By Dr. Moses Ochone of Vanderbilt University. Professor Iliya Harik's piece is a commendable and bold attempt by an Arab scholar to openly discuss the sensitive issu of Africa-Arab relations. There is a need for an open, unfettered dialogue between African and Arabs on the fractured state of relations between the two peoples. Professor Harik's write-up is however trapped in the language of denial and obfuscation that has become a key defining feature of Arab responses to charges of racism against blacks. His response sounds eerily familiar, for I have heard many such feeble defenses of Arab racism against blacks--defenses which merely deracializes the racism or emphasize the African roots of North African Arabs. One would normally excuse such defensive posturing were it not for its diversionary implications for understanding the history of Afro-Arab relations--a history preceding Africa's relations with the west. In fact, Professor Harik's rendering of the crisis in Darfur is almost offensive to Blacks in that it is not only an intolerable simplification and trivialization of a racist genocide of the part of the Arabized government in Khartoum but also an inexplicable attempt to dilute the fact that race, even if it is mediated by culture, is at the heart of the crisis in Darfur Harik claims that Arabs are not "anti-African on any basis." But this is a straw man. Dr. Onyeani never argued that Arabs were anti-African. The allegation, which Harik did not respond to, is that there is a disturbing pattern of anti-African racism in many Arab countries, and that this attitude translates to many Arabs being indifferent to African struggles and sensibilities at a time when black African leaders like Mbeki and Obasanjo are bending over backwards to accomodate and protect the interests of Arab North African nations. Many people, in the interest of Afro-Arab political alliances anid in order not to alienate our North African brothers, do now want this issue discussed. But it should. This is why Harik must be commended for making his post, as disappointing as its contents are. It is true that the population of most North African countries are mixed, but it is not a secret that in these countries there is a gradation of human valuation that corresponds directly to skin color, with the most privilaged status being accorded to those perceived rightly or wrongly as being of "pure" Arab stock while those with the darkest skin and curliest hair located on the lowest rung of the social hierarchy. In fact, Arab racism is embedded in the history of North Africa itself and in the Arabic language. The Arab conquest of North Africa and the subsequent conversion and marginalization of the original Berbers and Moors of North Africa and parts of the Sahel was undergirded by a racist ethos. Till this day, the Berbers, and other distinct peoples are confinded to the fringes of North African and Norht-west society--in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania, etc. The plight of the descendants of blacks (some of who predated the Arab conquest of the 9th century and others who came to North Africa as slaves, captives, and free migrants) is worse than that of the Berbers. In Morocco, Tunisia, and throughout much of the Arab world, the only ticket to social visibility for blacks is soccer. Becoming a soccer star gives a black person access to coveted corridors of society and enables them to "marry up", racially speaking. Arab racism is so deep it is inscribed in the semantics of the Arab languange. Till this day, the generic word for a black person is the preface "abd." which translates as "slave." as in "Abd"-allah (slave of God). This rule, among many other racially-loaded ones, applies throughout the Arab-speaking world regardless of dialect and orthography. The case of the Sudan is perhaps the most vivid, poingnant, and irrefutable example of Arab racism against black Africans. Let it be noted that until the Janjaweed and their racist and murderous Sudanese government backers gave a bad name to the arot of hating, marginalizing, and murdering blacks, Arabs never quite saw the raiding of black villages for slaves and cattle, especially in Southern Sudan, as a crime. The racism which propels these practices was increasingly authorized by the discourse of the distinction, within Islam, between dar-al-Islam (the abode of Islam) and dar-al-hard (the abode of war and unbelief). For many Arabs, the historical description of blacks as slaves and servile presences in the Arab world is hard to unlearn. Arabs still generally regard the Darfur genocide as a public relations disaster rather than a barbaric racist war against black people. After all, we haven't heard any condemnation of the Sudanese government's racist practices from any Arab state. To that would be hypocritical because some of these states themselves condone the racist practices of mavericks or practice anti-black racism in their own official policies. For instance black African immigrants are routinely killed, maimed, and their houses and properties destroyed in Gaddafi's Libya. The same Gadaffi who wants to be the leader of a politically united African super-state. Africans have become jaded about Gadaffi's feeble condemnations of anti-black riots in his country and the ad-hoc and sterile apologies he offers after each tragic episode. Professor Harik is only half right about the Arab-speaking Northern Sudanese. They are a dark-skinned people, although most of them are of mixed Arab and African ancestry. But these folks, by virtue of the Arab penetration of the Sudan and the adoption of Arabic and many aspects of Arab and Bedouin culture, no longer perceive themselves as blacks, or African in any functional way. Indeed, they have long become Arabized. While Harik and I, as historicallyl conscious people, may recognize them only as cultural Arabs, the Northern Sudanese people and their ideologues and rulers have since, for good or ill, racialized their identity and their distinction (which is actually essentially linguistic and cultural) from the people of Darfur It is not for me to say whether it is wrong or right to conflate Arabization with Arab racial consciousness, which is the Northern Sudanese people seem to have done. What I do know is that in both its practical expression and its tragic consequences, the attitude of the Arabized Northern Sudanese people and their government towards Darfur is racist. So, to conclude, I would say that African-Arab political solidarity and alliances have survived not because of the absence of Arab racism towards black Africans-- as Harik seems to suggest--but in spite of it. Nkrumah, Toure, Mbeki, Obasanjo, and other black African leaders were/are aware of the racism but are/were motivated by avowedly higher ideals and goals in their interaction with North Africa and the entire Arab world. This pursuit of South-South alliances and solidarity has cost Africa dearly in human and material terms. My personal opinion is that we are actually approaching a tipping point as Arab disrespect for black-Africans heightens. The emotional blackmail in the form of charges of black racism against North Africa, which is being subtly invoked by our North African AU members to obscure the treatment of blacks in the Arab world, will no longer be tenable. Even beyond the domain of group relations, there is a preponderance of individual anecdotal evidence to support the notion of a pattern of Arab racist attitudes toward blacks. A Nigerian friend of mine (a Muslim) who now lives in london was appalled at the racist treatment that he and other black Africans received when he travelled to Egypt a few years back. The irony is that he was in Egypt as part of the Nigerian delegation to an "African" trade fair.