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Tuesday, January 11, 2005 

I'm Not Racist But...

Last week, a report was issued by the US State Department concerning racism in Greece. Archbiship Christodoulou condemned the report and said that Greeks aren't racist. Greeks will be the first to tell you they are not racist. If you ask any Greek what they think of Albanians, they'll tell you they hate them and want them gone. Greece has the highest rate of xenophobia in the EU. The media is awash in headlines about foreigners being subject to widespread discrimination and racism by members of the community, government and the media itself.

What's truly interesting is that if you ask someone if they're racist they'll answer with a vehement "no". They know it's 'wrong' to be labelled racist so they'll find justifications for their 'dislike' of a certain people. Usually it's "you don't know what they've done to Greece."

On Sunday, my family was invited to visit an old friend of my husband's in the new home they had just built. Everything was going great for the first hour or so. We talked about all the events in our families that had happened over the seven years we had lost contact. Then, the inevitable happened. We started talking about current events here in Greece--a subject which I love. My husband's friend decided to tell me, the foreigner, about how he thinks the Jews control everything and that he's not racist BUT he can't stand blacks, asians or Americans. His wife then spent the next 20 minutes telling me about the fear she has of Albanians. Incredible. I fell into the trap of thinking that the equation: education + success = confidence and enlightenment. How wrong I was. Racism rears its ugly head anywhere...in the most educated of people and the most ignorant of people.

And it's not just Greeks, foreigners are racist as well. I've encountered victims of racism who are racist themselves.

The cleaning lady at our stores is Ukrainian. She's always complaining of being treated like a second class person because of her ethnicity and she hates it. Being a victim of racism herself on many occasions, she is always relating a new story of how she's treated by Greek racists. Well, wasn't I surprised when an Iraqi and a Turkish Kurd came into the store to rent some PS2 games and she couldn't keep her mouth shut became very angry with them for mixing up the titles on the shelves. After they left, I had a 'word' with her about her behaviour and she simply said "I just didn't like the look of them". The "look" of them? What she meant was that she didn't like muslims. Unbelievable. Incredible that a woman who is regularly a victim of racism, is a racist herself. It was everything I could do NOT to fire her on the spot. The silent treatment will have to be my message to her since I can't be assured of finding a non-racist to replace her.

I have met more people than I care to who share the same opinions as the ones I've just mentioned. It never ceases to shock me when people are so openly and unabashedly racist. I realize that just because you have a university degree, doesn't mean you're educated. And just because you've been a victim of racism, doesn't mean you'll be more intolerant of it. I believe most people fall into the trap of being racist from a combination of 3 things: fear, the inability to employ independent thinking and an idoctrinated superiority complex. They believe everything their neighbour tells them, their government tells them, the media tells them. They refuse to form their own opinions of someone and let common sense enter their opinions. They prefer to judge that one person in front of them based on nothing but their skin colour, accent or ethnicity. It's so much simpler and keeps their unused brain cells in mint condition.


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Well obviously as we're both exposed to the same media, I also have mentioned the words of Christodoulos on my blog too. My initial responce to the US report was "people who live in glass houses shouldn't be throwing stones" because let's face it, America is very racist and always has been, if you look the slightest bit foreign, you risk being locked up under new anti terrorism laws (unless of course your surname is Bin Laden which in that case, you'll just have a special plane authorized to help you leave the country) BUT I digress...

So getting back to the point of todays Blog, racism in Greece. Well obviously I can't say it doesn't exist but the point I want to make is that racism happens in all countries so saying that Greece has a racism problem kinda makes me think "well duh, where doesn't".

Your first comment was obviously about Albanians (for people not in the know, Albania is Greece's northern neighbour and thanks to the fall of communism and to the fact Albania is a very poor country, we now have a high population of Albanian illegal immigrants. Greeks have formed their opinions of Albanians because before the fall of communism, Greece was a pretty safe country. It was a place where you'd feel safe walking the streets at night. However when these illegal immigrants came, the crime rate sky rocketed, basically these people came to Greece with the best of intentions, finding work, settling down and so on. But as we all know, it doesn't quite work like that, jobs aren't easy to come by and these people turned to crime. So of course when you start seeing the mugging and other crime rates go sky high and the culprits are Albanian, you can forgive people for having their misgivings. I mean, there were even stories on the TV about people being killed while being robbed for some stupid amount of money. So yeah people became fearful of Albanians and yeah, that is wrong because people should be judged as people but unfortunately unless you take the time to get to know someone that doesn't happen.

But as I said at the beginning of my post, people do have their prejudices, it amazes me that you are genuinely amazed that your Ukranian cleaning lady has prejudices of her own. I mean you seem to think that because she's suffered racism means that in theory she can't be racist. Racism isn't a one way street, most people are hated by someone and hate someone. (PS: I hope your not still doing the silent treatment, she probably doesn't know what she did wrong so either tell her what she's done to make you mad or start talking to her again. Her crime isn't perfect, she has her prejudices).

Don't misunderstand what I'm saying though, I'm not trying to justify racism in any way and I personally am not racist BUT... (sorry I had to do that)..

I'm just trying to make the point that each and every one of us has some kind of prejudice, whether it be against, a race, a color, an accent, ethnicity or maybe as your cleaning lady said "you just don't like the look of that person". Everyone does it and I'll admit I'm one of those people, I make judgements before getting to know someone.

(So... will I be getting the silent treatment now?)

Well, Ellas...I see you're just not content with writing your own blog on your own site, you write one on mine too! LOL

About your diatribe on Albanians. I didn't want to have to get into this but you brought it up. When I first came here, that's all I heard ..."the Albanians are all criminals and horrible people. Never trust one." After 7 years here, I'm happy to say I've never been robbed by an Albanian although I've been robbed too many times by Greeks than I care to mention. Prices suddenly double at a Greek store when they hear your accent. Change from 50 euros comes back as change from 20 euros. Curtains quoted and guaranteed at 4,000 euros suddenly becomes 5,000 when it comes time to deliver them. So please don't tell me how horrible Albanians are. If you want me to do a blog refuting the claims of the "sky high crime rate" since Albanians came here and how Greeks were nothing but law abiding citizens, then I'll write a blog devoted to that very topic. I will include quotes from Greek law professors, policemen, and plenty more sources to refute these inflated and inflammatory accusations against Albanians. A lot of people are horrible from a lot of places and that includes Greeks, Canadians and Americans too. No one country's citizens are exempt from racism. But some places just aren't so notorious for their open animosity towards certain ethnicities. I'm not saying all Albanians are perfect people. They're not. But a lot are and I hate seeing them all suffer for the actions of a few. Just as I hate it when people tell how backwards all Greeks are. That's just not true either. I've met some of the best people in my life here and some of the worst as well. And that is my point. Every person is different. Judge each one according to their own attributes.

Oh and one more thing...about the silent treatment. I have explained to the Ukrainian woman just how abhorrent I found her behaviour and why. As for you, I responded to your epistle didn't I? LOL

I kind of see what EllasDevil is saying but then again I am only seeing it from one side of the story.

My definition of race is where you are proud to call home. In England we have a few races that live here but would rather fly their own countrys flag and complain about the the people who are English. An example is its now considered racist for me to fly the St Georges Cross wich is the English flag as other people complain that its a symbol to make them feel unwelcome. As the saying goes "When in Rome, do as the Romans do", when people cant do this I am very racist towards them.

The problem with England is the governmant lets them get away with it. A person from another race can caomplain, moan and abuse me and my home as much as they like but if I was to simpley ask them to stop them im the one in the wrong.

U4ric, I completely understand your point as well. And the same thing bothers me when immigrants come to a country and expect to create a clone of their old country in their new country. That's not right either. If you don't like the rules, don't join the club. That's why my son marches in every civic parade, studies in a Greek public school and not a private one and speaks fluent Greek. I would never expect Greece to celebrate Canada Day or stop flying the Greek flag to make me feel better. I believe that all immigrants should learn the language of their host country as well as its customs and traditions. But racism is about discriminatory and prejudiced behaviour exhibited by someone towards someone else whom they feel is inferior to them based solely on the ethnicity of that person. And that is 100% wrong. Just because I had the luck of the draw to be born in Canada does not mean I am any better than anyone else because of the name stamped on my passport. What makes me better than someone is the way I live my life and how I treat other people. Mother Teresa was Albanian and she definitely was a better person than me.

Ciao bella,

Well I've taken the time to re-read what I wrote in my first responce. Now I hope I didn't come across as condoning racism, I just was trying to explain a little of the rational as to why Greeks are dis-trustful to Albanians (again, I suppose I'm being very general so I'll say 'some Greeks' and 'some Albanians'. You ask me to please not tell you how horrible Albanians are? Did I actually say to you Albanians were horrible? (I'm sure if I did, it will be pointed out at your earliest convenience), actually I meant to have said "some of these people turn to crime" rather than "these people turn to crime" so perhaps I did give the wrong impression.

U4ric, I appreciate your whole "I kinda see what EllasDevil is trying to say" comment. It's nice to have some support against the SeaWitch and this now makes you my new best friend. I'm gonna call you every five minutes. After all, the Bee seems to have abandoned me! It's sending me grey trying to write a blog of my own (available at http://ellasdevil.blogspot.com - two can play at the poaching people's clients missy!!) and try to keep the SeaWitch in check, it's making me grey! :-)

Although being serious for a moment, I was reading the points you were making about the English flag being offensive to foreigners. I thought I should add a little background to that, unfortunately the flag seems to have been hijacked by a lot of far right groups including the BNP (that's British National Party and not Bank National de Paris as I thought they were when they approached me one time), I think it's high time the British people took ownership of their flag back rather than only seeing it on TV when the skinhead thugs are rioting. But I take your point, it is sad. I think probably as well, there should be a little give and take when it comes to cultures co-existing, it is possible if you actually respect each others differences rather than complain about them.

Anyway, that's all from me for now. Until next time, take care of yourself and each other! :-)

Interesting blog. Define a racist? Define racism? Its the most disgusting thing, racism in its purist quality. But, the way the accusation of racist is chucked round these days, you would think everyone is racist. Well, maybe, they are. I don't like French people, much. I had a French girlfriend once, but on the whole I find them conceited and arrogant. Am I racist? I like to think not. Some people would not agree. The qualities you need to have to be defined a racist are very few.

Hi Seawitch,

It's funny how they said they hate Americans too. Since I am American, I never hear that they hate me. So, I always assume that since I'm around, my AMERICAN-ness is replaced by some other nationality that they hate.

Just like if there's an Albanian around, I'm sure they wouldn't say they hate Albanians right to their face.

It's funny, but I'm proud to be hated right up along with Albanians.

In fact, I even tell my Albanian cleaning lady that whenever Albanians get in trouble and make the news, it takes the heat off us Americans for awhile. :::))))

But, as I've said, jealousy can make people say many things. Or a perceived injustice can make them hate as well.

i.e. Greeks hate Albanians because they are afraid of them for perceived crimes they commit.

Greeks hate Americans because they feel inferior that they cannot do anything about our powerful US Government screwing them over on a daily basis (There words not mine).
Again, as I've said in the past, if they hate me for being an American and it makes them feel better and keep their mental health in tact, hey I'm all for that. I'm glad I can be some sort of American Prozac for the screwed up mentality of some folks here.

I'm not sure if I'll ever find your reply to this comment so you can always reply to me on my own blog if you want to respond to any of my comments on your archived blogs.

Surfing at a very dodgy hour i stumbled on your posts and Ella i agree with you totally.Every single person no matter race or colour is prejudiced.I just wanted to add,i live in the Uk and its a very multicultural society.
People from Europe,Asia,Africa,The Caribbean and America are willing at one point to date other people.When it comes to Greek people it is mostly considered a taboo or strange and insane.Especially if the person is Black,Asian or muslim.
I understand the idea about tradition,marriage,language and family,but don't you think Greek people should be more relax and open to suggestions.
The only reason i can think of for this behaviour is most Greek people think they are very better than the groups stated above and nothing good can come out from them.They mostly see the bad and presume the worst.
I don't understand all these issues about racism,the way white people are treated in carribean islands and Africa is the total opposite.
There is no two faced attitude,genuine friendships and they are very generous people.And this applies to the very rich people in those places as well.
If a white person goes there ,you will not be stoped randomly and asked for your Passport.Suspected to be a thief,discriminated and all of that.

And no matter what people say about English people they are the most tolerant and anti racist people in Europe.Their reasons for this may be based on guilt or pity,but i still put my glass up to them.

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