I’m very excited to be moving to Spain soon. I’m looking forward to eating ALL the croquetas, not having an office job, travel, and having more time to write. But I’m not looking forward to racism.
Now, I know that as a black person, racism is an inevitable experience no matter where I am in the world. It’s definitely a problem here in the United States. But the thing is, at least here in the US, black people/people of color are more common than in Europe. Right now I live in Washington, DC, a historically black city that has a decent number of other people of color as well. Because of this, people of other races here are used to seeing people who look like me, and so are less likely to do or say ignorant, racist things.
In preparing for my move, I’ve been reading stories from people of color in Spain who talk about their encounters with racism.
There are several blogs and vlogs of black people who talk about being stared at, being harassed on the street, being stereotyped (no, not every black person can sing and dance, not every black woman is a sex worker), and having their personal space invaded (i.e., touching their hair, which is not cool. I don’t care how curious you are. It’s rude.)
One Nigerian blogger who lives in Spain, Zara Chiron, wrote about how she was treated like a zoo animal, openly mocked and criticized by “friends”, and blatantly discriminated against at her local immigration office in Andalucia, causing problems with her paperwork.
In this video, YouTuber Van’s Curls talks about how even though she was born in Spain, she never felt Spanish as a black person because “they didn’t allow me to.”
This is the epitome of what racism is: the idea that someone is not allowed to feel that they are a citizen of their own country because of their skin color.
There are stories from other people of color as well. One Auxiliar blogger, Amit Kumar, writes of how he was racially profiled, and taken to a police station when law enforcement mistook him for someone who was 20 years older. Another blogger, Erin Vong, discusses her experiences with racial harassment as an Asian woman living in Spain.
There are many individual stories about racism in Spain, but the issue is systemic. Historically, we can talk about how Spain is responsible of the colonization, enslavement, and genocide of millions of people of color. But there are contemporary examples of racism as well. Here is a video by Amnesty International on racial profiling of Madrileños of color by local police.
Some other examples of Spanish racism:
- Earlier this year, a banana was thrown at football player Dani Alves during a game
- Spanish football fans have been known to make monkey chants during games to mock black players
- During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Spanish basketball team took a group photo in which they all made the typical “I’m a dumbass who is racist against Asians” face.
- SOS Racismo found that as many as 1 in 4 night clubs in Spain deny entry to people of color
- Roma people are heavily discriminated against in Spain.
- And here’s a La Sexta investigation about Neo Nazis in Spain.
I could go on and on. My point: Spain is a racist country. Just like the United States, and probably just like many other countries in Europe and the rest of the world. So naturally, I’m concerned.
Overall, it seems like people of color enjoy Spain, and those who do the Auxiliares program often renew for a 2nd year, so I’m not too worried. And I understand that Europe is largely homogeneous and so many people aren’t used to seeing people or color. However, this doesn’t excuse racist words or actions. You don’t have to be malicious to be racist. Racism is about power and privilege, not about feelings or intentions.
Sigh. I guess I’ll just have to see what happens.
Have you encountered racism in Spain or anywhere else abroad? Tell me about it in the comments!
Header image is from a video for the #Mezclate campaign.