Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Meanwhile In Racism

I think we've just about all heard of the Donald Sterling matter by now, where racist comments revealed to be said by him resulted in an outcry that culminated in NBA commissioner Adam Silver banning him for life from any involvement with the NBA or the Los Angeles Clippers beyond writing checks and moving to get the other owners to force him to sell the franchise. The sheer force of the movement against Sterling has caused ESPN analyst Bomani Jones, who has been getting on Sterling for years for matters far more serious than basketball- Sterling is what is best described as a slumlord who has allowed that racism to permeate every facet of that aspect of his life- to berate those who have ignored, excused or even enabled Sterling's behavior until now, when bashing him is easy and addresses a scandal instead of anything of actual substance.

But that is so well-known now that there's not too much I can add to it, though I will pass you along to Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post, who tells about an even worse owner in Europe, Gigi Becali of Romanian soccer club Steuea Bucharest. So let's just use it as a springboard to go after something else. Let us therefore go to Germany, where a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA ($5 paywall) has analyzed residual anti-Semitic sentiments, which, regrettably, are still present in small quantities in Germany even today. What was found was that those sentiments are stronger in places where the Nazi Party gained above-average support way back in 1928, being about 7% more likely to feel that Jews should not have the same rights as other Germans.

Compare to a much more quick-and-dirty version of what Nate Silver and Allison McCann of FiveThirtyEight attempted today regarding anti-black sentiments by whites in America, specifically trying to determine whether one party had more racists in it than the other. Though they noted that racism is a fairly difficult thing to test for, from the info provided, they found a gap with the Republicans on the wrong end of it consistently over the years; however, the Democrats didn't exactly get away clean, and the gap isn't as large as you might have predicted going in. So while the GOP is arguing from an absolute position of weakness, the Dems shouldn't be going around acting blameless.

Meanwhile, in Hungary, the Council of Europe visited 16 prisoner-detention facilities in that country in April 2013, and just released a report leveling accusations of not only racism, but abuse and overcrowding. These are matters more or less dismissed as a matter of course in America, but remember that in Europe, particularly western and northern Europe, prisons are far more geared towards rehabilitation as opposed to punishment and are generally less macho in demeanor. The race on the receiving end in Hungary is the Romani- which, as you probably know, are better known historically as 'gypsies', which is a derogatory term towards them, and who have long had to deal with stereotypes about the race which, if you're familiar with gypsies as portrayed in pop culture, you already know. They are the most widely maligned race in modern-day Europe, partly due to the fact that they don't really have a country known as theirs. Hungary and Romania are the most prominent historical homelands, and they're the eighth-largest demographic group in Romania, but in any country they're largely just regarded as 'immigrants' and treated like garbage.

In fact, in 2010, the government of Romania, citing an effort to avoid confusion, attempted to forcibly change the very name of the Romani to the Tigan, a word that comes from the Greek for 'untouchable'. You can imagine how well that went over.

At least there's someone now who properly deserves that label.

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