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RACISM IN SPAIN March 22, 2011

Posted by cristobalgomez in Uncategorized.

It is appropriate this week of March 21, when the UN instituted the International Day Against Racism recalling its victims, whether they be victims of discrimination, hate, or violence, to remember that our country is not making sufficient progress in the face of this scourge. It is demonstrated in official international reports that insist on the lack of recognition of the problem, on the lack of official statistics about racist and xenophobic incidents, and of reports and legal actions against hate crime. Some months before, the European Council signaled that a low number of sentences could be an indicator not only of victims’ fear of retaliation, but also of a lack of confidence to report to the police and legal agents or an insufficient awareness.


Recently the group of independent experts which supervises the application of the UN’s International Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination described the existing Spanish regulations relative to foreign women who suffer abuse and do not have their documentation in order as discriminatory and requested that the Government revise the Immigration Law to end their lack of protection. The fact is that it also happens to victims of racist violence because, in the event that they do not have “papers,” they tend to prefer not to report rather than suffer deportation. A more than truthful hypothesis that we have been able to prove.


Nevertheless, tranquility overwhelms our institutions, in comparison to Germany, which recognizes more than 20,000 crimes of racism and intolerance, Great Britain with more than 60,000 incidents, or the investigations of the European Agency of Fundamental Rights which indicates several million incidents in the EU; in Spain it appears that the problem scarcely affects us, or at least that is what those who do not respond to the data requirements of these organizations would suggest. Furthermore, the UN has asked the government to eradicate the identification checkpoints for immigrants on the basis of ethnic or racial criteria in neighborhood with a high concentration of foreigners and to guarantee the proper function of the Internment Centers, remembering that illegal immigrants who serve 60 days of internment in these centers remain on the streets with an order for deportation, in a situation where they are extremely vulnerable to abuse and discrimination.


Socially, while the surveys denote a latent growth of intolerance, prejudices, and contrary attitudes toward immigration and toward our main ethnic minority, the Gypsy community, our fellow citizens are not aware of the racist behaviors that dwell among us. Many consider immigration to be “excessive” and a waste of resources, forgetting that immigrants create wealth, and so create an exclusive identity which denies cultural and religious rights to those who are different. They normalize the rejection of Moroccans, the marginalization of Gypsies, superiority toward blacks, phobia of Muslims, anti-Semitic reproach, and in a context of crisis and a convulsed world, an attitude of “Spanish first,” saving for another time the principle of equal treatment. Ah! But no, we are not racist.


On various occasions these international groups have demanded that xenophobic websites be shut down, but over 400 of the thousands available on the Internet originate in Spain. They also demand the illegalization of racist organizations, but here we have xenophobic parties who demonstrate with no problem. They demand that we legally punish incitement to hate, but in our country dozens of neo-Nazi concerts take place with no penalties. They demand that we remove symbols of this type from soccer fields, but here the ultras groups persist despite their legal prohibition. They also remind us that our legal cases must conform to the requirements of the EU Framework Decision against Racism, but our penal code has yet to do this. They urge development of effective instruments for prosecution, but we only have two Public Prosecutors for hate crimes in Barcelona and Madrid. And of course they recommend “intensive training in human rights” for government officials, especially security officers in charge of applying the law.


These groups do not forget to demand attention for victims and support for their associations; to ask for a responsible use of the media, with the goal of avoiding the spread of speech inciting hatred; and revision of the process of admission to public and private schools to guarantee an equal distribution of students of all ethnicity, avoiding segregation. They also remind us of the dangers of xenophobic populism in times of electoral confrontation, and the threat of the growing neo-fascist identity in Europe; shown in a recent survey which indicates a growing Marine Le Pen presence in France, the ultra-right emergence in Sweden, and the force of the feared Hungarian Jobbit, as some of the faces of the European xenophobic tsunami.


In conclusion, on a day of fighting such as today, it is necessary to remember our commitment against racism, to remember the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King, Jr., and to remember that when we moved, although “we all might have come in different boats, now we are all in the same boat.”


Esteban Ibarra

President of Movement against Intolerance




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