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February 19, 2005

Comments

J.Cassian

It's highly unusual to see a piece about racial categories where "Caucasians" actually means people from the Caucasus instead of being a pseudo-scientific term for people with white skins whose mother tongue isn't Spanish (or whatever the latest definition is). Of course, there's a further irony in that Caucasians are commonly referred to as "blacks" ("chernie") in Russia.

Sam

I would like to know whether the African media covers Russian racism against blacks. I would think if many Africans are aware of this problem before hand, few or any would bother to study in that country. After all, studying in Russia can't offer that much of an advantage than studying in an African university.

Preston

Many foreign students are apparently reliant on outdated Soviet propaganda in selecting Russia as a place of study. The same may be true of foreign laborers as well.

"Mr. Regga, the Ethiopian refugee, says it's all a shock for someone who was initially elated to escape the troubles of his homeland. Before coming to Russia, he had read old books about the Soviet Union's tolerant atmosphere, and now says he feels deceived."
Source:
http://plato.acadiau.ca/COURSES/POLS/Grieve/3593/Russia/racism04.html

captainblak

Abiola,
Thank you for highlighting this. Like the Arabs, now I know to like the Russians from afar.

Yaroslav Bulatov

As a Russian, I feel this post generalizes unfairly, and does more harm by encouraging racism (such as exhibited by the previous comment), than good through awareness of the problem.

Russia is in the middle of a transition and turmoil: living conditions are low, crime rates are high, and we should expect to see related problems.

To generalize from current situation to the nature of Russians would be like an observer seeing discrimination against blacks in the 50's America and concluding that Americans are naturally racist, or deciding that Germans are fundamentally anti-semitic because of the Holocaust.

Pushkin, the most celebrated poet in Russia was part black, and was proud of his heritage, as you can see in his ("Arap of Peter the First"). Landau and many other widely known Russian physicists were Jewish. Host of a popular Russian talk-show "Princip Domino" is black. Those elements of Russian culture are probably not taken up by troubled youths growing up in foster homes, or in bitter families who turned to crime.

No "civillized resident" of Moscow or St.Petersburg would ever condone lynch mobs. The skinheads and the anti-semites may temporarily overshadow the civillized Russian society, but they will never become part of it.

Abiola Lapite

"To generalize from current situation to the nature of Russians would be like an observer seeing discrimination against blacks in the 50's America and concluding that Americans are naturally racist, or deciding that Germans are fundamentally anti-semitic because of the Holocaust."

Both generalizations would have been absolutely correct at the time, so I don't see how this unfairly maligns Russians.

captainblak

Yaroslav-

There's nothing you can really say when links are provided where skinheads beat up 9 y/o girls out of bigotry! There are skinheads in America but I haven't heard of them stabbing 9 y/o gals 11 times for sport. You would think the Russian government would want to crack down on groups like this!

"Russia for the Russians!" Russia is the largest nation in the world and it's population growth rate is negative!
http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/rs.html#People
When will Russia's thirst for territory end? But that's another matter altogether.

I always admired Russian spirit and have been teaching myself Russian in the last 6 months. My enthusiasm for the language has decreased considerably.

João da Costa

The biggest irony we have here is that most people with racist attitudes in former communist european countries behave in this way, partially at least, trying to emulate their racial cousins of the West. They have learnt from communist propaganda that white Westerns treat the darkies "with the stick" and in the urge to emulate them they think they should also do the same (to become true Whites or true Westerns or whatever they have in mind)!
But in the meantime they don't understand that racist attitudes are not more "en vogue" in the West today!
I also believe that "normal" people (with family, with a job, etc) do not engage in such activities.
But the bottom line is: it depends on them to push the criminal elements of society to its margins!

Yaroslav Bulatov

Dear Abiola

My examples weren't controversial enough. A better example of a similar reasoning would to make conclusions about whole black race based on black crime statistics.

If we look at FBI violent crime statistics, we will see that blacks are overrepresented. To take those statistics and make broad conclusions about the fundamental nature of blacks, would be fallacious.

The similarity here is that this kind of reasoning ignores other time-dependent factors, such as economic development and general political environment, and jumps straight to broad generalizations about race or nation. Another similarity is that this kind of argument encourages racism.

Yes, there are certain racist elements in Russia. For instance leader of the LDPR and Vice Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky is widely known to make racist remarks and propose anti-Jewish policies (all the more ironic given that he is half-Jewish). However, his political success is more due to the reaction of uneducated elements to suddent economic decline, rather than inherent racism on the part of Russians, stretching back to the Mongol invasions. He is ridiculed by the educated masses, and represents a passing phenomenon.

If Russians are inherently racist, how could they peacefully coexist in the same country with 100 other ethnicities between WWII and Perestroyka?

Abiola Lapite

"My examples weren't controversial enough. A better example of a similar reasoning would to make conclusions about whole black race based on black crime statistics."

Bullshit. When you can show me 60% of black Americans committing crimes, *then* you'll have a leg to stand on. The fact of the matter is that the original examples you chose are *perfectly* parallel to what Russia is today - societies in which racism runs rampant and completely unchecked by the authorities.

"If Russians are inherently racist, how could they peacefully coexist in the same country with 100 other ethnicities between WWII and Perestroyka?"

Maybe all those other ethnicities didn't find said coexistence as peaceful as all that, explaining why they broke away as soon as they could? Besides, it hardly takes much tolerance to be too scared of being hauled away by the KGB to beat up your neighbors.

The statistics are unambiguous: based on what they themselves have admitted in surveys, the *great majority* of Russians are deeply racist, not just a few marginal individuals, and anybody who is darker than the average Russian has every reason to fear for his life in a country in which the police don't give a damn about attacks on foreigners.

Finally, let me add that all this "inherently" business on your part is nothing but a straw man. I don't care whether or not Russian racism is "inherent", but that it exists, as that is what matters. What cannot be argued is that said racism has roots that go beyond just unemployment, poverty and the like, as Russia is far from being the only country in the world suffering from such problems, nor even the amongst the worst sufferers.

Chuckles

Well this isnt new. It has been going on for some time.

Anyhow; what continues to puzzle me is the deference Africans treat white people etc in African countries - even prefering them above their own citizens; vis-a-vis the treatment Africans receive in foreign countries.
What happened to the lessons of many centuries learned?
I mean, this is only too clear at Accra Airport and Murtala Mohmd airport in Lagos.

I am an eye for an eye person myself. Give me reciprocity or give me death. Of course, this might be intensely unpragmatic with regards to the African condition; given deficits of Political Power and Economy. Still, I see no reason why there isnt a more concerted effort on behalf of the educational systems in Africa to sensitize the students in this regard; so they know exactly what *box* to place foreigners in.
Many an African student has told me that he/she knew nothing about Racism until he/she traveled to the West! And this is a region of the world with one of the most brutal colonial Histories. Highly unfortunate.
But Abiola is in fact correct. Xenophobic and Illiberal Russia has nothing to offer to the rest of the world, least of all Africa. Which makes you wonder about the dalliances of Nkrumah et al with the various Communist regimes in that country.

Yaroslav Bulatov

Dear Abiola

My comments were more focused on the impact of the phrasing, rather than the raw facts.

For example, we can look at the descriptions of widespread inter-group racism in Africa detailed in "Africans and Racism in the New Millennium. By: Ojo-Ade, Femi. Journal of Black Studies, Nov2001, Vol. 32 Issue 2", and publically conclude that blacks are a "xenophobic and illiberal race", but what good would such a characterization do?

I think captainblak's comment ("thanks abiola...like the Arabs, now I know to like the Russians from afar") is a good example of the kind of xenophobia and intolerance that such commentary promotes.

Chuckles

Intergroup Racism? Thats an interesting creature. A fabulous one no doubt.

It is precisely constructs like inter-group Racism, scare-quoted Racism etc etc that distract from the real and pressing matter occassioned by the genuine article.

Where does one draw the line? I hate my Uncle - So that's Racism? No doubt there is friction among African ethnies; but that friction isnt Racism.

And the commentaries arent the one's promoting Xenophobia and Intolerance. Is it to hard to consider that the actions of Russian society itself might be the culprit here?

Frankly, I wish every African would share CBs sentiments.

Yaroslav Bulatov

Racism is not a color of skin but a social construct, and arguably, racial frictions between people of the same skin color are a greater problem than the "standard" white/black racism in countries such as US and Russia.

Some examples are Chinese and Malays in Malaysia, North and South Sudanese, and Tutsis and Hutus of Rwanda.

"In Burundi and Rwanda, despite the fact that the two groups share skin color, language, religion and names, variations in height, body structure and nose shape are used to establish difference." -- Racism and Public Policy; International Conference Report 3-5 September 2001, Durban, South Africa

This racism erupted in Burundi in 1972 killing 100-150 thousand (mostly Hutus) and again in 1994 in Rwanda killing 800,000 (mostly Tutsis).

Certainly not a "toy issue" to distract from real stuff!

Chuckles

I disagree.

Where exactly do you draw the line then? Blue State Racism against Red State rednecks? Red State racism against Blue State Liberals?

Where do you draw the line?

In what little sojourn I have in this field, I have found that it is this kind of excuse making that obstructs the much needed work of social progress.

Racism - is not cheap hatred, or cheap bigotry, or ethnic prejudice or ethnocentrism.

I daresay Genghis Khan wasnt Racist, yet he probably committed (with the aid of his offspring) the worst concerted acts of slaughter in Human history before Hitler.

Was Alexander the Great a Racist? I would hesitate to call him one. But such obfuscation and finger pointing has become the order of the day; thanks of course, to the frauds on the Right who parade themselves as "Historians" and "Intellectuals".

The examples you mention above arent examples of Racism, as I see it. If they were, we throw the door open to the obscurantist position that "we are all Racists" and "everybody is a Racist" and "Racism has been a part of Human History since Adam" etc etc etc. This is surely wrong.

So tell me Yaroslav, when the Northerners fought the Southern States in the American civil war, it was because Abe Lincoln was a Racist, against his Southern brethren, heh?

Hatred is not equal to the presupposition of Intrinsic inferiority. I may for all, hate the ways and manners and customs of the village over yonder - but the notion of Inferiority by Nature - which is the calling card of Racism, Racists and their ilk is something that I would not hesitate to say is unique to the Occident.

Yorubas may well detest the Hausas, yet the intermarry, and one may be Hausa today and Yoruba the next. All that is required is a mastery of customs, of language and a change is name.

Igbos may well detest the Yoruba, yet they intermarry, do business together and there is free social mobility between the ethnic classes.

You dont have this in Racism. WHY?

Because Racists hold, that the differences in Human societies and Human persons are configured into the very nature - either by God, by Genetics, by Evolution etc and hence the Gap is unbridgeable.

Thus, we can a monkey to play the Piano, but that doesnt make it Human.

That is the fundamental ideas propelling Racists - even though I concede that it manifests itself in different forms.

There are for instance, Gentelmanly Racists, like Thomas Dixon who claimed to love Blacks just like he loved his own Dog (which he in fact did).
There are condescending Racists and there are violent ones.
There are Racists who believe in their Power to change Human nature and make Blacks become white. All kinds of Racists abound; but the fundamental idea propels - There is a problem with the NATURE of the Other. Not just the behaviour.

The point is that not all social conflict occurs because of Racism and not all social conflict is proof of Racism.


Andrew

"Because Racists hold, that the differences in Human societies and Human persons are configured into the very nature - either by God, by Genetics, by Evolution etc and hence the Gap is unbridgeable."

Indeed; but that doesn't disprove the idea that racism is a social construct. The point is that the very notion that differences between groups are innate and unalterable is a social construct. Medieval anti-Semitism was based on religion alone (mostly), but in the 19th century it became racialized, so that most anti-Semites believed that Jews were racially different, unalterably distinct from Germans/Poles/Lithuanians/etc. I would call that racism, even if very few people today would characterize Jews as a distinct "race."

So, if the Abe Lincoln in the US Civil War truly believed that Southerners were a different "race," that a Southerner was innately and unalterably different from a Northerner by nature, and that Southerners were racially inferior to Northerners - then, yes, you would say he was racist against Southerners. Obviously, he believed none of those things, which is why we don't think Lincoln was racist against Southerners.

Still, I would agree that conflicts between Chinese and Malays, Hutus and Tutsis, etc are more properly described as ethnic conflicts, not examples of racism. Racism seems to me a pretty specific, modern phenomenon, associated with a whole host of pseudoscientific ideas, that entrenches and reifies ethnic differences.

Jim

There is a difference between normal and frequently horrible ethnic animosity and out-and-out racism. Racism does seem modern. The 19th century seems to be where writers started coming up with all these racial classifications. It is as if Europeans were groping for some explanation for their success at colonizing the whole world. It looks like a witch's brew of fashionable theories - an crude understanding of genetics, ignorance of the full histories of peoples they were encountering and the need to justify their inhumane methods. It sure seems to follow this path in America, as a way to justify slavery.

Yaroslav Bulatov

Chuckles -- The examples I gave were taken from "Racism and Public Policy; International Conference Report 3-5 September 2001, Durban, South Africa." People at the conference obviously thought that friction between Hutus/Tutsis and North/South Sudanese were instances of racism.

You may have your own definition of "racism", but I don't see why I should believe you over the RaPP folks :)

By the way, I put the report in publically accessible place: http://web.engr.oregonstate.edu/~bulatov/quarantine/racism.html

Kamilia

Hmm, too bad. I'm spending a great deal of money and time and effort learning the Russian language. I greatly respected the country's hsitroy and literature but I have a hard time accepting the primitve racism of the average Russian. I have to say my ardor has been greatly diminished.

Mugabwe

And so it should be, Karmilia. Russians are nothing but racist pigs and are bitter because they live in such a shit hole.

They can't even control their own country..

Sergey Alekseyev

Lol :) Funny to see this in a Google search on you Yaroslav ^-^ It's pointless to discuss politics and interracial issues with most random web people like here, they just have zero clue what they are talking about :)

I used to argue with people on politics-forum.com a few years ago, but gave up at some point. You have to explain too much for them to even understand your point of view, and you have to do it all over in the next thread - which is a waste of time.

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