Friday, June 30, 2006

Racist me? No!

Well, i'm getting the habit of blogging about non FLOSS things, this is about this morning discussion with a woman on the underground.

So that's the situation:
* I get though the entrance, a woman does too, two north-african get throught the entrance without paying
* Woman says "Here in Spain we do pay for the service!" in very loud voice
* The north africans think its better saying nothing and just continue their way
* i have a "Let's improve the world" feeling and try to argue with the woman
* "That was a bit of racist comment, don't you think?"
* "Racist? Me? No! What bothers me is that they are no paying!"
* "Yeah, that's what you said in Spain right?"
* "I did not even look at their faces!"
* "Come on, if it had been me you would have also said in Spain..."
* "Well, really i wanted to inform them, maybe they don't know..."
* "You really think they are utterly stupid and don't know they have to pay?"

And some more strange things she said i don't completely remember.

Maybe the woman does not want to be racist, but her subconscious is, maybe only a bit, but...

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh my god...

Racist? Come on, guy...

Anonymous said...

Hum, after all she told 2 people not paying for a ride that this is illegal

And of course their color has been noticed so she said "here in spain"

But, how do you know she wouldn't have done the same when there were 2 white guys, maybe without the "here in spain" ....

You somehow accuse her just telling "black people" that this is a crime...

So also you prejudge this woman even though she had the courage to speak up against them what you didn't ...

I don't know how exactly the situation looked, but with this behavior you do more annoy people then to think about it

Anonymous said...

I don't know...

"Here in Canada, we pay for the service."

"Here in Boston, we pay for the service."

Strikes me as more anti-tourist than racist. But perhaps I'm naive.

Anonymous said...

¡Se te ha ido un poco la almendra!

Anonymous said...

Curious - you're more concerned with a Spaniard uttering what you perceive to be a racially tinged remark than you are about two people getting on the metro without paying (from the way you've written your post it seems that you acknowledge that that is what they did and does not seem to be in dispute). Very curious.

Ultimately, the only one who is affected by her choice of words is her, but the actions of the two men who didn't pay indirectly affect all metro users. Like I said, your choice of what to be concerned about is rather curious. Perhaps it is you who is acting racially - maybe you expect better behaviour from a Spaniard than from North Africans...

Anonymous said...

Come on... racist... it's common sense... I would've told anybody who went threw and didn't pay:
"Excuse me, please pay"
Just because someone is black or white or whatever color skin or race, it doesn't give them the right to break the law.

Ian Monroe said...

I'm surprised by the comments your getting. Its clearly racist. Now, if she had said something to that effect to me (an American) I wouldn't have assumed xenophobia, but just that she was annoyed at the punk tourist. In the hypothetical situation, her saying "here in Spain" highlights the fact that I'm visiting her country. Which is true, I'm really not a Spaniard.

So when she said "here in Spain" to the black guys its denying that they're Spanish. Quintessential racism.

Anonymous said...

That's certainly setting the bar awfully low for what racism is, so low that racism suddenly becomes a term that describes innocuous behavior, and waters down the word so that it's no longer something to be terribly concerned about.

I always associated racism with people who assumed negative characteristics of people because they were of a different race, not someone who made remarks based on someone's actions. "Here in Spain" says nothing of their race, and simply indicates that she saw that they were not from Spain. And the fact that she saw they weren't from Spain doesn't mean she merely saw that they had a different skin tone. I know that when I was in Germany, I was spotted immediately as an American, despite wearing clothes that I bought in Germany, the fact that I'm half German myself, and that I hadn't uttered a single word which might have revealed my horrible accent. My British friend who spoke much better German than I noticed the same thing.

Racism wouldn't have even crossed my mind if I walked across a crosswalk while it was red in Germany, and someone had come to me and stated, "Here in Germany, we actually obey the crosswalk lights." In America, we certainly don't, and such a statement would have simply pointed out a different accepted behavior in the area. I know in Italy they don't exactly obey traffic lights like most of us do in America, and such statements of "here in (insert country)" merely state cultural practices and say nothing of race.

From reading your description, it seems that you were certainly more sanctimonious than she was racist, and that you were either assuming the worst from her, or noticing other behavior that you didn't describe in your post.

Anonymous said...

* "Well, really i wanted to inform them, maybe they don't know..."
* "You really think they are utterly stupid and don't know they have to pay?"

Sometimes in different countries, people don't feel as strongly about certain laws as they do elsewhere. I certainly couldn't say with any confidence that every single place on earth looks down upon freeloaders of the metro with equal disdain. That's quite a convenient assumption for you to make, that this women must have known that everywhere on earth paying for public transit must have equal importance as it does in Spain, but without that assumption, you don't get the chance to chastise the wrong person in an effort to prove your moral superiority.

Anonymous said...

Nothing more annoying than people passing by behind you in stations without paying as you have been paying your ticket... I like when there are policemen after the exit.

I never successed in blocking the guy in the doors but I'd like to... any good technique is welcome :D

Anonymous said...

It's clearly racist. She assumes all blacks are foreigners, that they all have some African tribe to go back to. That's not what she saying, but it's clear she doesn't even think about the possibility that they are not foreigners or tourists. I think this is a problem everywhere in Europe. While there are racial tensions in the US as well, at least everyone knows "African Americans" are not Africans, but Americans from African descent.

I witnessed an incident in Brussels two days ago in a black neighbourhood. A white woman who was very upset about something was yelling at a black person, and she said: "Vous êtes noire et vous êtes raciste!" (You're black and you're racist.) I thought that was very racist of her, even though it's possible she had good reasons to be upset. It's as if she thinks that racism may be really bad for a white person, but completely laughable for a black person, because, well, he's black...

Lillo said...

Here in Barcelona, over 95% people I've ever seen gettin in the underground (or RENFE) without paying were SPANISH teenagers.

Foreign people use to pay. So, I think a more accurate sentence would be: "Here, in Spain, even spaniards don't always pay for the service".

Anonymous said...

It's definately not racist - countryist and nationalistic maybe (-;

Anonymous said...

Since in my opinion public transport should be free for all (because you pay already for it with your taxes) the most disgusting thing about this whole situation would have been that this woman was chatting up the freeloaders.

Someone who's not brave enough to take direct action and dodge the fare should just shut up.

Anonymous said...

Since when assuming that someone is a stranger is a sign of racism? Are you sure you really know what racism is? Could it be, perhaps, that you were just irked because the woman had the daring of reminding people that they should pay for the ride? Do you pay for your ride or are you just one more freeloader?

Anonymous said...

I think this is not an example of racism, but of the more general xenophobia that hides in all of us. 'Here in Boston, we pay for the service' is similarly inspired: we are all raised with the idea that we and our direct peers set the standard and people that misbehave must be foreign to our culture.

Brcha said...

I've seen on some blogs that in France and in Spain they call certain people "North Africans", the same way as they say in the US ("African Americans") for black people. I would just want to ask you to define "North Africans". As far as I know, the majority of people in North Africa (Mediterranean see) are Arabs, not black people. So, my question is: Are "North Africans" black people or Arabs?

And, as for the racist comment of the lady in the metro: I don't think she is a racist. She is probably just a xenophobe. But not the racist. The racist would say something like "go to Africa and don't pay for the metro there (if you have a metro, that is)". The "here in Spain" term looks like a racist remark, but I'd probably think of it as just a remark. Do you really think that she wouldn't notice that people are not from her country because they are white as well as she is? Of course, it is much easier to notice a white foreigner in Kongo, or a black foreigner in Finland, but it also isn't all that hard to see that someone is a foreigner even if he has the same skin, eye, hair, etc color as most of the domestic people.

morph said...

just to explain the meaning of north african

actually north african means people from algeria, tunisia and morroco the population are mainly white execpt for the people living in sahara part of those countries,

and we can be easly distinguished by the language,

Anonymous said...

It's pretty hard to say whether she was racist or not.

See, "Here in Spain we do pay for the service (unlike whatever part of the world you come from, where everyone is probably a freeloader)" = xenophobic but NOT racist.

However, "Here in Spain we do pay for the service (so go back to Morocco, you illiterate thieving sandmonkey)" = racist.

No way to really tell which version she meant unless you could read her mind.

That being said, even if she was racist, I applaud her actions. Assholes who don't pay for public transport are raising taxes for everyone else, and should be shamed publically.

Anonymous said...

I think that to even be thinking about whether she was racist or not was missing the point, which was that they were evading their fare. "Here in spain" could be supplemented for any number of other similar comment that all mean "oi, pay your fare like everyone else".

What you've done is part of a big problem with modern life, you're ignoring the real problem to argue on a trivial/philosophical point.

Ever thought of becoming a lawyer ?

Anonymous said...

Racism is about prejudice. It would have been racist for her to simply assume that they hadn't paid because of their skin color. However, they actually didn't pay, so an adminition was in order.

And BTW, assuming that somebody is not a local based on hair or skin color is is actually something that makes sense in countries that don't have migratory background (i.e. anywhere else than the US). I would not expect to be taken as a Spaniard in Spain. Wrong ethnicity. That's not racism, that's common sense, statistics, call it what you will.

It only becomes racism if you think somebody is a lesser person because of his/her ethnicity.

Anonymous said...

Addendum to the above: If you feel that thinking that somebody isn't Spanish is thinking less of that person, you're nationalistic.

Max Howell said...

I can easily imagine myself saying "Here in Britain we..." to people who clearly look British.

The implication is that they are acting like foreigners, so I'll treat them like foreigners.

I feel you are being a little presumptuous to shout racism, and also I agree with the guy who questioned that you think mild-racism is worse than freeloading, frankly.

Also even if she acknowledged they weren't spanish, perhaps she thought they were tourists, which makes in xenophobia. But is xeonphobia more acceptable? Or is it just that racism has a greater social-stigma?

Anonymous said...

"Here in Britain (or in U.S.A. too) we used to shot down people whit dark skin"

jasampler said...

I've found this very interesting, so I published the text in my blog, translated to spanish by me. It will sound a little weird for you, since the real words could be different from those I've been selected, but could be interesting, anyway. Thank you. Tell me your opinion.

Anonymous said...

A bit of humour is in order. Many years ago (I'm quite older than Albert), when Spain was a poor country and there were no foreign immigration I saw a cartoon by a famous Catalan cartoonist, Jaume Perich.

A guy says to another "Here in Spain we are not racists. Proof is that we treat black people as human beings and not as gypsies".

Anonymous said...

Two people fail to pay ...
... woman points it out ...

You berated the woman?

Giacomo said...

Ffirst let me point out that a previous commenter was wrong: north-africans are usually MUSLIMS, not ARABS, the two concept are quite different -- "arabs" refer to people and tribes from the arabic peninsula, that is not part of Africa. You can certainly insult many north-african people (berber Moroccans, Algerians, even Iranians, etc) calling them "arabs".
(and if you are thinking "excuse me, they all have towels on their heads" you are wrong again, since in Morocco they use the "fes" cap or simply the top of their djabala/"jedi outfit"...)

This said, of course the woman was being subtly racist. But I'm afraid that the two black people should have paid the ticket. They will always be kept to a higher standard in life, this is called "being a minority" -- you get all the obligations of the majority and none of the tolerance for unlawful behaviour. Ask the Italians in northern europe, or the old Irish in the US, or the Jews anywhere. Life is tough if you are an immigrant.