It is hard to put down in words the gravity of what was revealed today. Lassana Cisse Souleymane was walking back home last month after watching a football game, but he never made it that far. Two men, soldiers no less, decided to end his life that very night. They didn’t know who he was, they didn’t know his life story, they just saw his skin colour and decided that his time on Earth had come to an end.
They just wanted to kill a black man for sport.
While we don’t yet know exactly what caused these soldiers to commit such a horrendous act, we know that this is a stain on Malta and that the time has come for all of us to reflect on how we have reached this sad point.
Our political discourse has taken an ugly turn in recent months. The party led by Norman Lowell, a man who has repeatedly claimed that blacks are genetically inferior to whites, is third in the polls and looks set to gain thousands of votes in next week’s election.
The Nationalist Party has been dangerously toying with racist rhetoric in its attempt to highlight the problems of overpopulation. A few months ago, PN leader Adrian Delia issued what sounded very much like a rallying cry against foreigners when he called on Maltese people to “stand up for your Christian values, show who you are and declare you are Maltese and Gozitan.”
Norman Lowell’s Imperium Europa party is third in the polls
Even Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who is vigorously advocating a cosmopolitan Malta, said during a recent debate that he only wants foreigners to work as garbage workers, making it seem as though he considers them to be second-class citizens.
A few PL and PN politicians attended a vigil for Lassana but said absolutely nothing when their own leaders chose to isolate foreigners.
But now is not the time to point fingers at each other in an attempt to assuage our collective guilt, but rather the time to take a step back and reflect on exactly how we have come to this.
Dehumanisation doesn’t happen overnight; it is a slow and steady process that must be constantly reinforced and that culminates in something even more sinister than hatred. And it can effect us all, even soldiers, people within a force which has saved countless lives of asylum seekers from drowning at sea.
We must realise that our words have power and consequences, that they can trigger a chain of events that leads down the road of pain and suffering. And for what?
Lassana was murdered for pure sport because of the way he was born. There will be no consoling his wife, his teenage daughter and his eight-year-old son, there will be no way to ease the pain that his friends must be going through. The two other men who survived the shooting will live the rest of their lives knowing that it could very well have been them. And Malta’s African communities must be feeling more marginalised than ever before.
It’s too late to save Lassana but it’s not too late to learn lessons from this murder, and the responsibility now falls on all of us to ensure this never happens again.