The perception that Liberia is a country of stark contradictions and paradoxes is nowhere more pronounced than in our racist citizenship laws.
According to the Liberian Constitution, only persons of black African origin can become citizens. Interestingly, while being one of the few remaining countries in the world still conferring nationality solely on the basis of race, Liberia was originally founded by ex-slaves seeking sanctuary against repressive racist supremacy in the United States. Isn’t it a grand paradox then that a group of harassed people fleeing racist repression would themselves practice racism? The citizenship debate has raged on for eons in this country. Interestingly, the framers of the Liberian constitution who themselves were of settler stock and victims of racism, contrived to infuse in the minds of the majority native population the cunning idea that granting citizenship to non-black would mean mortgaging the country’s wealth and resources to foreigners, especially the wealthy Lebanese who have contributed immensely to the country’s economic activities. When we look around us today, the contributions of the Lebanese community and other non-African residents to our country’s national development are abundantly evident. Through their socio-cultural platform, the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU), our so-called “partners in progress” continue to leave positive imprints all around the country. As a matter of fact, there is a whole generation of Lebanese nationals, who, by virtue of their long residence or birth in Liberia, don’t even consider Lebanon as their home. Some of them speak our vernacular even better than we do. Some of them have married our citizens, had children with them, but are still not fit to become citizens of a country that they have come to know and love. It is so paradoxical and twisted when Liberians are yearning for citizenships in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and even Asia, but we deny a certain class of people citizenship in our own country. What we fail to realize as a people and nation is that the massive infrastructural developments we enjoy in most foreign lands are the fruits of the labor of immigrants and foreigners who lived in those countries, adopted their systems, conformed themselves to the laws of the land, and earned their citizenship. Today, Liberians are serving in the military of the United States and other nations because they earned their stripes. Liberians are contributing to the socio-economic development of other countries because they proved their worth. If other nations can do this for us, we ought to do the same for others. The era of paradox and contradictions must end.