Racism is not only an American problem. It is a problem of all of us.

It’s really simple.

If you belong to the majority group, and you think that there is no institutional racism and “majority privilege” where you live, if you feel that everyone is equal, and that everything is just fine: ask yourself if you would trade places with a Turk or an Arab (and to a degree with other minorities) in Germany, if you would trade places with an African American person in the USA, or with a Roma person in any Balkan country… the list goes on and on.

If your answer is that you wouldn’t, then you either need to reconsider your belief that there is no institutional racism and “majority privilege”, or to admit to yourself that you are fine with it.

When I was a child in former Yugoslavia, there were “Gipsy jokes”.

They were also other groups that jokes were made about — Bosnians (“stupid -> clever”), Montenegrins (“lazy”), Dalmatians (“lazy and stingy”), policemen (“stupid”), blondes (“stupid”), but the jokes about the other groups were not intended to be mean (and they rarely were) — they were intended to be funny.

The “Gipsy jokes” were mean, and they were intended to be mean. They were implying that Roma were lesser people, with lesser culture, less worthy. If a child would not behave, the standard threat from a desperate mother (who couldn’t help herself on another way) to her child, was that an old ugly Gipsy woman would come and take them away in her bag. For some reason, old Gipsy women were always portrayed having a big dirty bag over their shoulders, which paired well with the prejudice that they are only thieves and beggars.

Pay attention to this painting by Croatian painter Stjepan Večenaj from 70s, titled “Cigani” (“Gypsies”). Pretty much every racist stereotype about Roma people is in there: there is the mythical old, ugly Gipsy women with a dirty bag, there is a drunk Gipsy on a boat, and another drunk Gipsy sleeps beside otherwise peaceful village, none of them are working — all they are interested into are possessions of other people. And some booze.

“Cigani” (“Gypsies”) by Stjepan Večenaj

In 1996, a dear friend of mine, Bosnian, was emigrating to the US. We were celebrating the night before, and he said that he had a dream, once he settles in the US, to spend a few days in a Native American (“Indian”) reservation, to get to know the people and the culture better. Our common American friend, who was present with us that night, asked him if he had ever spent a few days in one of those Roma (“Gipsy”) tent-villages, which would come, stay for a few weeks, and then move on. My friend first reacted on that question with a disbelief, then answered with a “No!”, and then finally realized how heavily racist his own prejudices were.

There is no single human being who is completely free of racism. Even if you have racism directed against your group, you still can be a racist yourself. There is always someone “lesser” than you.

The struggle against racism has to be both a political struggle (in each of our societies, countries), and an individual struggle (within each of us). And it never stops.

Lives besides the oldest vineyard in the Rhine valley. Prefers collecting stories to collecting possessions. Can make his wife and kids laugh anytime.

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