Saturday, October 14, 2006

Racism and "otherness"

Yesterday, after finishing a company visit our class took the bus back to school. We were more than 20, and in the bus we were of course speaking English, as it is our only lingua franca. You can imagine our surprise when some kids (the oldest one was probably 15) started shouting stuff at us from the back of the bus in English. After ignoring them for a while, they switched their verbal abuse to Dutch and French, at which point I got very annoyed as it was mostly directed towards the girls in the class. We continued to ignore them (and I have to admit that I had to restrain myself a couple of times) until we reached our destination, but it was around 40 minutes of intense bullying.

It was worthless to waste my time on those kids (who, by the way, also seemed to be from an Arab immigrant background), but I couldn't answer in their language properly, which is a handicap, and physical action is completely out of the question. I was also not very happy with the fact that this can happen here (I've heard it's a problem in France too)

Discussing this situation with the Chinese guys in our group, I was dismayed to hear that it is not uncommon for them to get that kind of treatment. I have had problems a couple of times (In Finland I was called "vitun turkkilainen" twice, had problems once with a bouncer in a bar since closed and once a 15-year-old try to spit on me while skating, whereas here I've been asked twice if I'm Maghrebi in a hostile voice) but it was rather uncommon. In Finland that behaviour in a city bus wouldn't happen as kids are educated differently, whereas in Mexico they would probably get their asses handed to them anyway.

I know it's a chicken and egg situation, in the sense that bad treatment from one side will cause bad treatment from the other, but I can't help to feel pissed off by this behaviour. I don't expect everyone to live "happily ever after", but that is just not acceptable, regardless of who does it.

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