Throughout the Mali crisis, the role of racism in shaping the conflict has not received much emphasis, at least in U.S. commentary. Yet, it plays an important role on the ground.
Mali is on the dividing line between north Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. It has a small but traditionally cohesive population of Tuaregs and Arabs (approximately 10 percent of Mali’s total population) who regard themselves as “white.” They regard other Malians as “black.” Tuaregs and Arabs participated in the trans-Saharan slave trade, sometimes selling and enslaving “blacks” when they could. Tuaregs and Arabs move freely across the borders of Mali, Algeria, and Mauritania. During the colonial and post-colonial periods, the Malian government in Bamako kept antipathy between “whites” and “blacks” relatively under control. Read more »