Global Issues: Austria & Czech Republic/Discrimination & Racism
According to dictionary.com Racism is defined as 1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others. 2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination. 3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others. The problem of racism and discrimination is one that is vast and complicated to some degree.
According to dictionary.com Discrimination is defined as 1. an act or instance of discriminating. 2. treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination. 3. the power of making fine distinctions; discriminating judgment
Throughout history these problem have been prevalent in many societies. It is interesting to see the problems that arise just because of differences in religious or ethnic backgrounds. These problems not only plague the United States, but it is a global issue that needs to contended with. Austria and the Czech Republic are both not exempt in dealing with these issues. These issues have been and continue to be present in the areas of education, housing, employment, religion and other areas as well. This chapter will attempt explore to a very small degree this problem in both Austria and the Czech Republic.
Racism and Discrimination in Austria: A Historical Perspective
Due to Austria being bordered by various countries with different languages and cultures, it has long been considered a multicultural society and has a long history of openness to cultural diversity. Even though most Austrians are Roman Catholics, Islam has been officially recognized in Austria since 1912. It should be noted that Austria is home to many NGO's that are oriented by culture.
Racism has quite a history in Austria. Historically Austrian national did not get along well with certain ethic groups but specifically Turks, Serbs and especially Jews. This was quite evident during WWII. After the war, things did not improve in Austria as fast as they did in Germany. Austrians were considered both at home and abroad as victims of the Nazis. However, it is interesting to note that even at that time of being discriminated against, the Austrians were blatant in their own practices as well.
Current Issues in Austria: A Political Perspective
Surprisingly a large portion of Austrians find it acceptable to vote for party that is ultra conservative and far right. Two examples are the FPO (Austrian Freedom Party) and BZO (Alliance for Austria's Future). A large percentage of Austrians consider FPO and BZO to be legitimate parties even if they did not receive a majority of the vote. Both of these parties combine nationalism and socialism in a way that is very similar to Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party. Although this connection is apparent to most but in Austria it is a taboo topic. Anyone who talks about it openly does run the risk of being socially and economically ostracized. FPO and BZO are both extremely nationalistic. They defend the rights of “authentic” Austrians and restrict the rights of "foreigners". An "authentic Austrian" is considered a member of a traditional Austrian family, while a "foreigner" is understood to be someone who looks different. These differences are in skin color, speech patterns and dress. FPO and BZO are socialist in the sense that they want to improve social services for authentic Austrians and reduce or eliminate social services for other. This certainly does have the appearance of a country that would be comfortable with discrimination.
It appears that these parties encourage Austrians to regard themselves as victims of foreigners. They enforce the perception that foreigners are taking away their money and undermining their culture. Austria is one of the richest countries in the world. One could argue that in such a rich country that redistribution of wealth would cure some social issues. So, that appears to encourage people to vote to the right. This was the exact kind of thinking that led to the prevailing mindset to blame certain groups of people namely the Jews for economic issues in the 1930’s. Today, the scapegoats have changed a bit. However, the victim mentality, racially oriented arguments and blatant lies about foreigners and different ethnic groups have not.
Issues such as police brutality towards foreigners is quite evident in Austria. Many incidents have been reported. For instance in a Nigerian by name of Marcus Omufuma from Nigeria died at the hands of the police while being deported from Austria by air. In July of 2003 Seibani Wague was killed by police as they literally stood on him. In April 2006, Bakary J was seriously injured after being beaten by police. These incidents are just to name a few
Also it has been reported by some surveys that many Austrians have distorted views of foreigner based on the media's reporting methods. As a result of this many Austrians have a mindset that most drug dealers are Africans in their country. This is not true. According to statistic 61.5% of all people arrested for selling drugs were Austrians. However, this is not what is shown on the local news agencies.
In Austria racism and discrimination are both alive and well.
Racial Issues in Czech Republic
Issues in the Czech Republic are actually quite similar to the ones in Austria. There are hate groups, police brutality, and prevailing attitudes of discrimination.
It should be noted that there appears to be a bit more a problem in the Czech Republic with hate groups. The reasons for this is not quite clear. The groups that are racially intolerant and violent appear to be thriving to a degree even with laws that clearly in affect against such activity. Groups such as Skinheads, Neo-Nazis and the like are present. Estimates vary as to the actual numbers. However, it is estimated that there 800 to 2000 members active in Prague and roughly 4000 to 5000 members that are active nationally. Skinheads are very instrumental in attacks on Jew, Germans, Roma. The reports of attacks are too numerous to count.
However, it should be noted that in the Czech Republic their issues really appear to be rooted in a deep sense of nationalism. Due to the economic crisis,there is even more of a cry out against any foreigner that gives any type of competitions for jobs.
It is, however, interesting to note that the Czechs tend to have high levels of intolerance for the different ethnic groups that have lived side by side with them for many years. Their racial attitudes and discriminatory practices are not aimed at just the foreigners from abroad. For example, it has been well documented that according to statistics children in Czech primary school tend to better than children who are being educated in schools in the Czech Republic that are being primarily attend by children of a different ethnic background.
Even though the problems of racism and discrimination are prevalent in Austria & Czech Republic, both countries are making tremendous strides to combat these problems. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights is very active in gaining data to provide to local agencies to assist in combating this problem. This is extremely important in assessing what services to provide to certain areas of the EU. It should also be noted that the European Union has taken great measures in not allowing countries that have blatantly racially discriminatory stances to join.
Even though these issues exist, most Europeans are very supportive of eliminating these issues. The prospect of eliminating these issues appears to be quite promising.
“Key facts on racism and xenophobia in EU.” The FRA InfoBase – Overview of the state of protection of fundamental rights. 2009. European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. 30 June 2010. <http://fra.europa.eu/fraWebsite/research/key-facts/key-facts_en.htm>. Anastasis. “Freedom Party's controversial (anti) EU posters.” Racism Kills. 1 June 2009. Amnesty International UK. 30 June 2010. <http://blogs.amnesty.org.uk/blogs_entry.asp?eid=3261>.
McDougall, Gay. “Roma in Europe: Racism alive and well.” The Journal. 22 November 2008. The Edinburgh Journal Ltd. 30 June 2010. <http://www.journal-online.co.uk/article/5125-roma-in-europe-racism-alive-and-well>.
McVay, Ken. “The Skinhead International: Czech Republic.” 2009. The Nizkor Project. 30 June 2010. <http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/orgs/american/adl/skinhead-international/skins-czech-republic.html>.
Parncutt, Richard. “Racism and Xenophobia in Austria.” 2008. Karl-Franzens-Universitat Graz. 30 June 2010. <http://www.uni-graz.at/~parncutt/racisminaustria.HTM>.