Monday, November 26, 2007

What is an immigrant’s life worth?

Exactly one month ago, I wrote about problems with racism in Spain. Since that time, a lot has happened to demonstrate the rising tide of racist attitudes in Spain. Unfortunately, a lot of the activity has been – literally – at my very doorstep.

Fifteen days ago, a 16-year-old Spanish boy was killed by a neo-Nazi skinhead in the metro that lies just 30 seconds from my apartment building. The boy who was killed was a Redskin (the Redskins look remarkably like skinheads but are anti-fascist, anti-racist, and generally opposed to all of the ideals of the skinheads). He and several of his Redskin friends were on their way to protest an anti-immigration neo-Nazi rally being held in the neighborhood just next to mine. They happened to coincide with a Skinhead in the metro, and a fight broke out that left this kid dead and several people injured.

The boy’s death has caused the media to finally start paying attention to the growing threat of racist and fascist youths in Spain. I wonder why it took so long for them to wake up to this problem. Since coming to Spain, I have personally known three people who were violently attacked for no other reason than being a foreigner. One was a blonde English man, another was an American, and the other was Japanese. I have heard from friends about South Americans and Africans who have been brutally beaten as well. But did any of this come out in the press? No, it took the death of a Spaniard for the media to finally decide that this was a problem worth talking about.

And for the Spanish press, the problem, of course, is not racism. It’s not the fact that these neo-Nazis were causing a stir in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood. It's not the fact that many immigrants live in fear of being attacked for the color of their skin or the color of their hair. The problem is that the Skinhead killed a Spanish boy. Yes, it’s a terrible thing, but what about all of the non-Spaniards who are threatened or attacked every day?

Since the killing, there have been several protests by left-wing groups and students, all of which have turned into riots against the police. (On Saturday, my neighborhood turned into a war zone for several hours – huge garbage cans and recycling bins were set on fire by the angry anti-fascist protesters, and fights broke out between the police and youths. I couldn’t leave the house.) These groups are angry because of the death of this young boy, a friend to some of them and to others merely a symbol of the threat that everyone faces from these Skinheads.

But why wasn’t there any such rage when the news reported that a Congolese man has been left tetrapalegic because of a savage beating at the hands of a skinhead in the metro several months ago? It makes for a nice news story now that the fascist vs anti-fascist fever has hit the media, but I haven’t seen any of these same indignant youths out in the street protesting that this African man’s life was destroyed – perhaps not killed, like the Spanish boy, but his life is now pretty much over. Should it matter that he is not Spanish like them? Isn’t the fact that he’s a human being enough to stir up these same feelings of anger over the actions of the neo-Nazis? Apparently not.

And so, it seems, Spain still has a long way to go in its new life with immigrants. It’s bad enough that there are ignorant racists and neo-Nazis running around threatening, injuring, or even killing immigrants. It’s bad enough that immigrants must put up with economic and social discrimination due to the general racism of Spanish society. But what’s even worse is that the people who supposedly oppose the creation of divisions in society and support the integration of non-Spaniards continue to make distinctions themselves – the life of one Spaniard is enough to cause a series of riots and demonstrations, but the lives of hundreds or thousands of terrorized immigrants is met with silence.


perroverde said...


concerning "the growing threat of racist and fascist youths in Spain", Spanish media never pays much attention to it because this is not news to anyone. Spain has had a large number of skinheads in big cities like Madrid or Barcelona for decades.

In what racism is concerned, if you ever pay attention to what politicians say about this, you'll notice that they are very afraid to make it an issue. They do not want ethnical problems at home as in other neighbour countries. Sadly enough, the only way they deal with it is by dening reality. This is why you want hear much about it on the media.

musica said...

Thanks for your comment, perroverde.

I guess the only positive thing is that now, no matter what the politicians and mainstream media say or don't say, the issue of racism (anywhere, not just Spain) can be addressed in other places -- mainly online (blogs, forums, etc.)

Also, I agree that I misspoke by saying "the growing threat". You're right that it existed already -- I heard many stories from friends who lived in Madrid long before me -- but since it was starting to happen closer to me, I guess to me it felt as if it was growing.