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.