How to deal with racism in a foreign country
WHY IS RACISM PRESENT IN ANY COUNTRY?
If you are a student you will be travelling and no matter what your skin colour, religion or country of origin you will at some point face some form of racism.
Because many people do not understand the real reasons why we travel, they tend to think that if we go to live in another country for a while it is because we do not like ours. This is absolutely not the case, students travel to discover new cultures, to open their minds, to grow and learn in terms of general culture, to simply live an experience.
This does not mean denying our origins, denigrating our country, because it is important to emphasize that as students we are here momentarily and we will return to our respective countries to continue our lives afterwards.
At no time when we make the decision to go on a language exchange abroad we plan to stay there and acquire the nationality, it is true that sometimes it happens, we meet someone who changes everything and decide to stay and live there because we cannot plan this kind of thing. To show you that it happens, everywhere and to everyone, here are some testimonies.
A young African-American woman on exchange in Florence, Italy
Nicole Philipp, leaves the United States for the first time to live in Europe for a semester. She chose the city of Florence and is studying at an American University. Being black, she finds herself having to deal with violent racist remarks in the streets, sometimes even assaults.
She did not feel safe during her stay and was not able to enjoy the experience of a language exchange as she would have liked.
Stupidity is everywhere, we are told, but when you experience it you also tend to make a generalization because you don't feel taken into account as a human being, but you are relegated to the rank of race which, however, seemed to have been abolished according to what you had studied at school.
You can read the whole testimony here https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/23/travel/racism-travel-italy-study-abroad.html
A young Anglo-Asian student at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom
Even if you are a native of the country you will not necessarily miss the racist remarks if you are of foreign origin. This is the case of Sam Phan of Asian origin who is English and has to deal with many remarks on a daily basis.
He describes very well the origins and primary reasons for racism in his article. Indeed, it is important to underline that racism comes from a will to believe oneself superior to others, in this article he tells us that the English in his opinion feel superior because they speak the international language. He mentions the fact that sometimes people are not even aware that they are proving racism because they just want to make a joke of someone else and denigrate you to put themselves forward.
If even the United Kingdom, which is known for its tolerance and openness towards foreigners, is racist towards its natives, then this scourge is really everywhere.
You can read the full testimony here https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jul/09/casual-racism-international-students-university
A young Moroccan student in Strasbourg, France
Soufiane Sbiti came to study in Strasbourg, originally from Morocco, he has been subjected to many racist remarks, whether with his classmates or in his work by customers or bosses.
As he points out very well sometimes racism is not hidden in words but in looks, it is enough to feel the scornful look of a person in transport for example to feel uncomfortable, not in his place and to understand the meaning of racism.
Coming from Morocco, some people were astonished to learn that he had studied law there and that he could speak English and French as if there were nothing but sand and natives who could communicate in a distant dialect or by incomprehensible signs.
You can read the entire testimony here https://www.rue89strasbourg.com/etranger-a-strasbourg-jai-vu-le-racisme-117414
WHERE RACISM COMES FROM
Most of the time it's an obvious lack of culture, people still think we're living 200 years back in time that we've just abolished slavery or something like that. They feel superior to foreigners because it's true that if people want to come and experience a country because it's attractive, it's not superior to others.
They also think that they have a mission as rescuers, as instructors towards foreigners, whereas you should think the other way around and learn more about other cultures when you have the chance to meet them and learn from them and not the other way around.
Sometimes racism can arise from political problems and the way the press is relayed in the country, with the rise of terrorism racism has made a more pronounced appearance than before. It is present everywhere, whatever you decide to do and whoever you are.
HOW TO COPE
The first thing you have to do to deal with racism is to be aware that it exists, you may be inclined to think that it only happens to others and that today times have changed and civilizations have evolved. The fact is that there will always be people who have not evolved and that it can happen to you no matter what your skin colour.
Also be extremely careful with yourself, often racism is accompanied by violence, as the young Nicole Philipp unfortunately experienced, it is important not to put yourself in danger and to be alone as little as possible, especially when you are a woman.
As far as racist remarks against you are concerned, it is better to ignore them most of the time because your arguments will not open the eyes of blind people.
Answering with irony and sarcasm can be a good way, most of the time they will not understand it but do not engage in an argument that will waste your time and energy as it will not reduce racism.
In the same way that young single women are advised to avoid certain places and to avoid dressing in a way that could be perceived as provocative, it is also best to be careful about racism.
So if you're a woman who is prone to racist comments on the street, well unfortunately there are a lot of things you're better off avoiding doing, a lot of places you're better off avoiding going to. Of course this is totally absurd, abnormal and everyone is free to do what they want but sexism and racism often go together, just as stupidity is often accompanied by all the other flaws.
If you would like to discuss this with other people on exchange abroad you can go to the Language Exchange section of our website.
Written by: Lisa Lambert, Staff Writer
- 19 Feb, 2020
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