Dealing with the other between the ethical and the moral: albinism on the African continent
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Albinism is a global public health issue but it assumes a peculiar nature in the African continent due, in part, to the social stigma faced by persons with albinism (PWAs) in Africa. I argue that there are two essential reasons for this precarious situation. First, in the African consciousness, albinism is an alterity or otherness. The PWA in Africa is not merely a physical other but also an ontological other in the African community of beings, which provides a hermeneutic for the stigmatising separateness or difference of the PWA. The second reason hinges on a distinction drawn by Jürgen Habermas between the ethical point of view and the moral point of view. While the former consists of the ethos, customs, or idea of the good shared by a group of persons with a shared tradition or way of life, the latter consists of what is good for all and transcends particular traditions or ways of life. Consequently, the African ethical point of view, the ethics of solidarity, justifies within the African worldview the established alterity and, by implication, stigmatization of PWAs. On this view, actions that promote harmony and prevent discord and disequilibrium among accepted beings in the African community are permissible. I further show that unless there is a change in the physical and ontological conception of PWAs and a leap from the ethical point of view to the moral point of view, the negative attitudes toward PWAs will not change. The leap to the moral point of view does not suggest an abandonment of the ethical point of view but only recommends that the two meet halfway in respect for universally accepted norms of human actions. To achieve this, I will show that much needs to be done in the areas of policy formulation, law, health care services, and education.
KeywordsAlbinism Persons with albinism African ontology Otherness Ethical Moral
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