Racism in Russia?

Initially my intent was to procure a Korean scholarship. I love Korea you see. I love the culture, the language, the quirks, the peculiarities. I love it all. However, I didn’t get one. Instead I am now the recipient of a Russian scholarship. When this shift from Korean to Russian first came into view I did some research on the country itself because almost everything I had heard about Russia was negative, and the bits that weren’t negative weren’t really positive either. But that’s just in the mainstream media. So I went looking where people like you and me would speak about our own perspectives. Here, I most now note that I am of African descent, and that it is obvious once you see me. (Let’s be clear, I am not African. I am an Antiguan. My ancestors left Africa 300 years ago.) For this reason I was a little more concerned than some might be because I’d also been fed that Russians are racist. Thankfully, the good people of Netville dispelled this myth (for me). I went looking for first-hand accounts of what blacks had undergone on trips to Russia. I was amazed.

The accounts of people who had actually been to Russia were not negative they were closer to being neutral. They mentioned strange stares on the street, and persons feeling threatened but not being harmed. That is perfectly okay for me. I am strange enough so I get stared at and I’ve grown quite accustomed to it. So the real issue here is feeling threatened. The story that goes along with this was a second-hand account of a black Russian (they exist) who in a bar one day saw a man standing outside of the bar with a club. Apparently it was communicated that he was waiting for her. After a few hours he left. The storyteller was keen to mention that the reaction to blacks in Russia varies depending on whether you’re closer to the capital or farther away. To be honest, that bar story frazzled me a bit. What balanced it for me was the introduction of a black man married to a Russian woman. Let me also inform you that I take more away from the exception than from the norm. If one black man has been living in a rural area in Russia with a Russian woman for several years and he is still alive and unharmed how much do I need to fear? So, yes, there are many videos with persons saying it’s bad in Russia. But it’s the other side that drew me.

I mean really? Of course, one will still have doubts but I thought that was a rather important issue. And I stopped my research after finding the account of a black female who had been to Russia. I wasn’t afraid anymore. This might not seem like the smartest move, but it’s exactly what I did. For me the major aspects that seemed to bother people is explained by the fact that blacks aren’t a commonality in Russia and similar areas of the world. Their ‘racism’ isn’t “I hate you because you aren’t worthy”. If we can truly call it racism then it should be classed under “I am threatened by this change.” Aren’t we all threatened by change? Is it not our habit, our tradition, our way of life to revolt against change.

For the last year I have felt a revolution boiling. A revolution against me and my hair. A revolution led by own people. Oddly this revolution isn’t just against me. It is against every kinky-haired individual who decides to embrace the naturalness of their hair. Does that sound odd to you? If a black person’s hair is straightened to resemble that of other races they have a better chance of being taken seriously, of being hired. This is comment includes but isn’t focused on managers of other races. It is about black managers who consider natural hair to be a sign that the person beneath the hair is unkempt, uncouth, unbusiness-like, and unfit for any position be it an auxiliary worker or anything else.

The first image below is a photo of me one of approximately twelve occasion on which attention was actually paid to my hair. The rest of the eight years I did as little as is humanly possible to my hair. Very few people complained. The next image, is more recent. Approximately one year after cutting my hair people doubt my ability, and when it is found that I am efficient at what I do…they suggest I change my hair.

Straightened hair
Straightened hair
1525260_10152097566488891_1442131226_n
Natural kinky hair

Oddly, I take more care of my natural hair in one month than I ever did  in the eight years I was straightening my hair. Every time I do my natural hair I ensure it is done exactly how I want it to look: polished. I never cared with my straightened hair. But that isn’t anyone’s concern. Their concern is that this hair is different, a change and hence it should be shunned by all means humanly possible. This not only includes looking at kinky-haired persons with eyes that suggest ill intent, but also withholding jobs, at times, segregation. I remember an incident where a group of students belittled a woman because of her hair. After being told she was a talented and accomplished writer, they were appalled. They were not sorry. They were appalled and they promptly dismissed her.

Shortly after I cut my hair, and before it began trending people would stare at me in that strange way that people do as if to make one feel less human. I have yet to see Russian eyes give me that look. I have only seen curiosity, and for me curiosity is exactly the brand of racism I like…the kind that observes, and questions, and accepts. Come along with me. Experience Russia and its people through my eyes, black eyes, the eyes of a kinky-haired girl.

Links I viewed while adjusting to the idea of going to Russia as it pertains to being Black:
  1. I watched less than a minute, then read the comments (from about a year ago) which I completely agreed with.
  2. This is from the same person in #1 with a guy married to a Russian
  3. Again same person from 1 and 2, in which advice and explanation is given about Russian culture on the street
  4. A black woman who visited Russia, and her experience

And a link I’ve just found that gives a more open-minded feel to it all. Two American basketballers in Krasnodar, Russia

After doing the same search I am amazed at how much more negative things I’m seeing that were online long before my initial search. Nonetheless, I am pleased with my finds, and decision.

Do share your thoughts, views, and questions.

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6 thoughts on “Racism in Russia?

    1. I’ve been here for almost a month, and you are so right. I’ve actually been quite surprised at how cool everyone is. Hopefully, this droplet of mine helps someone see beyond the thick veil of negativity.

      Ah! How could I forget to mention the Russian writers like yourself?! I’ll fix it in later posts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. inc says:

        You know, Shaziane, even in Korea, there’s still much racism or prejudices to foreigners and especially towards folks who look African-American. Mostly in the countrysides of Korea and all due to ignorance and their not knowing any foreigners to learn differently. So it was really great how Sam Okyere, who is Nigerian, I think he said (whom I had mentioned in my “Henry & Real Men” post had appeared on the Hello Counselor TV show (I mention about a bit about what that show is about in the post) and had shared about his own experiences of having been given negative comments or reactions by folks, even though he’s fluent in the Korean language, attended the best Korean college, and had lived in the country for several years. Really happy for him for having come on that show and shared his story.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am aware of the racism in Korea. When I was preparing to go there I did an intense research on how people interact with and perceive blacks, and other foreigners. I will check it out also. Thank you.

        Like

  1. inc says:

    Congratulations on your scholarship! Looks like God is changing your direction. Am looking forward to hearing how you’ve broken any possible racism in where you’re going to be living and learning. You’re Antiguan, huh? Good thing you had clarified the difference between African. Interesting that you should bring up hair because my best friend is Palauan, from the island of Palau in the Pacific. Although her hair is very wavy and she has darker-tones skin, she says that she’s very often mistaken for being African-American whenever she goes to the Stateside. Guess that’s a bit how I feel when I’m mistaken for being Chinese or from another Asian country. I’m used to it now. p.s. That’s cool how you like Korea and Korean stuffs. Fighting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes! He is. He definitely is! I am so happy to be here. Hm, breaking. A little boy saw me last we and told his mom I was dirty. I don’t think he’s 2 yet. When she made him touch me and look at his hand he seemed so confused. Hopefully he’ll remember something good about the experience when he grows up. Yes, I am. 😀 Ah,the Palau islands. (I don’t know anything but the name. WIll Google them later.) We have perceptions about about how certain people should look and then we through a blanket with people with any similarities. Unfortunately. ^^ Fighting!

      Like

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