It is natural to see a person with an acid eroded face and to turn away, or to see a crowd of people on the street and to want to find out what is happening. A child who has an overwhelming desire to own, say, a pen, but does not have the money to pay for it and therefore steals it in a shop is acting naturally. He is only acting in accordance with his desires. And what could be more natural than to beat up a person who “makes the moves” on your partner or simply gets on your nerves. Freud declared that the limits set by society and culture cause irritation and discontent. At any rate, all of us have probably at some time experienced the wish to be rid of all tradition, norms, laws and to do what we want regardless of how others will react to it.
At any rate, it seems that a hostile attitude towards persons with different coloured skin is not always due to racism in this interpretation. Prejudices against persons of other races already existed before the 19th century theories, and criticism of these theories can only partly change people’s attitudes towards “strangers”. Therefore next to the “classical” definition of racism, a new definition has appeared which is mostly used by people for whom a hostile, mistrusting attitude towards a person because of the colour of his skin is not acceptable. Racism in this meaning is not a hypothesis or theory, but a prejudiced attitude. Prejudiced, because it cannot be explained rationally and usually no-one even tries to do so.
Let us use the example from the discussions of Zvaigzne’s experiences in a London hospital. She had to suffer through the careless and intolerant behaviour of the hospital staff at a time when one least of all wants to test one’s capacity for tolerance. However, the fact that the hospital staff were mostly black women still does not lead to a logical generalisation about the intolerance of blacks. It is actually very easy to imagine a situation where the same woman has ended up in a Soviet era maternity ward here in Latvia, and the staff are just as careless. But I find it hard to imagine that in this situation “Zvaigzne” would conclude that all whites are horrible and heartless, would join the “black panther” movement or do anything else so radical. In this case her glance would move past the skin colour and would stop at something else. If the nurses turned out to be Russians, she might conclude that all Russians are bad, or she might criticize the health care system or the hospital, or the specific persons. However, upon seeing a black nurse, she does not see other options, and that is significant.
In my opinion there is something natural in suspicions, distaste, and prejudice against persons with a different skin colour. It is an attitude that is very wide-spread and difficult to overcome. I don’t know how it comes into being and why it is so characteristic of people (and, of course, not only of whites). I also don’t know why racism has emerged in Latvia.
Why there are so many people in the west who do not resemble the “northern type Arians” is a long story, but hatred against blacks among Latvians and also other Eastern European nations is peculiar, because there has been little contact and there is no specific reason for the dislike. This means that the cause of racism can be found in problems in society which are not linked directly to racism. I can only express my suspicions that one of the causes of racism could be xenophobia, which could be characteristic for many Latvians, because our historical experience is such that the protagonists of global dramas have always been careless towards the Latvian nation. We can also mention social problems and the tension which definitely exists in Latvia. For example one of the most dangerous scenarios of Latvian and Russian integration, I think, is the uniting of various nationalities to vent their discontent on the black students who have come to Latvia, or say, DJ’s.
If blacks are allowed to cross the border of a “Latvian Latvia”, will they suddenly not become our sons and daughters-in-law? One aspect is that it is again difficult to justify why one should fear a black son-in-law, bet even more interesting is the question of who, in this “Latvian Latvia”, will control who marries whom. The Freedom Party advertisement first of all is paternalistic, as it is based on the assumption that you cannot rely on Latvian women themselves. Someone needs to protect them and keep them at a distance from black men, because they (the women, of course) may suddenly not understand what they really need. And that might be just the beginning. Soon Latvians might start listening to foreign music, eat strange food, speak loudly and gesticulate with their hands: behave like animals. It would be better for society to keep an eye on their own, and tell them whom to marry, what to sing and what to wear, wouldn’t it?Racism, unfortunately, is natural. It is difficult to limit with reason. Elsewhere, intolerance towards racism has also often emerged not as a result of contemplation, but by way of painful experience. The incident mentioned by one of the participants in the discussion at Little Rock Central High School in 1957, when soldiers were brought in to protect black school children on their way to school, left a shocking impression on Americans who were able to watch the developments of the event with the aid of a relatively new medium, the television. It is doubtful that anything will substantially change in Latvia before we realise close-up what is so frightening about racism. But it would be nice if the discussion on politika.lv or George Steele’s interviews made at least someone prick up their ears.