Social Exclusion as Individual Protection – Tanzanian Albinos

Yet another post of the mistreatment of Albinos in Tanzania, this time, it reveals that the only way for Albinos to be relatively safe is to agree to self-imposed social exclusion.

This seems to be the last resort: agree to segregate oneself or face mutilation and death for only one reason and by only one type of culprits:

Indeed, refusing the segregated state and underground life is dangerous.

It takes an enormous amounts of dehumanization to consider certain people as objects and body parts based on one characteristics. Also, as in a distorted law of supply and demand, the fact that albinos are a numerically small minority with a very low life expectancy makes their "market value" fairly high on the healing markets, hence, the sense of urgency in grabbing them as early as possible.

Albino Killings Spill Over Into Burundi

Via the BBC,

“A six-year-old albino girl in Burundi has been found dead with her head and limbs removed, in the latest killing linked to ritual medicine.

Albinos in the region have been targeted because of a belief peddled by witchdoctors that their body parts can be used for magic potions.

The girl, who was attacked on Saturday, was the sixth person with albinism to be killed in Burundi since September. (…)

Armed attackers broke into the family home and tied up the girl’s parents before shooting her in the head, local officials say.

They had been among a group of about 50 people with albinism to have fled to a provincial centre because they feared for her safety.

The head of the Burundi Albinos’ Association, Kasim Kazungu, says people with albinism had not suffered any discrimination until other Burundians heard about the lucrative trade in albino body parts in neighbouring Tanzania.”

More Albino Atrocities

This insanity has to stop.

Let me reiterate the general point that illustrates perfectly, albeit horribly, the arbitrary of stigma and prejudice, and the corresponding violence exercised against a stigmatized category. Any physical marker can be latched upon and used to mistreat an entire category of people, something that essentialist approaches to race and ethnicity completely miss.

I mean, seriously…

And all in the name of woo-woo.

The Price of Social Stigmas

I have already posted on this.

Any physical difference from the norm can be seized upon and used against the individuals who can do nothing about them. These individuals, deviant because of a physical characteristic (in this case, one they do not control) are then subjected to dehumanization and violence, used as scapegoats and otherwise see their capacity for social participation drastically limited.

Case on point, via the BBC.

In this case, the combination of social stigma with traditional beliefs and possibilities of profits on both side of the transaction (witchdoctors and patients) and the inevitable police corruption create a deadly situation for many albinos in that region.

Prejudice and Persecution for Being Different

One of the points, we sociologists, often make is that there is nothing natural to racism and prejudice. Societies can pick on any characteristic or trait and treat it as the basis for prejudice and maltreatment. Consider this BBC story:

Tanzania’s Albino Society has accused the government of turning a blind eye to the killing of albinos, after four deaths in the past three months.

An albino spokesman said there was a belief that the condition was the result of a curse put on the family.

Some witch-doctors also say they can use albino body parts in a potion to make people rich.

A teacher in the northern town of Arusha has been arrested for killing his own child, who was albino.

As well as the four killings, the body of an albino has also been exhumed. It was found with its limbs cut off.

The BBC’s Vicky Ntetma in Dar es Salaam says there is now fear in the albino community there.

Christopher Dadenekeye from the TAS said the witch-doctors must also be arrested.

Some people in Tanzania think albinos are a kind of ghost-like creature.

“We need to clear out all these beliefs,” Mr Dadenekeye said.

There are some 270,000 albinos among Tanzania’s population of some 35 million.

Old women with red eyes have been killed in parts of Tanzania in the past, after being accused of witchcraft but our correspondent says this is the first time that albinos have been targeted in ritual killings.

TAS also wants more help for albinos and says the condition should be treated as a disability.”