Maryna Khorunzha, Worldwide News Ukraine
Recently the topic of racism was widely speculated about in the European press. “Racism, bullying, threats … daily life of migrant workers [in the UK]” – that is The Independent’s (UK) article headline. “Britain must find its own way to overcome its racism”, “Chinese Britons have put up with racism for too long” – here’s just a few more from The Guardian. It seems like the issue was persisting in the British media, however, this June they seemed to be more engaged in suggesting that other countries were racist evils. Was that just a sensationalist way to cash in on alleged problems or to cover up more serious inner issues?
Sadly, but racism is a reality in the lives of many ethnic and religious minorities in the EU, according to the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) National Shadow Reports for 2010-2011. The extent of such practices, however, is often unknown and unpredictable in different countries. Usually victims do not file the charges out of fear of being further victimized by police forces.
This comes as no surprise as three Maltese Armed Forces personnel were recently charged with murder and perversion of justice in the case of the violent death of the Malian migrant. Previously, Malta wasn’t known for such shocking cases, nonetheless, the low trust levels of police by ethnic minorities is in place, says the ENAR report. Moreover, in public perception, if there is an issue between a Maltese and a migrant then the latter was at blame. 30 percent of individuals of African descent in Malta reported being a victim of a racist crime in the past 12 months, according to the EU-wide survey of immigrant and ethnic minority groups’ experiences of discrimination and victimization in everyday life (EU-MIDIS 2009).
In 2010 there were also many racist attacks in Turkey, especially on people of Kurdish origin, reported ENAR. Notably, it is thought that racist hate speeches by politicians prior to the general election (June 12, 2011) secured the new high for the violent moods.
Iceland, on the other hand, does not seem to have any particular racist violence problem. European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), however, does point out a single 2010 story of a father and a son of Cuban origin who were forced to leave Iceland due to repetitive racist attacks. At the time over a thousand people took it to the streets of Reykjavik to protest against racism.
In all the cases described above the role of media cannot be overestimated. Both NGOs and European Commission highlight that media should refrain from creating negative images of minorities, including mentioning nationalities of criminals and making racist jokes popular with young generations.
Now going back to the situation in the UK, racism “is still a significant barrier in the lives of too many people from ethnic minority backgrounds”. ENAR reports various forms or racism taking place in ethnic minorities’ everyday life (employment, education, housing, health etc.); moreover, there is a pressing issue of racist violence in a way caused by negative coverage in the local media. Even today the Great Britain cannot ensure equal participation in the society for migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. For instance, black communities demonstrate high unemployment rate, low educational levels, and over-representation in the criminal justice system.
Other ethnic groups, such as Chinese Britons, however, are often excluded from the victims list due to their unwillingness to report cases of racism. And television portraying Chinese as DVD peddlers more often than not doesn’t do a good job promoting equality either. “People across Britain have come to accept racism as a part of life,” says Elizabeth Chan in her article for The Guardian.
Yet, “Man Bites Dog” rather than “Dog Bites Man” makes most of headlines nowadays. While people got used to inequality in the UK, why not draw their attention claiming that known for its hospitality Ukraine (most Britons have never been to) was an evil abide of shaved-headed racists? That’s precisely what BBC Panorama series entitled Stadiums of Hate did. By showing a group of radically-minded young men the program depicted Ukrainians (a nation of roughly 45 million people) as intolerant and unfriendly, to say the least, prior to Ukraine’s co-hosting EURO 2012 football championship.
Though biased and populist, the Stadiums of Hate did keep most of British fans away from attending the championship. Even so, the number of British supporters in Ukraine tripled after the first 2,000 fans, ‘the bravest ones, visited the country and testified that it was, in fact, safe and friendly. When, finally, the crowds of foreign supporters and journalists flooded Ukraine, British press cracked up with positive reports. The Telegraph, for instance, pointed out incredibly warm atmosphere at the championship. American Reuters too reported that Ukraine proved its critics wrong. While Ukraine is celebrating its successful hosting of the major sporting event, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry is awaiting apologies from BBC Panorama journalists.
After reading reports on racism and other intolerances in Great Britain one might find it comical that Britons were afraid to go to Ukraine in the first place. The racism does exist in Ukraine but to a considerably smaller extent than it was suggested in the British media. As a Ukrainian national I can say that being a foreigner in my country you might draw a second look, but that would be a look of curiosity rather than hatred.