Friday, February 08, 2008

El Pais carried a good article on racism in Spain yesterday, headed I’m not a racist but you’re a black bastard. The writer – Daniel Borasteros – says that “Here in Spain there’s an essential explanation – deep and well-hidden – which transforms crude insults into something else”. And he quotes ‘the veteran researcher and sociologist, Juan Diez Nicolás’ as saying “It’s a question of offending, of hurting another. At heart, there’s no racism associated with this. Spain isn’t racist; all the studies prove this. It’s a lack of imagination, loutish behaviour. It’s bad, of course. But we mustn’t confuse our terms. It’s like when they call someone fat or a dwarf.” Borasteros adds that all the psychologists he consulted took this line, always stressing that “The English don’t understand this.” Or as Borasteros himself puts it sardonically - “These subtleties aren’t understood in other European countries, especially the UK.”

Not everyone in Spain thinks like this, of course, and Borasteros quotes a very different view from the President of the Campaign against Intolerance. But what are we to conclude? That what Spanish academics see as a failure of cultural understanding on the part of the British is actually a failure on the part of many Spanish to understand how most other cultures operate, even in Europe alone? Is this belief that everything goes in a ‘culture of insults’ - accompanied by the refusal or inability to recognise, never mind empathise with, the legitimate sensibilities of others - the very essence of the famed Spanish individualism? If even academics take this line, do most Spaniards really believe that they are the only ones marching to the beat of an innocuous drum and that everyone else is out of step? And fuck ‘em, if they are? If so, then with the immigrant population now at 10% of the total here, God help the future of race relations here. The Spanish appear to have learned nothing from the mistakes of both the British and French attempts to establish effective multiculturalism. Not to mention the USA.

Anyway, here's the article. And here’s a link to the site of John Chappell in Barcelona, who’s done what I intended to do for you and translated the article. Or most of it at least. And he’s added his own trenchant riposte. As he and I agreed the other day – all very depressing. So I think I’ll sign off for today as there are no smiles in this saga.

4 comments:

Xosé Manuel Carreira said...

Not in vane we Spaniards are famous for being rude compared to other Europeans.

Colin said...

Thank-you, Xose, for a mature comment. Sad but true. And I do worry that there are big problems ahead for what is currently a great place to live in. Will we see race riots within 5 years in Madrid or Barcelona? Rajoy doesn't seem to be helping matters this week, does he? I'm more Nacionalista by the day!

El Casareño Ingles said...

The problem (and it is a problem for Spain and the Spanish) is that the racism (and rudeness) is a product of ignorance which is not condemned in Spain.

Ignorance that parents condone in their kids and condemns them to poorly paid and low-skilled jobs in construction which promptly dry up when the money goes elsewhere.

The ignorance is known (see the latest Spanish education ministry reports on the subject) and is therefore the worst form of it: "I'm ignorant and I know it, but I'm not going to change".

That sort of immaturity belongs in the dustbin along with 19th century colonialism.

Anonimo said...

Colin,
since you are a non-racist Brit, I bet you will be interested in buying a great house I have. It is vey spacious and with all mod cons. These racist Spaniards are not willing to pay more that 100,000€ just because there are a lot of gipsies around, but they are lovely and cheerful people (the gipsies, I mean). I don't think the house is worth less that 300 grand. So it is a great opportunity for any non racist person.
Let me know.

P.S.
It was a great surprise to see el casareño inglés talking about ignorance, racism, immaturity and poorly paid low-skilled jobs.

I guess if we all were rocket scientists like him, he wouldn't shine over us.