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So are we racists?

Walls go up as the dreadful question about racism fails to hit a nerve

Eleni Xenou

Eleni Xenou

It’s the latest subject tossed around in various panels, following reports in the foreign media that have zoomed in on all of us. It’s the dreadful question posed in such a way that allows us to avoid the issue at its core by being defensive and trying to keep a clear conscience.

After hearing the president of the Republic condensing our racist attitudes down to just one sentence, without even realizing what actually came out of his mouth, it is at the very least naïve to believe we are out of the woods on this issue. And all this, as politicians or political pundits (choose your term) are pointing fingers at wherever they can score points in an election period to ponder where we stand as society and institutions against racism.

Are we asking because we truly seek answers and not just because we worry about our public image as we normally do? Or is it because the discussion could help political leaders define campaign issues by taking advantage of a horrific crime that has shown serious defects in our society that will make us take a look at the man in the mirror.

How much has this whole story made us realize the bitter truth out there, which reflect on the way we think? We consider this way of thinking to be normal but this “common sense” does not let us see through the culture to realize there are racist undertones hidden underneath.

We want to be called sirs and madams, giving a sense of worth to the worthless existence of our bankrupt values, diminished education, and faulty principles

How much do we realize that the majority of us view these foreigners who live among us as somehow worth less than we do? In other words, we see them as our “servants” and not as our employees. People who must be living in sheds back in their countries and so they owe us a debt of gratitude for giving them a 2x2 room to hit the sack. Or we may rent out a place that we turned into a makeshift home for all six of them to share without ever bothering to stop and think whether such living conditions would ever be acceptable.

"We are okay"

But we are okay if we sublet our rat-infested dwellings to them because they are “used to living like that” and it’s okay if they sit at a different table for dinner since they must be eating with their hands back home, which disqualifies them from a seat at our table.

And we think it’s okay to be suspicious of them because their poverty turns them into thieves and crooks.

We think it’s okay to assign them two and three extra tasks for work without paying them properly, since they must be happy that we are “rescuing” them from their “misery.”

And we think it’s okay to expect praise when we treat them well, even through the compassion we show doesn’t come out straight from our humanity but more like our position of power in which we place ourselves.

And it’s totally okay that we are not interested at all in learning something more about their culture and history, because it’s better for us to keep a safe distance, just like with anything that may be “foreign” to us.

It’s okay never to have wondered about the conditions in their home countries and the reasons that forced them to leave children and families behind, so that they can come here and change diapers for our beloved children and our fathers, all the while assuming that this is their fate which does not allow them to have their own dreams.

We are okay with the disparity that separates foreigners into those who serve us on one hand, and those to whom we take a bow because they fund us with their Chinese and Russian millions.

All these syndromes and maladies that we have, they’re okay because, after all, we are not racists, they are just “mavro” (blacks) and we choose to live in our mighty world where we can be called sirs and madams, giving a sense of worth to the worthless existence of our bankrupt values, diminished education, and faulty principles.


The article was first published by Kathimerini Cyprus on 12 May 2019 

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