Do not judge people without their knowledge; there is no difference between black and white.” For Khadija Ben Hamou, the recently crowned Miss Algeria, there was no better way to say it: Racism hurts.
In January after Khadija, 26, became the second black woman and first southerner to win the national pageant, online trolls attacked her with slurs about her complexion and facial features. Some shared photographs that exaggerated her looks in an attempt to make her appear “ugly.” Apologists for the trolls quickly jumped in to say that in Algeria, like most of North Africa, “beauty” is often defined by the tone of one’s skin – the whiter, it seems, the better.
But this vile logic is not contained to North Africa, of course. Across the Middle East and the South Asian subcontinent, the brisk sale of whitening creams and other similar products attests to the breadth and depth of racial prejudice. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – like the rest of the world – racism persists.