Trigger Warning: Experiences with racism
Today I want to take you with me to recap my experiences from last Saturday.
After a delicious breakfast with a good friend, we decided to go to a flea market called Naschmarkt, a well-known spot in Vienna. On Saturday mornings, people are there at 5 am to get the cheapest and best stuff. It’s a place where a lot of interaction is happening. People go there not just to buy or change things, it’s more about the atmosphere that the Naschmarkt offers its visitors.
When you find yourself there, you are surrounded by culinary food from all over the world combined with people who sell special things for little money, and the smell of hot spices in your nose.
We were passing a few stands as we got to a situation that shocked us and overwhelmed us. A man who was the seller was shouting at a guy who wanted to buy something at his stand with words that sounded like: “This is my country. Go back to yours”. His words were hitting me so hard because I don’t understand how somebody can even talk about “my country”.
We are all the same, we grew up with different circumstances but to me, country borders are not more than lines drawn that separated us back in history. The guy was shouting back with, “You are racist. That is racism”. Since we didn’t know what happened before, we asked the guy who wanted to buy something what was going on. He told us that the seller was behaving in a racist manner towards others before him too.
Situations like the one above make me feel as though I’ve been caught in a cold shower. My mouth was so dry and normally I’m a person with a lot of words, but I felt like a stone. And that’s the thing we tend to forget– that even if we want to react sometimes, we need to share our experience not by directly confronting people if it’s too dangerous for ourselves. We need to find other ways. That’s why I’m sharing my experience with you today and want to encourage us all in accepting and seeing ourselves in what we are – equal human beings.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”- Audre Lorde.
That was, unfortunately, not all that happened. A few stands later there was another seller who shouted to a whole family, “Learn our language otherwise I’m not selling anything to you”. That was the second obvious racist experience we saw in 30 minutes at a place in Vienna which I grew up thinking was multicultural and kind. But what I also experienced and learned from this whole scenario is maybe the most important message to share: if we want to change something, we need to talk about things that make us uncomfortable and not just swallow it down and hope it will never happen again. Because it will happen again if we do not actively choose to change things. In small or big ways.
From a sociological perspective, race is a social construct that is based on cultural ideologies. It exists on an individual as well as on an institutional level. But I want to understand why people still put people into different groups. Social psychologist, Jennifer L. Eberhard, revealed in her research the extent to which racial imagery and judgements suffuse our culture and society, and how this leads to subconscious racism towards other people.
This is what we need to understand.
I will leave you with a quote that hopefully encourages us all to talk about those situations so that we can change something. For us, for all the people on this planet, and for our world.
“To bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try.”– Rosa Parks.
About the author:
I’m Kristin, an Ethnology student and creative writer living in the beautiful city Vienna. Most of the time you can find me on my bike catching the little moments in life and also, you’ll always find a stock of peanut butter on my kitchen shelve. Creating and sharing stories is one of my biggest passions!
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