Racism is a virus: a text by Dany Laferrière

Well, let’s be clear, racism is born, lives and may even die one day. It is contagious, and is spread from one human being to another. However, its speed of contagion varies according to the place or the situation. We can also create situations from scratch that would increase its speed and power, while others would decrease it.

At times there are new waves on the horizon. We are surprised when warning signs warned of the imminent danger. Unemployment, misery, urban violence, the lack of courtesy are agents capable of accelerating its blossoming in a place where its presence was embryonic.

But racism has this peculiarity of never being born in the place where one is. It’s a virus that always comes from elsewhere. If unemployment suddenly rages, we then point the finger at the newcomers who keep in them, it seems, this gene of misery which allows racism to fertilize. It is by seeing a patient that you learn of the existence of the virus, otherwise it remains invisible. This supports the idea that the patient is responsible for the disease.

If the White thinks that it is with the Black that this virus arrived in America, the Black believes, him, that it is the greed of the White to want to exploit his energy which keeps him still alive. There is no Black without White as there is no White without Black. Each before its existence to the other.

Here is a new identity product as American as the hamburger. An identity created by a virus. We would like to attend this birth in the laboratory. As for the Amerindians, they are still in confinement on the reserves.

The historic moment

We wonder when it all started in America? 400 years ago with the slave trade. The first slave ships arrived on the American coast at that time. It may seem distant, but historically it was yesterday.

The grandsons of slaves do everything to remember “these bloody centuries” while the grandsons of settlers do everything to forget them. We don’t always think of the same thing at the same time. We can trace the conception of the virus back when Europe began to fantasize about this free and inexhaustible energy: the slave’s labor power.

The goal is money. Make others work for free, with the right to life and death over them. There are still people in the United States who think wistfully of that time.

I say United States because the last events took place there, but I smile to see Europe being astonished by the violence of American racism, forgetting that it was at the origin of all this history. It was the first pandemic since at least three continents were involved: Europe, Africa and America.

The mystery

There is one point which remains mysterious: racism is capable of appearing in the most remote regions, where there is no misery, no unemployment, not even a black man. However, we thought we knew how it worked.

Is its territory unlimited? Its time, infinite?

There is so much that we do not know about the behavior of the virus. We sail by sight. The only evidence is the suffering it produces on a single group: black people. We would be surprised by the diversity of studies done on the behavior of the virus.

For example, can the virus get from human to animal? You might think so by seeing in the south of the United States, not so long ago, public places where it is posted: “Prohibited to Negroes and dogs”.

You might think it’s the fantasy of a laboratory researcher, in reality it’s part of a dehumanization process.

If the White thinks that it is with the Black that this virus arrived in America, the Black believes, him, that it is the greed of the White to want to exploit his energy which keeps him still alive


In order for the slave to accept his beast of burden condition, this requires the participation of all trades that have some influence on society.

The political, intellectual and religious elite of the time undertook to convince the slave that he was in his place in the organization of colonial society. What he is ? A simple commodity that we seek to sell to the highest bidder. The Church makes him understand that so much suffering will be rewarded with a certain place in paradise. An article in the Black Code which governs all aspects of the slave’s life states that “the Negro is movable property”. We are in the middle of the Enlightenment.

However, slavery will flourish during this time of high philosophy and scientific progress. We even wonder if the black has a soul. We notice then that the more the virus settles in, the more powerful the police believe themselves. Once it’s there, it’s hard to get it out of the body. We seek or pretend to seek a vaccine to kill him.

This vaccine is the Age of Enlightenment who offers it with the idea of ​​progress in all areas. The French Revolution tried for a brief moment to put an end to slavery (“perish the colonies rather than a principle!” Robespierre on slavery). But in fact, that was without counting the centerpiece: silver. Because everyone seeks to enrich themselves by the slave trade. Even philosophers – Voltaire in mind – owned shares in the East India Company.


It was the money that allowed the virus to spread. It feeds on man’s insatiable desire to get rich inexpensively. Workers you don’t have to pay.

In the United States, Abraham Lincoln believes that slavery does not go with his plan for a new America. Civil War. The North wins. Massively blacks go north to become employees. We quickly become disillusioned. The former slaves who became workers now had wages, but they worked almost as much as before and had to live in rat slums which they paid dearly. They discover that the worker is a slave who pays his bills himself. But his condition is not that different from before. The problem remains.

Slavery is hard, but capitalism is not a joke either. The North is a South free from guilt. The virus quickly adapts to the new situation. To point the finger at the problem, it would be necessary to put White (North and South) on the sofa of Doctor Freud, because the virus is hidden so well in the folds of the social body that it is impossible to flush it out. To the point that the racist wonders what he is accused of.

A bit like when the rapist begins to believe that it was the little girl who provoked him.

Social distancing

If South Africa perfected it with apartheid, America understood long before social distance was needed. Strangely this time, social distancing allows the virus to keep its vigor.

Quickly, the Southern States have set up a health system which eliminates the White of the Black in all acts of daily life. They did not have to be together in the same room, nor did they have to go through the same door to enter a public or private place (blacks by the back door, whites by the front door). They shouldn’t frequent the same bars, unless there were two entrances and two rooms that did not communicate. They did not eat, dance or sleep in the same house (the masters’ house, and at the back of the courtyard the slave barracks).

The rules were strictly observed at the time, because the punishments were heavy. It was up to blacks to stay away. The white man could move everywhere, even in the black man’s hut, but it was up to him to avoid being in his way, even if he was with his wife.

A particular virus

I do not know by what strange reasoning it was concluded that the virus of racism was not in the White but in the Black, that it was not in the master but in the slave. As it was believed that the woman was responsible for her rape. That’s why we mandated the police to protect the White from the Black. Because it’s his fault if the white man is racist. There’s nothing wrong with him other than being black. Thinkers have said that anyone can be racist. Anyone can be a bastard or a killer, but racism is a particular virus. He needs a carrier who thinks he is superior to any other individual other than himself, while thinking that the black is at the bottom of the ladder. He must also be a member of a powerful and dominating group. Above all, he must believe that his superiority dates back to time immemorial.

On the other hand, the system must make sure that the black man accepts this bouquet of privileges as an obvious result: when a white man meets a black man, even in this America, he knows that a few centuries ago this man would have was his “movable property”.

For the test: if you fail to answer these questions, it is that you do not have the virus.

Healthy carriers

For a long time it was believed that the racist resembled those men who wear pointed hoods and long white dresses to meet at night under large trees with torches and a burning cross. They make hate speech that asserts the supremacy of white people.

Later, it was also believed that the new generation was made up of young racist punks with shaved heads and as sharp eyes as their knives which monologate a sabir made of borborygmas which they accompany with Nazi salutes by selling old copies of Mein Kampf. We now know that the virus has reached almost everyone after four centuries. And that most carriers are healthy, that is, they have it, but don’t suffer from it. The worst part is that they can pass it on.

Suppose that we are all affected: those who suffer as well as those who inflict, and that there is no cure possible without collective effort. You have seen the energy and money spent on the other virus, even without the hope of total eradication. If we put the same effort into it, even if we have to block the system for a while, to eradicate this virus once and for all from the human body. Just an effort to destroy the virus, without linking it to a race, or to a bloody, even unjust, past.

It will be a very slow process, but if we succeed, we will have the impression of being less stupid and of being able to laugh later telling children that only a few decades ago the world was divided into races and that an individual could die because of the color of their skin.

Racial tensions seen from Homework

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