before you feel unsure if you can handle the chastization on such a triggering topic, give this book a try. This book is accurately housed under an “inspirational” genre, lessons are emphasized in italics throughout the text and repeated motifs and mantras solidify the inspirational messages from chapter one to chapter seven. While there is critique on many human actions, (and there will be moments where you may feel stung,) Dr. Tangumonkem always brings us back to a premise of light and hope for our future. 

The book begins with scripture analysis, and the grounding anchor throughout involves explication of The Bible. When Dr. Tangumonkem says “a provocative look at the beginning” he’s not hyperbolizing. The discussion does start with a look at the Original sin of Eve and Adam, and  jumps into ‘the first murder’ of Cain with Abel. The book also ends with a chapter on embracing Christianity and even goes as far to leave his personal email to reach out for resources, should you want to dive into religion more. The title of the book is a biblical reference, as well, as a modification of “O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). The message underlying states: by eliminating racism ideology and language, the mere notion of racism will fall at our feet. As it should. 

The detail of how this was written by someone who was born and grew up in West Africa, and moved to the United States gives authenticity and a well-rounded perspective on the subject. The arguments presented are balanced, Dr. Tangumonkem holds everyone globally accountable, and even mentions “what the popular Kenyan law professor and advocate for the eradication of corruption on Africa said, ‘The blood of ethnicity among the African Christians is stronger than the blood of Christ.’ This is a very sad reality that must change.” This is not a Anglo-TV-Evangelist just trying to hammer his beliefs into you through text. 

The target audience are presumably Christian, however, the arguments displayed throughout are valuable regardless of your level of religious involvement or knowledge. Dr. Tangumonkem does “highlight the fact that the focus has not been for you to join a religion or to become religious.” If you don’t prescribe to any or a different religious belief, that’s okay. I highly encourage you to read this book anyway with a “Beginner’s Mind” approach. I also encourage you to read (not gloss over) the scripture discussed in Racism, Where Is Your Sting? as there are logical gems supplied through biblical evidence: 

...racism and Christianity are not supposed to appear in the same sentence because you cannot be a Christian and racist at the same time. There is only one human race, according to the God of the Bible. Therefore, it makes no sense to even think that there is an inferior race that needs to be looked down upon. Let this scripture settle this race issue once and for all. Paul, the apostle, was writing to the church in Rome and here is what he told them: So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV).

For many of us, the conversation between racism and religion is uncharted territory. Let this fact be the fuel you need to read without judgment and absorb the thesis in its entirety. Feel free to question the vehicles of evidence and scripture in this text, but pause as you catch yourself doubting or questioning. Write that thought down to explore further after you’ve completed this book, or let that question dissipate. 

Although Dr. Tangumonkem’s anchor is The Word, Racism, Where Is Your Sting? also includes other reputable voices into this conversation as quoted epigraphs at the beginning of chapters including Jordan Peele, Marianne Williamson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela as utilized as examples to further illustrate points made. 

Parallel to any effective persuasive argument, Racism, Where Is Your Sting? opens the conversation with definitions of racism, ethnocentrism, and tribalism for clarity. The conversation includes a Deconstructionist approach to classifications of grouping peoples and their arbitrary meanings, and often reflects on the terms society recognizes as “a social construct that is false... [Where] that idea that the use of color to classify humans does not have the right intentions. It is a tool of discrimination, subjugation, and control.” Racism, Where Is Your Sting? goes beyond textual evidence and touches on five senses, mass media representation, and even examines a range of time periods and countries/varying situations where injustice occurs. Racism, Where Is Your Sting? tackles the topic of Trump, and of necessary outrage for how Chinese people view darker skinned people. It calls on history, current events, anthropology, and theology to create a cohesive argument from the beginning to the future-end of systematic and societal racism. There are practical and every-day-enactable tips, for example: “You can help by stop calling people black or white. Call them by their name, and this is good enough.”

Racism, Where Is Your Sting? takes no sides, chastises all with wit; “If we insist on doing our own thing and forming churches that do not reflect the diversity in our communities, then we are setting up country clubs, not churches.” The text singles not one group out, but all humans out, as being inherently bad, and this gives us drive and strength to adhere to this call to action we share as the human race: “To know each other and dismantle some of the prevalent stereotypes, there is a need for all people to interact with each other under different circumstances.” There is knowledge and understanding to be gained from reading this book. It is empowering to believe if we can change ourselves, we can truly change the world, and there is inspiration and hope to be found by adopting the mantra that there is a need for “internal transformation, not external legislation.” 

Ultimately, Racism, Where Is Your Sting? succeeds in presenting a digestible navigation of such a negative topic. Dr. Tangumonkem offers a pretty simple solution: work on yourself and others with gravitate to your orbit, and will eradicate racism with you: “This book is about you as an individual, not about the government, institution or organization. I mentioned that the governments, laws, and organizations are the other players in this issue, but the main thrust of this book has been YOU.” Even if you are not a believer in The Good Word, this book is a necessary piece of the puzzle to eradicate racist behavior and language.

Reviewed by

Multiple higher education degrees in literature/creative writing/poetics. Current editor and poetry book reviewer for online literary press, Harbor Review. Enneagram Type Eight (The Challenger), able to promote and sway reader opinion with the proper use of high and low diction.


Each time the issue of racism is mentioned, tensions immediately run high, reason is thrown out the window, and emotional outbursts run rampant. Even though a lot of effort has been done to fight it, the devastating consequences continue to this day.
In this book, Dr. Tangumonkem challenges the status quo and presents a perspective that is both provocative and inspirational. Contrary to what you hear from those stoking the flames of racism and fermenting hate and bigotry, we are not at the mercy of racism. In fact, he dives deep into history to explain why the tendency to be racist is present in each one of us, regardless of skin color. The good news is that the victory has already been won — all we need is to live it out. When we stare right at this supercharged issue with fresh, unfiltered eyes, a seismic shift happens. Perhaps, the light at the end of racism is in sight.

Chapter 1: The Beginning of Racism

Parents and schools should place great emphasis on the idea that it is all right to be different. Racism and all the other 'isms' grow from primitive tribalism, the instinctive hostility against those of another tribe, race, religion, nationality, class or whatever. You are a lucky child if your parents taught you to accept diversity. Roger Ebert

It has often been said that if we fail to understand history, we are doomed to repeat it. Nothing is truer to this than in the area of racism, because racism has been part of human history for thousands of years now. Although some may erroneously try to make it feel as if racism is a fairly new concept. In the past, the term racism was not used to refer to the manifestation of this evil behavior. I am calling racism evil because anything that distorts that which God has called God is trying to corrupt what God has made. The only appropriate word for such an action is evil.

While there are a thousand different ways to approach this subject of racism, tribalism, and ethnocentrism, I have chosen a more holistic approach that will incorporate both the physical and spiritual components of this issue. We are going to be using the term racism in a more encompassing and broader fashion to include all the tendencies of superiority and inferiority complexes that are driven by fear and propagated by fear.

Before we get into definition of terms, it is important to have a baseline.Without establishing a zero point, we will never know if we have made any progress or not. I believe that we are not a result of some cosmic accident because believing that we are a result of an accident and are just living by the dictates of our instincts, it will be difficult for us to see any reason why we should not follow our instincts and discriminate against other people. Nothing will prevent us from taking advantage of other people as long as it guarantees that we move ahead. In other words, if all that we are here to do is to pass our genes to the next generation, then all this talk about racism and being able to live together in harmony and love is baseless. If survival is all that we are engineered to do, then everything else must be sacrificed on the altar of survival, including love for one another.

On the contrary, I am of the school of thought that mankind was created and each one of us has a unique purpose. Without a firm understanding of this foundational truth, it is almost impossible to grapple with racial issues, much less come up with workable solutions.

Created in God’s image

Let us go back before there were any humans on earth — the time when there were no Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Aboriginal, American Indians, Indians, etc. In the beginning, after God had created the entire universe and the earth, a decision was made by God himself to create mankind.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26 New International Version (NIV)

I have bolded the first part of the verse to emphasize that nobody is an accident because God himself decided out of His free will that the human race be created. One special aspect of the human race is that humans were created in the image of God. We are not an accident and were never intended to be because God did not only propose that we be created, He actually went ahead and created us as the following verse says:

So God created mankind in his own image,

   in the image of God he created them;

   male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

All humankind, both male and female, has the image of God stamped on them, so to speak. We are not just flesh and blood moving around without hope and purpose. We have the image of God and should look at all other people from this understanding.

After God created male and female in His image, He did not just allow them to roam the earth aimlessly and without purpose. The following verse clearly stipulates what mankind is supposed to be doing:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:28 (NIV)

It is important to note that after God created mankind, He blessed them, before giving them an assignment because He knew that they needed this blessing to be effective in carrying out their assignment successfully. The other thing to note here is that mankind was given the dominion to rule over the entire creation, but not over each other.

This perfect picture of harmony, tranquility, and blessing will soon be perturbed and with it came death, decay, and all the misery and suffering the world is facing right now.

The first broken relationship

After God had finished creating the man and the woman, He placed them in the Garden of Eden, and there was perfect harmony and fellowship between God and humankind. In addition to the harmony between God and the first humans, there was peace and harmony between the first man and woman. God, out of His foreknowledge and deep love for the well-being of Adam and Eve, gave them special instructions on how to conduct themselves in the garden. Out of all the trees in the garden, there was one tree that they were not allowed to eat the fruit, but they could eat the fruits from all the other trees.

As time went on, it seems they got a little distracted. One day, the devil showed up and tempted the woman, who decided to act contrary to the clear instructions that God had given them. She was not forced to disobey God’s command, but it is written that

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:6-7 (NIV)

The woman saw the fruit before the thought of eating; it came into her mind. In order words, her eyes acted as a window through which her mind was influenced. Immediately after the pictures of this fruit hit her mind, she started salivating and imagining how well the fruit will taste and how she was going to gain the knowledge of good and evil. All these things transpired in her mind before she picked up the fruit and ate it. There was something sinister that had triggered all these activities: the words that the devil whispered in her ear.  “Woman, do not believe what God is telling you. He is preventing you from becoming like Him. If you eat this fruit, you will not die, you will become God.”

Corruption of the senses

The five physical senses of vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch have been given to us to enjoy the physical environment, but they are the pathway to our minds and eventually, our subconscious minds. We are our thoughts because any information that gets into our minds through these senses influences what we believe. What we believe determines our actions, and our actions determine the outcome of our lives. These five senses are neutral, but can be used for wrong purposes as we are going to see.

It is sad that Eve allowed her ears to influence her eyes and her eyes to influence her thoughts and her thoughts to influence her actions. What would have happened if Eve refused to listen to the devil? Her eyes would not have strayed. What would have happened if after she listened to the devil and she refused to let her eyes lead her? She would not have seen the fruit, and without seeing the fruit, she would not have thought about how good the fruit will taste. Without her thinking about how delicious the fruit will be if eaten, she would not have picked it up and eaten it.

When Eve ate the forbidden fruit and gave part of it to Adam to eat, their action was the moment the physical senses became corrupt and have since been subjected to this fallen state. Immediately after Adam eats the fruit, both of them realized that they were naked and became ashamed so they hid. Before their act of disobedience, their eyes did not see any nakedness, even though they were naked, and there was no shame in their hearts. All this changed when they disobeyed God.

God had intended the five senses to be used to enjoy the beauty and abundance in the garden, but Adam and Eve, through their act of disobedience, had corrupted the senses because they allowed their senses to be used to do something that God had strictly forbidden them not to do.

The consequences of corrupting the senses

Before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, there was harmony between them and there was harmony between God and them. There was no fear and no shame, but everything changed immediately after they ate the forbidden fruit. The most significant change was the spiritual death experienced by Adam and Eve. Death is simply a separation, in this case, there was a separation between God and Adam and Eve. This spiritual death resulted from this original sin that Adam and Eve committed.

The original sin also brought with it physical death, pain, decay, and disruption of the harmony between humankind and between God and humankind. The manifestation of this havoc caused by this first act of disobedience is seen in every society and has been part of the human experience for thousands of years.

This implies that all humankind has the propensity to discriminate and to be racist if not checked. Until we start looking at racism from this vantage point, we will be chasing our tails trying to solve a problem that has eluded humankind for millennia. Many may make us feel that the American experience, or the Holocaust in Germany or the transatlantic slave trade or genocide in Rwanda or the murder of millions by the Khmer Rouge are some of the worst things that ever happened. Their assessment is correct, but it is not the complete picture. There will be no attempt to measure the degree of outrage of any act of discrimination and racism because any one person affected by racism is one person too many.

The sin of Adam and Eve ushered in brokenness in human relationships that not too long after this incident, we have a record of the first murder. Adam and Eve gave birth to two sons, Cain and Abel. Both of them chose two different trades. Cain, who was the older brother, became a farmer and Abel, a shepherd.

These two brothers decided to bring an offering to God. It turns out that things did not go too well for Cain because his offering was not good enough and was rejected by God. This did not sit well with Cain as the following verses report:

And Abel also brought an offering — fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, He did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Genesis 4:4-5 (NIV)

For the first time, anger is mentioned to describe that state Cain was in. He became angry, apparently driven by jealousy, envy, and hate. Can you imagine how these two brothers have, all of a sudden, become “enemies” because one of them focused intently on what another one was having, instead of on what they were having? Cain might have been driven by fear of his younger brother becoming more than him. According to Cain, God’s disapproval of his offering was an indication that his brother Abel was now God’s favorite and will be placed above him or get more blessings. It did not cross Cain’s mind that he could get a second chance by asking God what he should do so that his own sacrifice would be acceptable in the future.

Cain was not going to work on himself. Instead, he was going to eliminate his brother completely so that there will be no competition. But while he was contemplating this, God tried to reason with him and warned him of the disastrous consequences of not making the right choices. This was an opportunity for Cain to come around and face his own shortcomings, but he was not willing to listen to what God was telling him. God asked him the following questions:

 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV)

There was still hope for Cain to escape out of his predicament because he was reminded by God that he could rule over sin. The choice was his, and it was within his power to make the right choice. But Cain had made up his mind on what he was going to do: to completely eliminate his own brother, in fact, the only brother he had. This is how Cain went on a devilish act:

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4:8 (NIV)

Just like the final solution implemented by the Hitler’s Nazi Germany that murdered more than six million Jews in the 20th century, we are seeing a firsthand experience of where this idea of eliminating other humans that we are envious of or do not like started. Cain deceived his brother to go out to the field with him, and he attacked him without any warning and brutally murdered him in cold blood.

Why did Cain do such an evil thing against his own flesh and blood? How come these two brothers who looked the same and came from the same household ended up in such a mess? What did Cain think killing his only brother was going to do for him?

I brought up this case of the first murder that was committed by one brother against another to highlight the negative impact the original sin had on the first humans and why we are still having a lot of difficulties getting along with each other today. If two brothers from the same household could not get along with each other, how much more of people from different backgrounds?

We all renounce racism because it causes harm to other people, and in some extreme cases, it has led to murder.  This is something that the Encyclopedia of Human Rights states succinctly:

“Racism is completely inconsistent with the core of human rights and antithetical to the realization of all human rights. Racism represents a danger to all human life. It creates intolerance, social divisions, strife, and violence, and can be a social symptom of genocidal tendencies.”[1]

 While Cain was not racist towards his brother Abel because there was only one human race, he was motivated by fear, anger, envy, and jealousy. Unfortunately, these vices took the better part of him, and he ended up killing his brother. One can add that Cain stopped looking at his brother Abel as created in the image of God. There is no way Cain would have attacked his brother if he still valued him. He allowed his anger and jealousy to cloud his judgment, and he ended up brutally killing his brother because he was no longer human enough in his eyes. The place of his brother had been replaced by the desire to be at the top.

Can you see some of the parallels between what prompted Cain to murder his brother with some of the same things that fuel racism today? People feel that they are better than other people, and the next logical step is to treat those they consider inferior to them in whatever manner they deem appropriate. In the eyes of those perpetuating this havoc, they have the power to do whatever they want. In other words, they have become their own god. We are going to take a closer look at this later on.

The role our senses play in perpetuating racism

In the beginning, after God finished creating the universe and all that is in it was good. God, as we have already seen, gave the five senses so that mankind could enjoy the physical environment and all the good things that God had created. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned because the physical senses wereused to break God’s law and have since then become the avenue through which the enemy uses to tempt people to disobey God.

   We already saw how Eve engaged her five senses to disobey God. This first act of disobedience forever changed the wiring of our five senses because they are now susceptible to be used to do evil. If you trace any evil thing under the sun, it is connected to one of the five senses.

 I am focusing on the five senses because racism and discrimination are perpetuated through the five senses as well, especially the sense of hearing, seeing, and touch.

Racism is not a born trait, and there is no such thing as the racist gene. Racism is a learned behavior that is passed down from generation to generation by parents and society. The transmission of racism is facilitated by the five senses because they were as a connection between the spiritual and the physical. For example, when a child is born, they have zero racism in them, but over time, the parents and society feed the child with information about other people that looked different. The way this information is shared determines what the child believes about other people. Over time, this information determines how the child interacts with other people and sooner or later, confirmation bias sets in.

This implies that if the child is not taught that other people are inferior or superior, the child will have a different expectation when they meet different people. Unfortunately, this racism virus is being transmitted as parents sit down at the dinner table with their children to eat. At times, the transmission is unconsciously done because of some of the racial jokes and comments that are made. The intention of the parents is not to teach their children racism, but the unintended consequence of such crude jokes is the reinforcement of negative stereotypes about other people. At times, parents are more intentional in teaching their children on how to continue perpetuating racism. Take, for example, the parent who gives a stern warning to their child not to get married to a black husband because blacks are not smart enough or prone to a life of crime or whatever reason that may be given to justify why interracial marriages are bad.

Such conversations are not only limited among those who consider themselves superior. Those who are being looked down upon to be inferior also have such conversations with their own children. The difference is that they warn their children to stay away from the other people because it will be a betrayal on their own people if they cross the white/black divide. According to them, the whites should not be trusted because they are wicked, selfish, and evil. Most parents think that they are having the best interest of their children at heart and are doing all within their power to protect their children from any harm. But the underlying fear of loss of the position of power and privilege compromises their good intentions and the parents end up passing racism to their children who will, in turn, pass it to their own children. This has been the case over the years and explains why racism still persists in the world today.

Nobody wants to let their guard down because they are afraid of losing something. It is sad and shocking that some parents still think the worst thing their child can do is get married to somebody of a different race. In some place in Africa, marriages between people from different ethnic groups are frowned upon seriously.

The role of mass media

Even in the age of the internet, which is some sort of an information superhighway, there are a few major actors, such as Google and Facebook, that control the traffic and at times, introduce bias. The mass media houses are leaving this new information technology to get their messages out as well. In addition to traditional avenues like radio, magazine, and television, the internet is being highly utilized by different mass media organizations.

Mass media is guilty of propagating stereotypes that perpetuate racism because of selective programming and partial reporting. They pick and choose what news items to broadcast and for the sake of ratings, the news focuses on aspects that have a certain appeal to segments of the society, at the expense of other members of the society. Therefore, it will be difficult to talk about the origin and propagation of racism without looking at the role of mass media inseminating information and the impact this information has on race relationships.

Take the case of Africa, which has been described as the dark continent, the white man’s grave to a place of extreme poverty, famine, diseases, and death. Nobody is refusing that there is no farming, disease, and death in Africa, but the problem is when the only things that the news outlets in the western world focus on are war, disease, famine, and poverty. Many in the west who have never gone to Africa are having this distorted view that is not true. The fact is that there are famine and suffering in Africa, but many people are also well fed, prosperous, and doing well. Everybody is not living on trees or grass huts, as some in the west want everybody to believe. The question is why so many news outlets only focus on what is wrong with Africa and Africans, but not what is right in Africa? This one-sided, biased reporting has painted a picture of Africa that is false and distorted.

On the flip side, the images and stories that west feeds into Africa and the rest of the world are carefully staged to give an image of unparallelled prosperity, sophistication, and advancement. The picture of the West that is presented is perfect and flawless that the rest of the world has bought into the lie that in the West, there are no problems. Some even think there is no poverty and no homelessness and no suffering. Technological advances have solved all human problems. This false image of some earthly paradise is far from the reality on the ground in most of these countries.

As you can see, all these positive and negative messages are consumed through our five senses, and they end up forming our opinions about the world around us, including the people that we interact with.

The portrayal of people from different parts of the world is not limited to Africa alone. Most of the so-called third world or less developed or developing countries for lack of a better word are all portrayed in a negative light. Whoever decided that some countries are third world and some as developed and some not-so-developed has contributed to some of the racial tensions across the globe. This is another thing that we will be touching on in later chapters.

Our five senses are the channels through which racism is transmitted. Therefore, any solution to the issue of racism that does not attack it at the level of the senses is hallowed and will not yield any lasting results.

Racism, Tribalism, and Ethnocentrism

It is important to define these important terms before we can dig deeper into their interplay, universality, and how they have all influenced our current understanding of racism because without a proper understanding of what the problem is, we cannot offer adequate solutions. Although racism may mean different things to different people, I will do my best to define it. This definition may not satisfy all parties, but my focus is going to go beyond the definition and focus on how to choke it at the root.

What is racism?

According to the English Oxford Living Dictionaries, racism is defined as

“Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's race is superior.”[2]

As you can see, the standard dictionary definition of racism is making the assumption that humans are divided into different races. Because of that, some people may feel that their own race is superior to other races. It is strange that people have a need to feel superior to others. According to this definition, racism is based on a “belief that one’s race is superior.” Where does this belief in superiority come from? What is this belief based on? The short answer is that the belief is baseless and at best, faulty when placed under any serious scrutiny.

It is important to take a different look at how other people define racism. Let us consider the following definition of racism by Conde (2017):

Racism is the mistaken and gratuitous belief that the social construct of race is the primary factor in determining human characteristics and abilities, and that racial differences produce, again mistakenly and gratuitously, inherent superiority of a particular race.[3]

I like the fact that Conde highlights the fallacy in believing that a social contract is valid enough to use it to discriminate against other people. There is one human race and any attempt to divide the human race into different categories, classes or groups is a social construct because there is no such thing as the black race, white race or Asian race. In as much as people like to use this classification, it does not make it true. This is why to fight racism, it is important to start deconstructing some of these social constructs.

What is ethnocentrism?

Another word that is of great interest to me because of its propensity to overflow into racism is ethnocentrism. While there is nothing wrong in having a strong affinity for your people who share the same culture, language, beliefs, etc., there is a cause for concern when the “ethnic pride” is turned into prejudice against other ethnicities.

Unfortunately, ethnocentrism is often turned into animosity and bad treatment of other people who do not belong to the dominant or the more affluent group.

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ethnocentrism as a belief that a particular race or culture is better than others.[4]

According to this definition, the feelings of superiority are based on a belief which in many cases is based on nothing more than stereotypes and distorted information about other people and cultures. All cultures are not the same and should not necessarily be because they serve different purposes for those that practice them. But passing value judgment is something that humans are prone to doing, and the conclusions are usually faulty, to say the least.

Here is a more elaborate definition of ethnocentricism by Bagchi, who states that:

“Ethnocentrism is the tendency to place one's own tribe, race, or country at the center of human affairs as superior to other such peoples.[5]

According to Bagchi, “Ethnocentrism has existed in virtually all societies in human history. To feel superior to other peoples requires that one is aware of others beyond one's national or cultural boundaries. To feel superior to other peoples also requires that one knows enough about others to judge their civilization or way of life as inferior to one's own.”[6]

I have brought up the issue of ethnocentrism here because it is going to be used to bridge the gap between it and tribalism. The concept of tribalism is the brainchild of ethnocentricism driven by western hegemony. When the Europeans came in contact with other civilizations, they decided that these civilizations were backward, primitive and underdeveloped; therefore, these groups should be referred to as tribal. Therefore, the word tribe is loaded with racism, prejudices, and mischaracterization and should be dropped when talking about other people, cultures, and civilizations.


It is important to define tribe before tribalism because an attempt will be made to highlight the parallels between these words and how they have influenced and continue to inform our understanding of racism.

The English Oxford Dictionary defines a tribe as “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.”[7]

This standard definition uses words like traditional, dialect, and blood ties. Unfortunately, this idea of the tribe is somehow different from an ethnic group has persisted over time because those who coined the term we're trying to distinguish between the more advanced western ethnic groups compared to the primitive, less developed tribal people in other parts of the word.

This is why the Oxford Dictionary had to make this statement in an attempt to sanitize the word tribe and place it in its proper historical context. It says,

“In historical contexts, the word tribe is broadly accepted (the area was inhabited by Slavic tribes), but in contemporary contexts, it is problematic when used to refer to a community living within traditional society. It is strongly associated with past attitudes of white colonialists towards so-called primitive or uncivilized peoples living in remote, undeveloped places. For this reason, it is generally preferable to use alternative terms such as community or people.”[8]

In other words, the word tribe was used in the past to justify calling other people primitive and uncivilized. These attitudes of the past have persisted to date because some of these negative stereotypes about people from different parts of the world still persist. Many people still look at them using this distorted tribal lense.

The Oxford dictionary is clearly advocating that the use of the term to tribe should be dropped and replaced by “community or people.” This is a step in the right direction, but it is not good enough because it has not gone far enough.

I say this has not gone far enough because there is no reason why the word “ethnic” should not be used to refer to subgroups of people, as is the case when referring to subgroups in the west. It is unfortunate that this colonial, biased, tinted name is still popularly being used when talking about people from different parts of the world.

Take, for example, when there was war in the Balkan that led to ethnic cleansing, no single news outlet described what happened in Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo as some sort of tribal conflict. None. It was rightfully called an ethnic conflict. But when there was a genocide in Rwanda, people were quick to report about the Tutsi and Hutu tribes cutting each other’s throats. The question is, what makes one sub-group of people a tribe and the other an ethnic group? The answer is obvious, but has been ignored and is still being ignored by many. They still continue to call Africans and other so-called uncivilized and primitive people “tribe” for lack of a better term. This is totally unacceptable in this day and age.

While the average person may not care about these subtle relics of stereotypes and bias, it is important to understand the contribution of such classifications on the prevalence of ethnocentrism, discrimination, and racism.

If you take a look at Oxford Dictionary’s definition of “ethnic”, you will understand the point I am trying to make here. Ethnic is defined as “relating to a population subgroup (within a larger or dominant national or cultural group) with a common national or cultural tradition.”[9]

Tribe is “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.”[10]

There is a lot in common between the two. Where you start finding some digression is the idea of blood ties, traditional society, religion, etc., but one can argue that all the so-called ethnic groups have blood ties and share a dominant religion as well. Then why interject tradition in the definition of the tribe to make it become something that it is not?

Traditional does not mean primitive, uncivilized, and backward as many mistakenly think. Traditional, in its purest sense, similarly means that an environment is in its original or natural state and has not been adulterated. How come this has been spun to mean something else? Just because something is in its natural state does not make it primitive and uncivilized.

I have taken a long run to try and explain where I am going because the final objective is to eliminate “tribe” the way it is currently being used to describe the African people and other so-called “primitive and uncivilized people” and replace it with “ethnic” because this is the proper way to look at it.

Now that we have established that the world is made up of different ethnic groups, I am going to circle back to ethnocentrism and look at its propensity to lead to racism.


Before I do that, there is one more term that needs to be defined and contextualized. This is the word tribalism, and it is one of the worlds that many people use it loosely without a second thought. Part of bringing tribalism into this discussion is because as I child, I was taught that my ethnic group and all other ethnic groups in Africa were tribes and still are. Therefore, any conflicts, discrimination, and animosities between the different “tribes” are treated as some sort of tribalism and are somehow on a different category compared to racism.

It seems that because tribal people are considered primitive, savages, underdeveloped and unsophisticated, whatever happens between them is not equal to the sophistication of racism, which is occurring in a more advanced, civilized and sophisticated society. Therefore, let these tribal people do their thing because what else can you expect from uncivilized and primitive people apart from acts of savagery?

While this may not be what is directly communicated by the gatekeepers of civilization, actions speak louder than words and people’s attitudes betray them more than they may care to think. This may be why there is so much talk about racism, but the discrimination and animosity between other ethnic groups across the globe are not seen in the same light. It is because this does not fit the narrative or that the damage being done to people in these areas of the world is not painful enough.

All humans bleed when cut. Discrimination, no matter who does it and where it is done, is equally painful, limiting and destructive and should be called out and condemned by all. The time of a two-tier society is gone because tribalism is a bogus term that needs to be eradicated when referring to other people.

So, what is tribalism The Cambridge English Dictionary has two definitism that caught my attention. The first definition says, “Tribalism is the state of existing as a tribe or a very strong feeling of loyalty to your tribe.” The second definit “it is a very strong feeling of loyalty to a political or social group so that you support them whatever they do.”[11]

I have already mentioned that the word tribe is loaded with a lot of negative baggage, especially when used to describe other people, because it was coined by the colonizers to depict those they considered primitive, uncivilized and on the fringes of civilization. These were the tribal people that needed to be colonized and taught how to become civilized. A lot of atrocities were committed against these people and deemed justified just because they were classified as primitive and uncivilized. According to the colonizers, these savages did not know any better and could be treated anyhow.

Therefore, it is important that the first definition of tribalism be discarded and we stick with the second one, which is talking about loyalty to a party of a social group. This makes sense, although some of the excesses of being tribalistic can spill into racism as well.

Conclusions on racism, tribalism, and ethnocentrism

I will try to avoid repeating some of what has already been said, but it is important to reiterate the framework within which the issue of racism will be discussed in the rest of the book because we are living in a time when words no longer mean what they originally meant. This is an unfortunate reality, and it makes it difficult to have any meaningful conversation and come up with solutions. Each time you think you have nailed down the problem, the meaning of the words are changed into something else.

For example, the word racism the way it is being used by some in the United States of America right now is synonymous with being a member of the Republican Party. The term has even been expanded to include anybody that voted for President Donald Trump and also those who did not vote for him but have a slight inclination to support any of his policies. Is this the new definition of racism? Or are people invoking this word to keep stoking the flames of hate and animosity among the different people in the country?

 While it is understood that the United States of America has had a history filled with a lot of abuse of the African Americans because of hate, prejudices, and all sorts of discrimination and maltreatment, it will be limiting to forget that the country has residents that originally came from every nation under the sun.

Therefore, any attempt to address the issue of racism must incorporate the experiences of all the other nationalities and ethnic groups current residing in the US because they bring a unique perspective to this issue.

The focus is not on trying to assess the gravity of whatever these people have been through, but on the similarities between these experiences and what drives all of them. We are not going to deny what happened in the past and is still happening, but we should not allow the past to prevent us from paving a new path that will liberate the society from the clutches of racism.

From this point forward, racism is going to be used as a broad term that explains all the unfavorable interactions between all humans. Maybe a new word needs to be coined to describe the feeling of superiority that other people have towards their fellow humans, especially when this feeling is expressed in undesirable ways that cause harm to other people. This can be emotional, physical, economical, and psychological harm.

While one would assume that based on all the research that refutes the division of the human race into different races, this idea that there are different human races is still prevalent may be because of ignorance, for the lack of a better term. This is obviously a common trait among all humans: the desire to take advantage of others and to feel that one is superior to other people. We all hope that more and more people will realize that there is one race: the human race. We also all know that the human race is flawed because of what our first ancestors Adam and Eve did. They disobeyed God, and this unleashed a circle of death and destruction that has been with us since then.

Therefore, trying to understand racial relationships or interactions between different people without factoring in the propensity for any one of us to succumb to treating others in ways that are not kind is refusing the obvious reality that can lead us to better and more permanent solutions.

The limitation of color

Why do we need color to classify humans and divide them into different races? Each time I tell my students that the Mundani language, which I spoke as a child has only three colors, they are shocked. They should be because if you are used to the colors of the rainbow, it will not make sense for you to hear that there are people who see only three colors. I usually ask my students to identify these colors. Most of the students will mention black and white, but the third color always eludes them. I then proceed to let them know that the colors are black, white, and red. Obviously, the next question from the students is “What about yellow, purple, blue, green, etc.?”

I usually tell my students jokingly that we do not care about those colors because we want to keep life simple. Take, for example, green is black in the Mundani language, yellow is red. In other words, all the dark colors are black, and the light colors are red, and white is white.

You may be saying that the Mundani people are not sophisticated enough to identify that there is a difference between yellow and red and yellow should never be called red. There may even be a part of you that is saying that these people are primitive and uncivilized. How could they miss something so obvious as differentiating between green and black? What in the world do they think when they say that green, blue, and purple colors are all black? What about the black color itself? When these people place green, purple and blue side by side, don’t they see that the colors are different?

You are right in asking these questions. Unfortunately, there are no answers to these questions because these people live their lives comfortably with just three colors.

Wait a minute! What about those of us who are in more “sophisticated” societies and have fine-tuned the art of color classifications scheme? Are we really that advanced and sophisticated? It seems when it comes to the color of the human skin, we too are “primitive and unsophisticated.”

How did we settle down on this white and black classification of the human skin? Or referring just referring to some people as colored? Really? Does this mean that some people are uncolored or what?

By the way, in the Mundani language, white people are called red people maybe because their encounter with whites under tropical conditions revealed that the whites are actually red.

Please bear with me as I point out the absurdity of using color to divide the human race into different races. While society might have accepted this faulty and unfounded color classification scheme, it is time to move away from it. If we want to use color, we should ensure that all the different color skin tones are represented. For example, my hair is black, but my skin is chocolate brown, but I am classified as a black African. I am not trying to refuse or reject the color of my skin, but I am saying that if this must be used, it should properly be identified as such.

The problem with the present sweeping and arbitrary color classification scheme is the baggage that is associated with it. Historically, these colors were used for reasons that were not always good. Consider the case of Africa that was called the dark continent. This was a place of death, crudeness, and backwardness. By implication, her people are dark, and this darkness is associated with evil, monsters, and the devil, to say the least. Dark, impure, backward, primitive, and unsophisticated are not the labels that anybody wants to be associated with. Unfortunately, the so-called black race has been mired with these stereotypes for such a long time that it is almost the norm.

Consider the use of the white color to signify purity, sophistication, advancement, and all that is good. That is why the angels are always clothed in white and the demons in black, even though the Bible says the devil was one of the most beautiful archangels and appears as an angel of light.

Before you dismiss the concerns that have been expressed about the current color classification scheme, you should consider the fact that racism has been fueled and sustained by this color scheme. Whiteness is immediately associated with superiority, sophistication, and advancement. At the same time, black is backward, underdeveloped, and inferior.

If you think this is a bogus claim, you should look at the multi-billion industry of skin lightening cream that is used in all cultures across the globe because it is deeply rooted in some people’s psyche that they must lighten their skin to join the “superior class”. This is a sad reality that is practiced in every continent, and it is not limited to blacks alone.

Racism, as bogus as it is, will still be used, but it will be used within the confines of the understanding that it is a social construct and has nothing to do with the human race because there is no such thing as the White race, Black race, Asian race, or Hispanic race. For those who insist on saying that there is a Black, White, or whatever race based on the amount of melanin in somebody’s skin, I will beg to differ. Nobody ever defines a house solely on its color. Why then should we define human beings based solely on the amount of melanin in their body?

As a geoscientist, it is common knowledge that the color of a mineral is one of the most unreliable characteristics that can be used to describe it. The reason is that some minerals have different colors, for example, you have rose quartz, smoky quartz, milky quartz, amethyst, citrine, etc. The other reason color is not such a good idea is because different minerals have the same color. Therefore, any geologist knows that the best way to test the true color of a mineral is to use the streak of that particular mineral. The streak is the color of the power of the mineral.

Did Martin Luther King, Jr. not say that “Judge not a man by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character”? [12]

Dr. Luther King, Jr. was correct, but it seems the society still has to catch up with the reality of he was talking about. While society may be used to using all these labels to classify people for whatever purpose, these labels have caused more harm than good. There is a lot to a label or a name. It is amazing that each time God wants to do some unique in somebody’s life, He changes their name because there is power in what we program in our subconscious minds.

If we as a society say that we are color-blind, then it is time to get rid of the different classes that have been created based on skin color. The war against racism will never be completely won until we start identifying people for who they are, not by whatever color class we place them under. The white/black divide is bogus and has done more harm than good. Some may argue that we are used to these terms and there is no point refusing the fact that there are whites and blacks. It seems when it comes to white, we just created a new color because I have yet to see somebody that looks like a white sheet of paper. In other words, the white we call white is actually a social construct that is false. Therefore, this supports that idea that the use of color to classify humans does not have the right intentions. It is a tool of discrimination, subjugation, and control.

Now is the time to move beyond using color to identify people. We are all humans and should be looked upon as that. It is absurd to use the color of somebody’s skin to classify them or worse, force them into some arbitrary human race. You can help by stop calling people black or white. Call them by their name, and this is good enough.

While some take pride in the so-called blackness or whiteness, it is a false identity that should be discarded by all. We are humans, and each and every one of us has a name that should be used to identify us. If we want to put an end to racism, society must make a conscious decision to move away from this skin color classification that is currently being used. I am acutely aware of the fact that dropping off the current classification scheme will not resolve the issue of racism because the problem, as we are going to see, is deeper than skin color and bigger than racism itself. All society is doing is using racism to dress a far dangerous problem that has plagued mankind since the Garden of Eden.

We are going to realize that to find our way out of this quagmire, we must go back to where things went terribly wrong. It is time to go back to the Garden of Eden and see if there are clues to the way forward for humanity. It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting to achieve different results. What we are used, too, is calling people racist, hateful and bigoted. This has not achieved anything because racism is still here. Many laws have been passed to curb racism, and this has brought some limited success because laws may constrain people and deter them from manifesting the intent of their hearts, but they do not change hearts. This is why segregation is still rampant at 9:00 am on Sunday mornings across the United States of America.

Before you get excited that I am touching the root of the problem, I would like to remind you that the segregation that we see each Sunday morning is not just between whites and blacks. It is also between blacks and blacks. For example, people from Nigeria still get segregated according to different Nigerian ethnic groups. One of the reasons is that people like “their own”, the familiar, predictable, and comfortable. However, we are not supposed to only focus on what is comfortably familiar and predictable because, in the long run, it erodes social cohesion. To know each other and dismantle some of the prevalent stereotypes, there is a need for all people to interact with each other under different circumstances.

[1] Quotes & key text excerpts. (2017). In H. V. Conde, Human rights and the United States (3rd ed.). Amenia, NY: Grey House Publishing. Retrieved from

[2] English Oxford Living, Dictionaries

[3] Quotes & key text excerpts. (2017). In H. V. Conde, Human rights and the United States (3rd ed.). Amenia, NY: Grey House Publishing. Retrieved from

[4] Cambridge English Dictionary

[5] Kaushik Bagchi

Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History. Ed. William H. McNeill, Jerry H. Bentley, and David Christian. Vol. 2. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing, 2005. p685-688.


[7] English Oxford Living Dictionaries

[8] English Oxford Living Dictionaries

[9] English Oxford Living Dictionaries

[10] English Oxford Living Dictionaries

[11] Cambridge English Dictionary


About the author

Dr. Eric Tangumonkem was born in West Africa. He has a Bachelors's degree in Geology and a minor in Sociology from the University of Buea in Cameroon, a Masters in Earth Sciences from the University of Yaounde in Cameroon, and a Doctorate in Geosciences from the University of Texas at Dallas. view profile

Published on February 02, 2020

Published by IEM PRESS

40000 words

Genre: Inspirational

Reviewed by

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