Why is Europe racist? Is a question often asked to me, whenever I visit home in India, by my family and friends. Especially because, since the year 2000 I have lived out of India and have worked and lived in more than 15 countries, around the world, and now that I live and work from Poland, its probably easy for my colleagues to ask me, after gathering insights from the global media.
Although the term racism usually denotes race-based prejudice, violence, dislike, discrimination, or oppression, the term can also have varying and contested definitions. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, racism is a belief or ideology that all members of each racial group possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another racial group or racial groups.
I do not think that, only Europe is racist. Because, I have felt this very wave in many other countries, where I have lived and worked, during this last decade. Starting from my very own country, India. Where every state seems to believe that, they are more superior than the other and, our so called political rulers, use this very thread, as a weapon, to gain sympathy from the locals of their state, to win votes for elections. For e.g. a few months ago, I gathered from an online media, that the ruling party of Maharashtra, started what they called 'Maharashtra for Marathies' and all others are outsiders, who come and take away the jobs of the locals. With 'others', they had probably meant, Sikhs, Bengalies, South Indians, Biharies, Marwaries, Gujrathies, Assamese etc. or in simple words, people from all other states of India.
I was born in Calcutta, which is now, addressed as Kolkata, as a Sikh and we have often heard the Bengalies say, that, "Bengal is for Bengalies", all others should leave Bengal. Once again, with all 'others', they had probably mean, Sikhs, Bengalies, South Indians, Biharies, Marwaries, Gujrathies, Assamese etc. or in simple words, people from all other states of India. A very similar such wave is probably in every state of India. Not to mention the extreme riots which had happened occasionally, leading into innocent killing and rape of women by men openly in the streets. Just one such example would be of the riots during 1984, on Sikhs, after the assassination of the then Prime Minister.
India, if we were to see our history, was never united together as one, rather, divided into small kingdoms. Most of the Indians or these Kingdomes were hindus or, a few even Buddhists followers too! No wonder, first the Mughals, hundreds of years ago, saw an opportunity to rule over the Indian Kings. They (Mughals) not only converted few Indians, either by force or by other means for e.g marriage etc. as part of their religious laws, or cultural beliefs and traditions, but also took our land and ruled upon us. Then, we had the British who saw a similar opportunity and, by using their 'divide and rule policy', could rule all over India for more than 300 years. Probably and because, even during that period, there was a wave of racism in India. One Kingdom, looked upon the other as more superior and thus, wanted to rule, instead to work together as one. Had we united ourselves then, today we would be indeed the most power country, united together as one and, striving to develop our economy by producing world class products and services. But all said and done, are we united today as one?
This reminds me of my meeting with Maria, a Polish by birth and psychologist by profession, in Warsaw. After a few talks, she gently asked me, why am I in Poland, when India itself is an emerging economy, so why am I not living and working in India. It took me a moment to figure out her speech and without even thinking twice, I told her, why is that, there are Poles spread all around West Europe, with that I meant, countries like Germany (especially, because 3 of the finest players in the German soccer team are from Poland), The Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and even Italy, add to that, countries like UK and even USA; whereas Poland is one of the fastest growing economies in the EU?
To this, she was absolutely shocked and silent, because, probably, she was not expecting such a bold reply, and that too from an immigrant like me. And moreover, it is absolutely true, that today, Poles are almost in every country in West Europe, and, I had not mentioned other Countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but I assume its understood though! Further I had mentioned, that because Poles are leaving their country to go and seek for opportunities and work abroad, that creates a space or an opportunity for other immigrants to come and work here, in Poland and, contribute to the growth of your country. And according to a recent census there is indeed a demand for skilled workers in Poland already, so if Poland cannot provide this demand with its own citizens, it will have to import immigrants in order to supply to this demand and thus, work towards making Poland a developed nation. I guess my answer was too hard on her that she just walked out of the pub! Of course she had paid for her drink.
Earlier, I was in Suriname for around 3 years of my career, although I was traveling around The Caribbean with my work. Suriname, a country in South America and part of the free trade agreement with The Caribbean, ideally once belonged to the Amer-Indians or also address as Red-Indians. Suriname was explored and ruled by the English and as well as the Dutch, who further, imported both legal immigrants (those who had their rights to work, with a salary and benefits) and as well slaves from Africa (all those who were forced to work without salaries and any benefits) in the sugarcane and banana plantations. Of course, when slavery was abolished, these slaves were set free, to chose and live their own life style. While the Indians from India, worked hard in the fields and developed their businesses, many of these slaves, chose to life a free life because they believed that, since their parents and or grand parents were forced to work as slaves, therefore, they might consider to not work at all, rather, live a free life.
Now over these years, what has resulted is, the Indian community in Suriname, also known as the Hindoestanies, have most of the business and also work hard in their fields, both rice & banana plantations, while these African immigrants, also called as blacks, do not have their majority in the business, so often they are the ones who have their hands into crimes such as drugs, prostitution etc. this has drawn harsh lines in the community. These african immigrants now often talk about, all others to leave Suriname, because they feel that it is their land, as their great grand parents were there, first as slaves for work, while the Indians arrived only later, to work. But they never want to comment on the facts that, these Indians have worked hard to the developing of the country and contribute to the growth! Whereas, most of their race is into drugs, prostitution or, even if they do try to start a business, they fail because probably they lack the skills or patience, because, no business can yield returns the first month. Sometimes it can take long, months, or even years! This thought however, is now creating that racist wave in Suriname. More examples would be taken from the facts that even the medical profession in Suriname is often challenged between skilled Indian doctors and specialists, who are often competing with un-skilled doctors and specialist of the other race. A similar trend is in Guyana, the neighboring country to Suriname and, as well in Trinidad and other Caribbean countries too.
While not much is mentioned about the racist waves in these countries on global news, probably because they are small countries, under developed or developing nations with population often way below a million. Therefore, most of the world, does not know about the happenings in these small countries.
Our media channels often talk about the developed nations, where every individual, if given a chance would want to immigrate and work for a better life. Some examples of such developed countries would be like UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand, especially because their national language is English, which is widely spoken by many other countries, as part of their national or even first language or as part of their second language. Europe too, is attractive for immigrants, especially countries like Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, because they are also developed, but maybe not very attractive probably because their national language is not English, rather, each country has its own language and often a challenge to master for those who have an English back ground. Therefore, probably this could be a reason why these countries are on the second option list, for immigration.
However, after the second world war, Europe strategized plans to develop itself and needed labor to construct their countries. Not having enough in their own homeland, they imported from Morocco and Turkey and even few other countries, especially those, who they had once ruled, for e.g. Netherlands brought in immigrants from Indonesia, and even Suriname. Over these years, although all these immigrants have now become citizens of their respective countries and share equal rights as those of the Europeans, however, some of them have also started imposing their religious laws and believes upon these European countries.
Some even going beyond to highlight how dirty the European culture is, when it comes to couples staying together without a marriage and even having children without being married, nudity in their style of wearing clothes and nude beaches etc. etc. etc. and we could go on with more examples. Ideally, it is non of our business (with 'our' I mean, we immigrants who were born in any country other than any of the European countries and, have a different religion & cultural belief other than the Europeans). If the Europeans are happy the way they are living, let them be happy. If we are not happy with this, then either we should decide to move out of Europe or, we can continue to live in Europe, while accept their lifestyle, and impose our religious rules, and traditional and cultural beliefs into our own homes and families and not on the other Europeans.
It is only when we start pushing or enforcing our religious laws, cultural beliefs and traditions to the Europeans, matters start to get at its worst. Because the Europeans have lived out of this stage and are now much more advanced, to where they want to explore their life even further ahead. Whereas, probably, we are still living in the old age, from where we are governed by our religious laws, and cultures & traditional beliefs! The Europeans do not ask us to follow their lifestyle, or they do not enforce their religious laws and cultural beliefs and or their traditions on us, therefore, why should we try doing it to them?
Therefore, looking into these small facts and figures, it is but natural for a handful few Europeans, to feel racist against all those immigrants, who have now been residents or even citizens in their respective countries. And refuse to accept them (Europeans and their lifestyles) rather try bringing a change in their lifestyle and culture. The worst is, when we (immigrants) go to their country, ask for asylum, for whatever reason we give and then once accepted, refuse to work but instead live on their tax money, while the Europeans have to work for a salary and pay taxes etc. and then add to that, a few try to bring about a change in their lives, by enforcing their religious laws, and cultural beliefs and traditions.
Just give it a though, if I come to you crying and saying I do not have a place to stay, and am under threat from my government, please let me share a room in your house and slowly when things get better in my life, I will move out ... and you do give me that opportunity; and thats when I start to live on your money, dictate my terms, as to what you should wear, because if you were to wear a mini skirt, my cultural beliefs are hurt, or what you should eat, because, if you were to eat a kind of food, which is not accepted by my beliefs, it hurst me, what time you should sleep or till how long you should party or what kind of a party you should have, because, my sleep is disturbed and, I do not like your partying style or with a kind of music which is disturbing to me, or, I do not like the drinks you drink ... how will you feel and, long will you tolerate me?
As long as immigrants who live in European countries, socialize with others in the community and accept and respect every person and culture and race, Europe can be a nice place to live and Europeans can be lovely too. Whereas, if a few immigrants were to continue to enforce their religious laws and cultural believes and traditions and or even refuse to socialize with people of the other race and community and religious believes, refuse to respect others, matters will remain the same or might even get at its worst.
I meet many people, while traveling around with my work and most of them sympatise with the weak or those who are suffering; sympathy will never help us solve a problem, it might win us a few friends, but, by sympathizing we clearly over look the facts which actually lead a situation into a bigger problem! What we should do instead, is look at these facts and figures and check what is it, that has lead a situation into a problem and then, look for a solution instead. Every country probably has a racist air, its just that, often we over look it, especially if it is in our own country and amongst ourselves. Its easy to blame others, while, a challenge to accept our faults and our failures. The day we accept our faults and promise to work on them, this world will indeed be a better place to live.
Contributed by: Mohinder Pal Singh
Date: March 24, 2010