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Racism in Austria on the hot seat
February 19, 2009 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Racism in Austria is a problem that has been well documented for quite some time. With the recent rise of the far right political parties, however, things seem to be getting worse. The recent case involving an African American teacher who was mistaken for a drug dealer and beaten by the police however has the potential to bring some changes to the country.
posted by Slash_fan (31 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
On the other hand, if this had happened in the U.S., he would probably be dead.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:49 AM on February 19, 2009


See, this never would have happened in the U.S. Imagine, cops beating someone up accidentally and then just leaving someone after realizing they made a mistake! Unthinkable! Where are the tumped-up "resisting arrest" charges!?
posted by delmoi at 9:51 AM on February 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Actually I think if this would have happened in the US there would have been riots. They didn't even identify themselves as police until 3 minutes into the beating, and they didn't produce ID that they were police until 10 minutes after the ordeal was over. They also didn't bother to call an ambulance for the vicitm.
posted by Slash_fan at 9:52 AM on February 19, 2009


He should be happy his isn't Brazilian in the UK.
posted by tarvuz at 9:54 AM on February 19, 2009


Actually I think if this would have happened in the US there would have been riots.

Dude, have you been Paying attention? It would be interesting to see some statistics, but my impression is these kinds of things are not too uncommon. Here's another example, the guy was in a sleeping bag, sleeping and get got tased, beaten and apparently chewed on by a police dog, all based on mistaken identity and all filmed by a COPS T.V. crew. No riots. Then there was the guy Shot on his wedding day by accident in NYC, no Riots. I'm sure people could come up with many more examples.

With the Oscar Grant case you had a guy clearly not resisting arrest, killed in front of dozens of spectators many of whom were videotaping the incident.
posted by delmoi at 10:02 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


In fairness, what can you really expect from the grandchildren of transported convicts?

(It was an invasion, not an Anschluss! They were the victims of Fascism! Haven't you seen The Sound of Music? Beethoven wasn't a German, but you know who was! )
posted by orthogonality at 10:08 AM on February 19, 2009


"Then there was the guy Shot on his wedding day by accident in NYC, no Riots. "

That's ironic. Right?
posted by orthogonality at 10:09 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dude, have you been Paying attention

Actually I don't see how any of the cases have anything to do with this case, except possibly the case in Galveston. In the other cases the officers were dressed and identified as officers. If I'm innocent and an officer tells me to do something, I'll do it.

And comparing Galveston, which is an hour from where I grew up, with Vienna, is anyway not a valid comparison. Anyone who's been there knows they have a ton of problems going on there.

The fact is Vienna police have been getting away with this for years. Without lawsuits, or suspensions or firings. That doesn't happen in the states. People get pissed and make a stink in America, here they are too scared to.
posted by Slash_fan at 10:14 AM on February 19, 2009


According to an article in yesterday's Der Standard, official complaints to the police about right extremist and anti-Semitic incidents increased two-fold from 2006 to 2008.

Austria's 2 populist far-right parties (FPÖ and BZÖ) together won 27.9 percent of the vote in the country's last national elections, held in September, 2008.

Austria's banks are heavily exposed to the faltering Eastern European market.

Strange times in this country.
posted by syzygy at 10:23 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I did part of my master's degree in Upper Austria (the western part). Racism is actually too narrow a term for what is an ingrained xenophobia that permeates much of the country. There are bars that simply do not let non-Austrians in. The non-German speaking Caucasians among us were instructed to not speak while in line ups to night clubs because we would not be let in if they heard us speaking English. Our Chinese and African American friends opted to almost never leave the campus because they learned that it wasn't worth the hassle of running into an asshole on the train. Eventually, we all just stayed on campus and drank awesome, awesome beer in our common rooms.

The academic explanation I've heard for this was that Austria has spent the last 60 years being shunned by a lot of Europe. At the same time, they are a border country to the former U.S.S.R., and quite close to the middle east via Turkey. Thus, there are long running fears of being invaded with the prospect of little help. The integration of poorer countries like Romania and Bulgaria into the EU has ignited protectionist fears of being overrun by economic migrants. They are almost violently against having Turkey join the EU. All this coalesces into a pervasive xenophobia.

There is a growing sense among the more educated that this is something that Austria needs to work on. They have a long way to go.
posted by dobie at 10:42 AM on February 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Check your facts, jack. It ain't like that. Blacks don't riot at the drop of a hat.
Have you forgotten.....Soccer? Those hooligans riot on a daily basis. Get out your calculator and knock out some digits.

Number of Major Black riots in the past 20 years? (fill in the blanks)

Number of Soccer Fanatic riots in the past 20 years? (fill in the blanks)

Number of US sports fans rioting because their teams have won? (fill in the blanks)
posted by doctorschlock at 10:53 AM on February 19, 2009


And comparing Galveston, which is an hour from where I grew up, with Vienna, is anyway not a valid comparison.

Everything must be compared to the U.S. Everything.
posted by the other side at 10:56 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Racism? Cops? You think?
posted by rmmcclay at 11:02 AM on February 19, 2009


A while back, I went to visit Mauthausen with my father. The sick fuckers were charging an entrance fee, something I've never seen at German Concentration Camps. Needless to say, we didn't pay a cent after my father angrily proclaimed, "That's funny, you used to march us in for free!".

There are signs up in the gas chambers in Mauthausen which read something to the effect of - 'These Gas Chambers Were Never Used'. The fucking walls are covered in people's nail marks. Unlike the several German Camps I've visited, the Austrians have all but turned the Camp into a 'lovely' park.
posted by gman at 11:14 AM on February 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm not saying that there might not be a problem with racism in Austria, but the exhibits are a bit ... um ... weak.

Here's what the victim said:

"I heard about the situation before here, I heard a lot about it, and I've never really seen it" before, he said.

Now here's a black person who has lived in a country that is 99.9% white and he says that he has never seen the problem in four years that he lived there.

Then the assault. They were after a black guy riding the same subway car. They mistook one black guy for another black guy. The attack apparently was brutal and they should take responsibility for that, but it doesn't look like they were singling him out because he is black, but rather that he fit the description of the suspect. Are attacks on white drug dealers in Austria less brutal?

Oh, and like someone said upthread, in the U.S. he would have been dead. And put on trial for resisting arrest.
posted by sour cream at 11:38 AM on February 19, 2009


What do you mean, "he would have been dead" if he was in the U.S.? Do African-Americans never even reach a holding cell in the United States? Are they always murdered on the scene by the police? Please, stop with the knee-jerk anti-Americanism. There are plenty of real things wrong with the U.S.; no need to pull stuff out of your ass, no need to lecture about how any petty atrocity in the news today would be literally A THOUSAND MILLION BILLION TIMES WORSE in the U.S.

It's tiresome.
posted by Mister_A at 11:50 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dick Cavett once interviewed Walter Slezak, an Austrian actor who had spent time in both Vienna and Berlin. He asked him the difference the Germans and the Austrians. Slezak replied, "The Germans were Nazis. The Austrians are Nazis."
posted by Bromius at 11:51 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Er, purely anecdotal sort of knowledge here, but a friend and colleague of mine is Nigerian, who moved to Vienna with her husband while he was studying at university there. She lived there for about four years before moving to the UK, and has been here for about four years.

She told me that she didn't have one single racist incident happen whilst living in Vienna - not her, not her kids, not her husband. No one she knew had, either.

Move to the UK, on the other hand, and she's had plenty... in roughly the same length of time she lived in Austria.

She'd move back there in a heartbeat if she could, but her husband has found a good job here.
posted by Grrlscout at 11:53 AM on February 19, 2009


What do you mean, "he would have been dead" if he was in the U.S.?

OK, sloppy writing on my part, my bad.
What I meant to say is, an incident in the U.S. making comparable waves would likely involve the victim being shot. Or at least being a 12-year-old who is mistaken for three white hookers. I just can't imagine that someone being mistaken for a drug dealer and being roughed up like that (as bad as it is) would be just as newsworthy.

It also seems to me that in confrontations like that there is simply a much bigger chance of being shot in the US. The reason is of course that everybody and their grandma is carrying a gun. Which forces the police to be much more careful and quick on the trigger. In Austria, a confrontation like that will leave you with a black eye and some bruises, in the U.S. there's a higher chance than in Austria that you'll be shot.
posted by sour cream at 12:16 PM on February 19, 2009


"The sick fuckers were charging an entrance fee, something I've never seen at German Concentration Camps. Needless to say, we didn't pay a cent after my father angrily proclaimed, 'That's funny, you used to march us in for free!'."

You know how American amusement parks will stamp your hand if you leave and want to come back later that same day? It would have been, well not awesome, but very apropos if your Dad had then immediately displayed a camp wrist tattoo and explained he'd already paid in full. (Though actually, of the Camps, only Auschwitz used wrist tattoos.)
posted by orthogonality at 12:24 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ahh, thanks sour cream. Sorry if I seemed a bit harsh there, I think I clearly mistook your thesis.
posted by Mister_A at 12:38 PM on February 19, 2009


Who cares about Austria, lets talk about how this would go down if it was the US!
posted by electroboy at 1:43 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are attacks on white drug dealers in Austria less brutal?

Attacks on white drug dealers don't happen in Austria, there are 50 of them gathered at one of the main Subway stations. And no the racism here is at such a level that sometimes people don't realize it.

Read the second link and you'll know what I'm talking about, it's sick here.

Frankly, I also find it sick that some of you think someone has to be killed in order for it to be news.
posted by Slash_fan at 3:29 PM on February 19, 2009


That's ironic. Right?

You mean in an Alanis Morresette way?

The fact is Vienna police have been getting away with this for years. Without lawsuits, or suspensions or firings. That doesn't happen in the states. People get pissed and make a stink in America, here they are too scared to.

I think the fact that there would be lawsuits is exactly why the police often come up with trumped up "resisting arrest" charges.
posted by delmoi at 4:04 PM on February 19, 2009


Racism in Austria is a problem that has been well documented for quite some time.

Last time I was in Austria, we went out to a local bar. Regarding a black man at the bar, I asked what the attitude was toward that. I was told, "each bar has one, but only one."
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:42 PM on February 19, 2009


My mother is from Vienna and I've been there many times. Though racism and xenophobia are common place (My grandmother openly disdains her Turkish neighbors) it always struck me as being mostly a generational issue. Most of the younger Viennese I've met are very liberal and open-minded.
posted by ryaninoakland at 8:22 PM on February 19, 2009


For what it's worth, my life was upended by a nationalistic war in Bosnia. I won't reiterate the details, but my parents were killed, I suffered physically and more. But the funny thing is, the weird vibes I get sometimes, when I run across a Serb, are not nearly as creepy to me as the vibes I often got in Austria, and only Austria (not Bavaria or Switzerland or any "similar" place.) I remember my German teacher, way back when, telling me something to the statement above, about how Germans *were* Nazis, and Austrians *are* Nazis! I've met some wonderful Austrians, but for the most part, the country seems to have a xenophonic attitude I've found elsewhere in Europe only in remote villages. I don't know why or what it means - it's just odd.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:31 PM on February 19, 2009


Most of the younger Viennese I've met are very liberal and open-minded.

I thought so to the first few years I lived here. Then I reallized I was meeting people in my social class, and with like minded ideas. The fact is people like you and me don't hang out in the places where racism is festering. And those are some huge places around vienna. One of the districts is bigger than the second biggest city in Austria, and it showed the most support for the racist party. I never hang out there because it is full of "prolo's" or p.w.t. As I have worked in schools all over Vienna for the past 8 years, I have seen more and more of it coming out of the kids, and that comes from their parents.

You'd think anything about Turkey was the joke of the century, if you were in that social class. You'd openly say words like the N word and not get scolded like you should.

Yes I know a plethora of Austrians who are good, outstanding people, and some of them even have underlying racism issues. It's sad that no one does anything about it.
posted by Slash_fan at 3:36 AM on February 20, 2009


You'd think anything about Turkey was the joke of the century, if you were in that social class. You'd openly say words like the N word and not get scolded like you should.

If anything it is a joke of the last seven centuries; I've seen murals painted on cathedral ceilings of the Austrians and Hungarians united in beating back the Turkish hordes. This is Ottoman Empire stuff. North American history does not go back as far as the animosity between Turks and Austrians.
posted by dobie at 8:34 AM on February 20, 2009


In Austria my host says, "And that's the Turkish Wall," pointing at some kind of great wall thingy. "So, the Turks built it, or you built it for them, or what?" "NO! It's to keep them out, you idiot!"
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:10 PM on February 20, 2009


In Austria my host says, "And that's the Turkish Wall," pointing at some kind of great wall thingy. "So, the Turks built it, or you built it for them, or what?" "NO! It's to keep them out, you idiot!"

Exactly the underlying racism I'm talking about. Does that happen in America? Sure I know dopes that make completely inappropriate jokes, but they're from BFE, not the capital city. I don't know if your host is from the capital city, but as you know, nothing is really "rural" in Austria, I mean no matter where you live here, you are an hour away from a bigger city. It's a sickness that permeates the land, and the ones that are sick of it, leave the country, that's why nothing ever changes around here.
posted by Slash_fan at 1:12 PM on February 21, 2009


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