By Randa Darwish
Casual rascism is often a significant and rarely discussed issue in the Middle East, at times coded into the language itself.
One of the words that are commonly used to refer to black-skinned people in the Middle East is “عبيد” [Abeed] which literally translates to “Slaves”. It is considered a degrading word used by Arabic-speakers to refer to people with black skin and it is a synonym for the N-word used in English.
Many believe the word has been used less than before, with more campaigns educating people about the actual meaning behind the word.
However, a massive discussion has been sparked on Twitter among Arabs and Muslims, highlighting the issue of using the A-word.
A video was posted by the US-based Arab Muslim artist and advocate, Khadega Mohammed, urging Arabic-speakers to stop using the 'A-word.'
In the video, she narrated a story when a “white” Arab friend called her “Abeed." She later apologized and told her that she did not know the meaning of the word.
Khadiga cleared it out in videos in both languages, Arabic and English and her videos went viral.
Khadiga’s video ignited a massive conversation on Twitter with more people expressing support and calling Arabs to stop using the degrading and offensive A-word.
However, many noted that the word “Abed” does not always have a negative meaning. There is an old Arabic saying that says: “كلنا عبيد لله” [We are servants of God] or in names like: “عبدالله” [Abdallah] which literally translates to the “Servant of God”.
Movements to raise awareness over the racism against Black Arabs have been on the rise, with hopes that people might have second thoughts before calling others with offensive words.
Earlier in 2014, a campaign was launched in Detroit, US that was called: “Drop the A-word”. It was launched by Arab Muslims who wanted to highlight the matter and educate more people about it. They urged Arabs living in the US not to use Arabic racist words against African Americans.