Rampant Racism, Bigotry and Abuse

Rampant Racism, Bigotry and Abuse July 25, 2018
Sondos Al Qattan – Kuwaiti Social Media Beauty Blogger – (image taken from StepFeed)

Makeup cannot beautify an ugly heart

This week, Kuwaiti makeup artist and beauty blogger, Sondos Alqattan made headlines speaking negatively about domestic workers. 

Instead of issuing a sincere apology, she further explained her reasoning which only resulted in even more ignorance.

Some say that all publicity is good publicity – though I don’t think this went so well.

Backlash was unleashed after she went on a racist tirade regarding Filipino domestic workers keeping their passports and getting a day off.

The verbal diarrhea spewed from Alqattan was cringe-worthy.  This is nothing new to the region and I have written about this racism and discrimination before.

Backlash came from all corners of the globe and her “brand” was threatened.  Multiple companies and followers began seeing beyond the pretty face.

Thankfully, a valuable lesson was given.  Sondos’ following saw her in original form.  It was far from pretty.

Alqattan’s atrociousness was proof that makeup cannot beautify the ugliness within.

Racism is real in the Mideast

This morning I had a conversation with a friend and it left me disturbed and irritated all day.

He spent the last few nights at his sister’s house while her husband was away.

She is scared to sleep alone at home with her kids.  He added she was afraid of domestic workers.

I stared at him, incredulous.  Struggling to reign in my sarcasm, I said, “Oh yes, they can be so frightening.”

Continuing, he said, “Especially those who are black.  She is really scared to be alone with them.”

My jaw hit the floor.  I could no longer contain my disgust.

“Are they not human beings?” I asked.  “Or is it that you (as Lebanese) think you are better than them?”

He claims there are many “crazy stories about workers hurting their employers,” and that it is normal to be afraid of them. (Can someone come and smack me, please!)

Ignorance and being oblivious

My blood boiled.

Raising an eyebrow, and getting that nasty and twisted look on my face, I pushed back.

“Why would someone be afraid of a domestic worker?  If you treat them with respect and common courtesy, there is nothing to fear.”

Irritated, I continued, even though he still seemed oblivious to the fact that I was upset by his conversation and disrespect for people of color.

“Have you not heard of the employers who terrorize, torture and abuse domestic workers?  I am more scared of employers who take in slave labor and treat people like they are cattle.”

I felt my eyes rolling into the back of my head.  He finally took notice and excused himself.  All I could think of was, “Dear Lord, save me from slapping him upside the head!”

Lack of humanity

The lack of humanity and compassion frustrates me in Lebanon.

All day I hear comments that make me cringe.

“I would never let my child marry a Syrian or Palestinian.”

“Those servants have no place at the family table or visible while we are out in public.”

“Why do you tip the wait staff/hookah guy/valet/gas station attendant so much?”

“Why are you doing dishes?  The servant will do it. Don’t touch anything.”

The comments are rude, inappropriate and racist / bigoted.

Respect for Others

I was raised to clean up after myself, appreciate those who provide me with quality service and treat me with respect, and have respect for people who work hard and are making an effort to accomplish their goals.

Too often, I watch unemployed and uneducated Lebanese or gulf Arabs disrespect a hard working Syrian, Sudani, Palestinian, Egyptian, Bengali, etc.  At least they are working and not mooching off the rest of the world.

Check your unemployed self before you dare to speak ill to another person. When people in my presence speak rudely or say something inappropriate, I check them, quickly.

“Maybe you shouldn’t make a comment,” I would say.  “At least they HAVE A JOB.”

I have tremendous respect for hardworking men and women.  God bless them.

Domestic Workers do more than parents

People are so busy getting their hair and nails done, lunching with friends, and hosting dinners that help is essential. (Please, note my sarcasm.)

Raised in a home where both parents worked, we did not have a nanny or a maid.  We cleaned, helped prepare meals, and were raised by our parents, with love and understanding.

Though they were busy in their careers, we were always the priority; not coffee with neighbors or trips to the beauty salon.

Watching parents neglect their children, expecting a domestic worker getting paid $150-300 a month take the role of parenting is disheartening.  As kids fall and scrape knees and want care, many run to the domestic worker and not their parent.

I understand the need for assistance in cleaning your home or watching the kids.  What is upsetting is seeing parents be hands off in the upbringing and care.

This is not specific to the Middle East as we have watched this in affluent American households, as well.

Why have children to begin with if you think a hug or event outing is what parenting is all about?

Be kind.  Small gestures make huge impacts.

The gas station by my house is my preferred place to pump gas.  Well lit, clean, and convenient, the gentlemen that work there are always kind and respectful.

They hail from Egypt, Bangladesh, India, and Syria.  Each, always smiling and courteous.

As I was filling gas earlier this week, the manager said to me, “It is always nice to see you.  You always have a kind word and you are generous.  We all appreciate you.”

When filling gas, I give 2000 – 3000 Lebanese Lira in tip.  This amounts to $1.50 – $2.00.  They are providing a service, so I provide compensation.

Whether washing the car windows, checking fluid and oil, or simply standing outside in the intense heat to pump my gas, I appreciate their help.

It saddens me to think people do not extend a word of gratitude or appreciation.  The way some will view or communicate with low wage workers, treating them as if they are slaves, is disturbing.

Abuse in the industry

Domestic worker in Saudi was abused by employer who stuck 2 dozen needles and nails in her hands. (image from The Economist)

Abuse is rampant in the world of domestic work.  Google searches will turn up thousands of stories, some more revolting than others.

Story upon story, you will hear of domestic workers abusing children in their care, trying to kill their employers, etc.

Yes, this has happened and is reality.

Though, we do not often read in Arab media outlets how vile working conditions are for domestic workers.  Many of them suffer, tremendously.

Sexual, emotional and physical abuse is rampant and one cannot help but wonder what drives a domestic worker to the edge.

According to Human Rights Watch, domestic workers work 14-18 hours a day, seven days a week, for much less than minimum wage.

It’s a global issue

This is not specific to the Middle East or Asian nations.  This occurs in the USA.

It happens each and every day in a nation that prides itself on legal ramifications for human and civil rights violations.

Right under your nose, domestic workers are suffering and being abused.

It does not matter where you are in the world.  The reality of domestic worker abuse exists.

Why do people look at low wage workers as sub-human?

We should be fighting for their rights as we fight for minimum wage increases.

I am grateful to know that domestic workers have begun organizing and are advancing their efforts to protect themselves in the countries they work in.

Call out bad behavior

I am old enough to not care what random people think of me.  When I see atrocious behavior, I call it out.  Wherever I am, I do my best to help others.

A finely dressed and coiffed woman berated her maid in the shopping mall.

I stood behind her as she called her incompetent and a fool.  She accidentally dropped an item of clothing while placing her things on the counter.

I looked at my friend and said, loud enough for her to hear, “All the money in the world cannot buy her class.”

She looked right at me.  Shaking my head, I said to her, “Such shameful behavior by a mother.”

She did not utter another word.  These are the people raising future generations?  God, help us.


Migrant workers gather for a rally across from the Houses of Parliament, in central London, Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011. Hundreds of migrant domestic workers gathered to demonstrate against British government’s proposed changes to the domestic workers visa. The government has proposed to change the domestic workers visa and remove some of the most fundamental rights of migrant domestic workers as they say which could leave them vulnerable to possible abuse, exploitation and human trafficking. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

At the gas station, a man pulled up and shouted for the gas station attendant who was helping another customer.

He kept shouting for him.  The attendant told him to give him a moment to finish the transaction.

The obscene man continued his outburst, looking at me.  “This monkey cannot even be trained.”  He said, smiling as if I would laugh in return.

I simply glared at him and said, “The only one needing to be trained is you.  Maybe a ‘monkey’ can teach you some respect and values.”

He got into his car and waited, quietly.

There are times that people need to be corrected and put in their place.

Offer some support

The world is full of hardship and difficulties.  People are suffering and living miserably, from the shores of the U.S. to faraway lands in the east.

Our world is changing and so are the needs of residents across the global community.  No matter how much you think your voice does not matter, it does.

Be a part of the positive change the world needs.  Be a source of light, love, hope, and support for others.  Don’t be a part of the ugliness in this world.  There is enough of that.

There is nothing wrong with extending a hand in gratitude, or a smile in courtesy.

Wishing someone a blessed day can change the way they see the world, if even for a moment.

I will continue to put forth the effort to greet people with a smile and compassion.

Providing someone with a gracious word or term of endearment can bring a smile to their face.

It costs nothing to be caring and considerate.  Make the effort to really “see” people.


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  • Kishan Aria

    I am reading the Koran and it seems a very violent them and us religion far worse than the hell fire preaching in Christian conservative evangelical churches

  • Widuran

    You are correct

  • Suehaila Amen

    I can say the same when reading other faith books if I am looking to find something wrong in it. If you read with an open mind, understanding context and scholarly interpretation (which you and I are not capable of) then you would be able to read further into the messaging. Had I only taken words on paper for what they looked like, then simple poems would give reason to see anger, hate and violence, as well. I guess we are all looking for something different.

  • Suehaila Amen
  • Barros Serrano

    Here again we see problems in the Islamic world which to us in the West seem Medieval. Women without rights, workers enslaved…

    So what exactly is it about Islam we are supposed to respect and tolerate? All I see is social dysfunction. To read the Koran one is asked to “ignore” all the violence, pretend there’s a “context” which excuses it…

    WHY would we want to see any expansion of this religion which is inevitably attended by such social dysfunction?

    Moslems took more slaves from Africa than the Europeans did. Moslems created history’s greatest genocide, in India. Moslems for 1000 years have repressed free intellectualism with terror. Moslems keep women in virtual slavery in much of the Islamic world.

    Again… WHY should I respect that religion? It has nothing to recommend it.