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The publicized racial attacks against footballer Vinicius Jr have sparked a broader debate about racism in Spain
Spain has long been considered the idyllic getaway for expats from across Europe and the rest of the world, a multicultural melting pot that attracts foreign retirees, new entrepreneurs and the average emigrant seeking a slower pace and a new, relaxed life in the world. sun.
Supermarkets, restaurants and bars specializing in products from every nation imaginable have sprung up across the country, but beneath this seemingly open and welcoming façade, is a darker, more prejudiced attitude brewing?
In a recent match at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium, Vinicius Jr was taunted with cries of “monkey” by opposition fans in the stands, a despicable incident which the player claims is part of “ongoing episodes.” of racial abuse he has suffered in Spain.
Following the latest round of smears, the Brazilian government has asked Spanish authorities to fully investigate racial discrimination in its soccer leagues. Vini Jr even went so far as to say that “in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists.”
But as a country that has apparently welcomed hundreds of thousands of foreigners from countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and Morocco, is this really an accurate reflection?
Racism due to skin color and nationality
WHAT DO YOU THINK? IS SPAIN A RACIST COUNTRY?
— News in Spanish today (@MurciaToday) May 25, 2023
According to a recent Eurobarometer study, more than half of Europeans believe that xenophobia is a widespread reality in their country. Here in Spain, where the majority of the population is white, 54% of people recognize that there is racial discrimination based on ethnic origin or skin color. However, most still said they would be comfortable with a black president and would have no problem having a person of color as a coworker or raising a child with a black partner.
There certainly seems to be a disconnect between what people say and how they behave, but Spain has bounced back from the Vinicius Jr incidents and condemned the intolerant minority for creating a distorted image of how the country views foreigners, particularly to those of color.
Although he insisted that racism and sport are “incompatible”, the leader of the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, warned this week that the controversy was giving “a distorted image of a city like Valencia.”
“Spain is in no way a racist country,” he stressed.
Incredibly, the fallout from last weekend’s match led many to criticize the target player himself, with Valencian president Ximo Puig accusing Vini Jr of leaving the pitch in an “arrogant” manner and insisting that the players They should always behave like “good professionals”.
This, and similar comments, have been met with much disdain, with writer and social commentator Manuel Jabois pointing out that victim-blaming is part of the current problem of racism in Spain.
“Because you’re black… you don’t have the right to behave badly, get angry or respond to provocation without being called a monkey,” he said.
It is a controversial issue that politicians could do without before the municipal elections on May 28, but in Spain blatant discrimination appears even during the electoral campaign, with the far-right party VOX wallpapering Metro stations across the country with posters that condemn irregular immigrants. and unaccompanied immigrant children flooding the Spanish borders in search of a better life.
But is it a specifically Spanish or EU problem? The European Union is heading into its ninth year without any asylum and migration policy and, while it supports closing borders and building walls to close the doors to people fleeing Africa and the Middle East, Member States have welcomed welcomed more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees since the Russian invasion.
Whether immigration policies or Spanish attitudes are to blame, it seems scandalous that it took a formal complaint from a foreign leader to spark a national debate about racism that has long been present, at least in some areas of society.
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