racism, coming to a continent near you

angry little skinhead
Originally uploaded by zepplin.

European racism is something I’m largely ignorant about, and was the last thing on my mind as I rode the FIFA 2006 goodwill wave.

Some Finnish skinheads knocked me off that groove an hour ago when they decided to chase down an Indian friend of mine who’s visiting there for an academic conference.

Which is an entirely self centered way of putting the following: my friend Nina and her friends were accosted at a nightclub tonight for having the nerve to be brown skinned and breathing in Scandinavia. Some young skinheads wanted to feel big. Bald ponces!

She’s alright, they’re checking into the whereabouts of another friend that was traveling separately, hoping that he didn’t run into similar trouble.

UPDATE: They’re on their way to Helsinki now, which will supposedly be safer for them. More cosmopolitan and open minded about foreigners. Didn’t have a chance to ask her about the friend traveling on his own.

Since a friend of mine was made to fear for her life and is now afraid to leave her hotel until she can return to the states, and because I can’t do anything to help her or her friends from across the pond, it appears I’ll rant for a bit, try and find some lesson to learn.

This incident points out to me that I need to be more aware of the racist fog that seems to be rolling over Europe. I’ve hard tell of a rise in antisemitism, anti-muslim hate crimes, race riots in France, and a rise in white supremacist activities, but I tend to think of racism as a white American problem. It seemed like an illusory sort of thing, and despite my midwest centrist stereotypes of racism as an old problem, the face of european racism is young and it’s violent. Much as I fear it is here. (You may notice that the skinheads in the photo above are from Californa, photographed trying to interrupt an antiwar vigil.)

We all have to be on our guard. Like any other weed, racism can (and likely will) grow everywhere if we aren’t careful to stop it. It’s as true in Europe as it is here in the states. Many Germans, Poles, Czechs, Bosnians, and Serbs understand too well the dire consequences of being on either side of racist action.

While I’m concerned about European trends right now, it’s in the states that I’ll have the most influence. I can rage all I want about racism somewhere else, but it’s here that I’ll be able to see the shoots rise from the ground and stamp them out before they choke people’s natural affection.

I just hope that as I see the shoots peer out I’ll do enough to help people keep the weed from taking root. I hope even more that I’ll keep myself free of its canker.


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Filed under culture, politics

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