Friday, September 25, 2009

In Solidarity

members of Afro Plus in Moscow

When I went home the first Christmas after moving to Slovenia, a family member came up to me at a holiday party and beckoned for me to "say something in Russian", when I told him I didn't live in Russia, he just laughed. Throughout the night, many people came up to me to "ask me about Russia", and I still come across people (old friends who find me on Facebook, long lost family members) who seem to think I live in Russia or thereabouts. In many people's estimations any country ending in "ia"=Slavic=Balkan=Eastern European= somehow Russian. While I won't deny that there certainly must exist some vague Slavic similarities between Russians and Slovenians, this ain't the same place and it's nowhere near it.

And after reading this article, I couldn't be happier.

(BBC) Africans Under Siege in Moscow: Nearly 60% of black and African people living in Russia's capital Moscow have been physically assaulted in racially motivated attacks, says a new study.

While Obama is busy making buddy with Medvyedev, scores of black folks on Moscow streets are looking over their shoulder every two seconds in fear. It's horribly ironic.

All this is not to say that Slovenia is perfect on this front, it certainly isn't but I feel more than safe walking down the streets, and pray that one day soon black people in Russia will be able to say the same.


Viajera said...

Yes, this has been going on for a very long time. Not often covered in North American news, but stories have popped up now and again. I've always wanted to see the Hermitage, but I regard Russia as a no-go country, even though I know and know of a few African-descended folks who have spent time there, usually for school/religious work.

Greyson said...

Yeah. I remember being shocked at the racism in Moscow when I was there in the early 90's. Even as as a fairly clueless suburban white exchange-student teenager from the US, I felt like it was incredibly obvious and unomfortable. I think what struck me was the racism being (from what I witnessed) both more overt and somewhat differently-conceptualised than what I was used to
(e.g. I saw persecution of other kids who were called "Black" based on ethnic background even though their skin was pale and they were not of African descent, and the one family who I would have called "Black" in our school was basically just ignored/excluded from the little I witnessed).

Lenoxave said...

I've heard the reports and it's just got damn terrible. The irony of Medvedev and Obama has not escaped me. I've always wanted to visit and see the Hermitage, but it's out of the question w/these brutal attacks happening.

Unknown said...

When I was in Moscow in 2000 it was even impossible just to ask for directions...i was screamed at more than once (NYET NYET NYET) and stared at by children-which is a bit more understandable as I was most likely the first and only black person they had seen (though I'm not gonna lie -it was jarring when a kid pointed and said "look mom a negro a negro!").

Not everyone was like this mind you, but you knew you were taking a chance if you walked about on your own... so i didn't. but I count myself as lucky considering what might have taken place (hello being chased in a park by a faceless band of hooligans and narrowly escaping...-good thing I was young and still felt myself invincible or else that might have been a moment to shape an ugly world outlook and caused me to write off the whole experience there).

on a different note: check out the courageous and inspiring story of the "Russian Obama"

and the successful (though difficult) story of a Myroslav Kuvaldin in Ukraine

Unknown said...

Sorry - one more thing... not the least because of the economic situation there it isn't just people with dark skin that are at risk... really any foreigner especially from the western world no matter your skin color is at risk to a certain extent.

My Russian teacher from Siberia talks about her students back at the university in Tomsk who would only travel in groups and always try to lay low, and they were all of european descent. My teacher herself had not really been aware of how they had felt until they mentioned it to her. Then after some time in the states and then going home again she could see it will her own eyes... she became more sensitive to it.

this is similar to my high school roommate's experience in Austria in the 90's with neo-nazi ism. her having blond hair and blue eyes was irrelevant and didn't stop her from being chased around was all about being foreign. But being as obviously not slavic as having dark skin makes you an easier mark.

alcessa said...

Yeah, sometimes even we Slavs don't look Slavic enough...
I know Yews who came emmigrated from what is now Russia to Germany and they, too, have stories to tell :-(

Frenchie said...

The issues in Moscow are astounding! Ive already permanently crossed it off my list of places to visit!Unfortunately, black people in Cairo, especially darker skinned Africans are subjected to verbal abuse and physical attacks too. Thus, when reflecting on Obama's choice of Cairo for his Mid East speech, I had the same reaction; 'why didn't he choose somewhere more welcoming and progressive?!'

It's good to hear that you dont have to walk down the streets of Slovenia feeling paranoid lol.