Saturday, April 30, 2011

Minorities vs. Minorities

The idea of minorities hating minorities to me makes absolutely zero since, but it's all too common. Whether you're in the US or in Russia, you see it...and it's disappointing in so many ways.

*What I say about Elista in no way refers to the city as a whole or its people, but simply some of the people I have come across during my year here, many of whom I met in passing. Please know the people here are amazing and amazingly kind.*

In the US, the most visible form of minorities rallying against other minorities is concerned with the LGBT community. While this isn't an issue of race, people belonging to the LGBT community are certainly in the minority.  According to several exit polls, many African Americans (70% according to one poll), Latinos (53%) and Asian Americans (49%) voted in favor of California's prop 8 in 2008.* I'm not blaming these groups for Prop 8 not passing (that rests with California's white voters, of whom 49% voted in favor, but also make up over 65% of CA's voting population), but I just find it interesting that considering the civil rights issues at stake, that these minority groups voted against it.

Another instance in the US is illustrated in the  gay marriage struggle in New Jersey. The instance of minority groups in the US is illustrated nicely (and comically) by the Daily Show's Wyatt Cenac back in January 2010.  Here's the short video:

Anyways, I bring this up because I live in Elista, Russia where the majority of people here (my guess is between 85-95%) are minorities in Russia, being ethnically Mongolian, not Russian.  People here were severely persecuted during purges of Stalin, many being sent to Siberia where their native Kalmyk language was strictly forbidden and as a result is on its way to becoming a dead language (at least here in Russia).

The people here are vehemently against Russia's blatant xenophobia and, as it's called here 'nationalists' who have caused problems in bigger Russian cities, attacking minorities for not being Russian. Kalmyk people are also terrified of this extremism. I had a woman tell me the other day that her daughter in Moscow was to stay inside the whole day (April 20) as it was Hitler's birthday and there is a marked increase in nationalist violence on this day.

I find this interesting because as much as the people here hate Russia's extremism, they are still quite prejudiced against people of African descent (to a lesser extent Jewish people as well - I've had a few people tell me they hated Obama, Medvedev & Putin because they were 'Jews'...hmmm).  Giggles are often inevitable when Black people are mentioned here and there is (not always, certainly not always, but often) a tinge of disgust in their tone of voice.

What's more is that being a minority Republic in Southern Russia, Kalmykia has good relations between some of the most persecuted groups in Russia (Ossetia, Dagestan, Chechnya, etc) and welcome them with open arms. But still this idea of Black people being...well I don't know what word to use other than disgusting, is still common among people here.

Just today I met two guys who absolutely hated President Obama for no other reason than he is Black.  They had nothing to say about his policies, programs as President, but couldn't stop talking about how he was Black and could not fathom how Americans could ever possibly elect a Black president (I saw this with a really old guy in Germany once as well, but the difference here is that it's both young and old people).

I, on the other hand, was (and always am) completely baffled as to how they aren't not struck by the complete irony.  Anyone who has ever been to Russia will notice a very definite lack of Black people here. This is changing (very slow) and you'll see more than what I saw several years ago in St. Petersburg, but regardless the number is infinitesimally small.

Overall, Dear Readers, I am saddened by this. I don't understand racism and probably never will and it breaks my heart to see it here in Elista, a place where they are both victims and (in a way) perpetrators of racism (at least in thought).  I also don't mean to say that this includes everyone here in Elista. Not by a long shot! I've met many, many people (such as the people I work with and my students) who see this line of thought in their home and are as disgusted as I am.

*Here some articles where I was reading about Prop 8 in California: Huff PostLA TimesWash Post

1 comment:

  1. Loved checkin' out your Flicker photos. The DR looks incredible. Paradise. Then, at one point in your photo collection, you go through a tunnel of some sort and, like Narnia, you're in the the snow. Very cool.

    Hope all is well with you my friend.