Spain and racism: a tolerant country that is radicalizing

The Vinícius case monopolizes all the news and bar conversations.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
23 May 2023 Tuesday 22:21
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Spain and racism: a tolerant country that is radicalizing

The Vinícius case monopolizes all the news and bar conversations. Not only in Spain, but also abroad (Brazil). Something that never ceases to surprise because situations like those experienced by the Real Madrid player have been experienced (and are experienced) not only in the First Division, but also in the lower categories. And yes, also in children's competitions.

The difference this time is that the Brazilian player pointed to Spain as a racist country. And that accusation has raised blisters and damaged national pride. But is it true that Spain is a racist country?

Well, according to the experts, no, Spain is not a racist country in general, but there is racism (such as xenophobia, machismo and homophobia, among others, which are all closely linked). A racism that is on the rise despite the fact that Spanish society is one of the most tolerant in Europe. And they remember, for example, how the massive arrival of immigrants was managed at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century or how, in social matters, the Spanish promoted the homosexual marriage law (2005) or the law against gender violence ( 2004).

But that tolerance that has defined Spain is suffering a regression, points out Rosario Sánchez Morales, professor of Sociology at UNED's Faculty of Political Sciences and Sociology. “The Spanish society of two decades ago was clearly characterized by its greater openness towards different people, be it because of their race, their origin, or their sexual identity, which explains the social advances, but for some years that tolerance has been declining ”.

Because? In his opinion, because society is more aggressive, it is more polarized and some people choose to point out their work, integration, emancipation problems to others... Especially young people, who express their discomfort through racist and xenophobic behaviors.

Racism, Rosario Sánchez points out, is not based on genetics. It is an ideology, which in these times is having a certain boom, not only in Spain, throughout Europe: "There are very radicalized sectors that have found an important niche in these people, among which those messages pointing out the different are well welcomed”.

They are not the majority, far from it. But they are a not insignificant part of society that is gaining followers every time. The study Youth and racism. Study on racist and xenophobic perceptions and attitudes among the young population of Spain, carried out by the Reina Sofía Center on Adolescence and Youth of the Fad Juventud Foundation, after having consulted 1,200 young people between the ages of 15 and 29 and published in November 2022, points out that one in four are racist and xenophobic, showing a clear rejection (and in this order) of gypsies and citizens from sub-Saharan Africa and Morocco.

The group of young people who present clearly racist attitudes and opinions is made up mostly of people who are ideologically positioned on the extreme right, with ideology being a determining variable. In addition to ideology, there are statistically significant differences based on sex, with a markedly more anti-racist character of women. They are more moderate.

Young people blame the spread of racist discourse mainly on some media and the image they give of immigration (60.4%), and on the xenophobic proposals of extreme right-wing parties (49.7%).

“Although the majority (75%) of Spanish youth do not show racist attitudes, it is worrying that there are 25% who agree with clearly racist and xenophobic statements. Or that a significant percentage have witnessed racist behavior, from teasing (50%) to physical aggression (33%). They are very high percentages that we cannot ignore”, says Beatriz Martín Padura, general director of Fad Juventud.

"As a worrying specific fact, now that we have the elections close, only 57.2% of young people indicate that it would be okay for people of Roma, Moroccan or Muslim religion to occupy a social position of responsibility such as a mayor's office".

In addition to the studies, other data support this involution, although in this case it is also explained by the greater awareness of hate crimes. State security forces and bodies investigated a total of 1,802 criminal offenses and hate incidents in 2021. There are 96 more hate acts than in 2019 (an increase of 5.63 percent), which confirms the upward trend of this criminal phenomenon registered since 2014, interrupted in 2020 by the pandemic.