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Racism, Spanish Style

I was driving to another town with a friend here in Spain, when she said, “It’s really racist here.” So I told her I noticed how there were very few Blacks in town and she said, “There’s no work.” And I said, “But Africa is so close you can touch it.” She said Northern Africa is close but the few Blacks you see hail from the sub-Saharan – and “Spaniards don’t have jobs, so no one comes here for work. You see the Blacks who are here, they are forced to sell trinkets on the beach.”

But the racism she was referring to was against the gypsies, and she said it’s a crime the way gypsies are treated. She told me about Triana in Sevilla, an area where gypsies live (half of the gypsies in the world live here in Andalucia, Spain), about how the children end up uneducated because the city is incapable of creating a system that these children might thrive in. She said the gypsies of Triana have been displaced by a new wave of gentrification happening there, people who came seeking the music and dance and culture the gypsies created, but now want them out because they live differently.

How differently? Gypsies are known for  strong family bonds, and though most people tend to think of them as tramps and thieves, the truth is many are merchants who work long hours to feed their children. Susan Nadathur says:

Mainstream society – both in Europe and the United States – has been at odds with the Gypsies since their migration from India in the 15th century. The Gypsies have lived most of their history accused of being different, non-conformists, and problematic. They have been marginalized, stereotyped, persecuted, glorified, and under-appreciated. But, no group can be lumped into one neat package. Yes, many Gypsies are fortune tellers, con artists, and thieves. If you are a tourist in Spain, you will certainly run into Gypsy women working the streets surrounding the cathedrals, offering a sprig of rosemary in exchange for a generic palm reading.

The incarceration rate for gypsies in Spain bears a resounding resemblance to the over-incarceration of African Americans in the U.S., and the exploitation of their music is textbook of how appropriation works for and against marginalized groups.

What is it about society that an other always must be identified and then oppressed? The patterns are too familiar, the coding is too conveniently universal, and the hands thrown in the air and the shoulder shrugs from those who observe from the sidelines is equally ineffectual here as there.

I do not think people opt into oppression, most are born into it and internalize it which makes it more difficult to resist.

I don’t have the facts on this, but the bit I do know is that oppression is initially met with resistance, but then lack of conformance continues to feed the otherness of the group, and it becomes convenient to isolate and then oppress. But you cannot expect a person who is exposed to daily survival such as feeding, clothing and putting a roof over a family to be much interested in conforming to a society that is intent on spinning an impenetrable web around all the bright creamy goodness in the middle.

I think most racism comes from a deep feeling of scarcity that some are born with, well that, and greed. If I take what you have, then I have more, and there is not enough to go around for both of us, so I win. I see this innate desire to not share, to think of rations as scarce even when there is clear abundance, to always be poised to compete rather than cooperate as something we are supposed to be parenting out of our children. We civilize them and help them learn that sharing is caring, there is enough for everyone if everyone takes their share, and that cooperation is more harmonious than competition.

So are those people who grow to be adults and harbor paranoia about scarcity whether it be of love, food or money, who in turn take more than their share, who do not mind winning if someone else is losing – are these people who have been poorly parented? Can you parent out the savage desire for MINE MINE MINE. Can you teach empathy or does oppression trump because it is innate?

Oppression is the oldest story in the world retold across many cultures, but what does it yield if not an abundance of haters?

I’d love to hear from you on this one. Why do you think that most societies are able to carve out a minority to target for oppression?



August 9, 2014 - 9:47 am

Rachel - S – I forgot about Aesop – good story to pass along. I do not want to say that parenting should be an exam prospective mothers and fathers should pass, because really it is a shoot from the hip as well as learning from others and books, but when I see the behavior of some people, countries, groups, I think to myself that they are behaving as if they are emotionally stunted three year olds. Thanks for your comments here. R

August 8, 2014 - 10:46 pm

Seta Majkia - You hit the nail on the head. It is GREED. As someone who works with children, we see countless examples of one child wanting to keep their possession AND the other child’s. It is why Aesop wrote the story about the dog and the piece of meat. The dog was so greedy that he couldn’t see that the “other dog” with meat was really his own reflection.

I believe good parenting can help limit this obsession with greed, even if it cannot be eradicated. When individuals can look at a group that does not look like them and NOT see an enemy or someone who would take possessions from them, we make better societies. Why? Because EVERYONE eats.

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