Saturday, November 10, 2012

When racists get the wrong man (or woman)

Recently, I was chatting over lunch with a bunch of my social media students and they teased me for starting a story with "When I lived in Bratislava ..." (Apparently that's not something you hear every day down here in Perth! Cheeky people!). Anyway, after they settled down and I explained that the Bratislava part was essential to the story, they let me continue - in fact, I simply had a story to add to one that another girl had just told about racist comments directed at her because of her Asian appearance.

So this is my "When I lived in Bratislava ..." story. I met a Japanese guy named Kenji there who was, of all things, studying Slovak literature at a prestigious local university. Not something that Japanese people usually end up doing, but he'd had a semester abroad in Prague, loved the Czech language so much, tried out Slovakia and discovered he loved the (similar) Slovak language even more, and found a way to come back and live in Bratislava.

Novy Most - "New Bridge" - in Bratislava
Kenji's English was pretty good, but his Slovak was better, and my Japanese was getting pretty rusty, so we decided to meet up regularly for a language exchange kind of chat. Part English, part Japanese, just trying to keep our extra languages up a bit. I have to admit I seem to remember we usually spoke English - my Japanese was so poor! It was lots of fun though.

This particular incident must have taken place after one of our catch-ups - we always met in cafes or fast food places - and we were crossing at a busy intersection, headed towards the Old Town - I can picture the exact spot like it was yesterday. Someone crossing from the other way practically stopped halfway across the road and said something to me in Slovak, and of course I had no idea what it was, gave them a quizzical grin and just kept walking. I did get the feeling that it wasn't very nice, though.

Devin near Bratislava
When we reached the other side, Kenji told me what they'd said. I don't remember the phrases they used anymore, but it was something nastily racist about me spending time with an Asian. So it's pretty ironic: the Asian guy who could understand the Slovak's racist words - not me, the white possibly-Slovak-looking girl! I was angry, and wanted to turn around and tell that person how wrong they were, but they were long gone into the crowd. If nothing else, I wanted them to know that they definitely shouldn't make the assumptions they had - sure, you don't always expect a Japanese guy to speak Slovak, but you never know.

To be somewhat fair, there were extremely few Asians in Bratislava, and to be even more fair, here in Australia there are still plenty of racist comments against Asians (although thankfully less than there used to be - rightfully so as Asians now make up at least 12% of our population - I think it's probably more depending on how you bend the stats). None of which makes this kind of racist behaviour right but in my opinion most racism occurs because of people being unfamiliar (and therefore, unjustifiably fearful) of the people of races that they haven't seen often. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't consider Slovaks to be above-average on the racist scale! Just that one person was, and I regret that they weren't able to learn that day that not every white person on Bratislava streets speak Slovak and not every Asian person on Bratislava streets doesn't. But if by some extremely strange chance you're reading this blog, let this be a lesson to you!

7 comments:

  1. Lovely story Amanda. I certainly think that it´s time people stopped being racist, as the world is more than ever an intercultural place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True indeed, Sami. With plenty of people like you and I who have lived in various different countries. If only *everybody* did that, things might be different!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for sharing, I know exactly how that feels. As a Black woman who loves to travel, I have experienced all types of racism in different forms, and It's interesting hearing it from a different perspective.. I just blogged about that a few weeks ago. www.The-Travel-Guru.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting Roni, yes I can imagine you would (unfortunately) have a few interesting stories to tell ... will check out your site.

      Delete
  3. Sorry for the unpleasant experience! That guy must have been some close-minded jackass. I think its exactly how you wrote it: people are afraid of the unfamiliar. I apologize to you on behalf of all the Slovaks. Karol, 22, born in Bratislava

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Karol! And don't worry, I also know many, many lovely Slovak people, so I certainly don't hold it against you as a nation or anything! There are (unfortunately) plenty of people here in Australia who would say something similar. Thanks for your comment!

      Delete
  4. Rasicam is the best devil humans couldn't get ride .If people can insult other just because of their appearance or race it’s not fair to tell that we are living in the modern world.

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear from you ...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...