“I’m not normal, I’m a nigger”: Are the Czechs More Racist?

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***

I didn’t want to write about this. Really. I would have much preferred to break my rather long silence with a whimisical piece about trams or clocks or a funny picture of a man eating an unfeasibly large sausage. The problem is, people keep coming out with things that as a self-confessed Guardian-reading lefty liberal, I find, well, shocking. Let me give you a couple of examples and then we’ll see what you think.

Last week I as teaching ‘if clauses’ to one of my groups of business students. They range in age from early thirties to mid-fifties. I gave them halves of sentences which they were supposed to come up with their own creative endings too. Fellow TEFL teachers will be well-acquainted with the kind of thing I mean: ‘If I won the lottery…’, ‘If cars ran on milk…’ ‘If everyone had eyes in the backs of their heads…’. One of the sentences my students had to complete was the seemingly innocuous, ‘If everyone had to learn Chinese instead of English..’

“I’m afraid of the Chinese,’ announced Jitka.

“Why?’ I find myself obliged to inquire.

“They are like ‘mravenci’.”

Oh God. I know this Czech word. “You think the Chinese are like ants?”

“Yes. There are just so many of them. It makes me afraid.”

***

I had a one-to-one student at a multinational company. She was in her late fifties. Let’s call her Ludmilla. Like many students, Ludmilla liked to use her English class as a kind of pseudo-therapy session so I know all about her difficult elderly mother-in-law who is too infirm to live by herself but refuses to go into a home, her concerns about restructuring in the department which means she will probably be made redundant and her sadness that the revolution happened too late for her to really do something with her life. Every time the class ends I feel faintly depressed and resolve not to police my boundaries better in future, which I of course then fail to do.

Anyway, one day we wander off onto the topic of previous teachers Ludmilla has had.

“I had someone from South Africa once but she was not a nigger.”

I burst out laughing; I don’t think I’ve heard a real person – i.e not a rapper or someone in a Spike Lee film – say this word out loud for years.

“No, you can’t say that in English”.

She pauses, reformulating the sentence in her mind. “She was not a nigger. She was normal.”

“No, you can’t say that either,” I told her. “In fact, what you just said is even worse.”

It is perhaps worth mentioning at this point that Ludmilla greatly admires Brigitte Bardot for the work she did later in life to promote animal rights.

***

I taught a new group somewhere in the bowels of a huge glass corporate headquarters somewhere on the edge of Prague. We are doing icebreakers. One of the icebreakers involves the students finding out something the others in the group really object to. All of them are in their late twenties to early thirties.

“What does it mean, ‘object to’?”

“It’s when you really, really don’t like something. When you are against it.”

“Can I say, ‘I object to the rain?'”

“No, it must be stronger. For example, ‘I object to racism.”

Lenka looks at me, genuinely puzzled. “Why?”

***

I didn’t want to write about this topic as I really don’t want my Czech readers to think that I’m coming over here claiming that everyone in Britain lives in multiracial harmony and that no-one would ever utter a non-politicially correct word. I don’t. In case you doubt me, I refer you to my entry where I talk about my own father’s racist comments.

What I do find surprising is that there is more casual racism here in than in Britain: for example, when I mentioned I was going on holiday to Berlin to a group of students, one of them quipped that it was the second biggest Turkish city in the world, knowing he would get a laugh. In Britain, that kind of comment would be rewarded with an embarrased silence. It’s probably just a symptom of the fact that the country was closed off from the outside world for so long but I’m still irked by the fact that youngish people who have probably travelled and had that contact with outside can still make these kinds of comments. Anyway. Enough attempts at serious analysis. Next time expect photos of mushrooms and statues and mannequins.

I look forward to your comments. I have a feeling they’ll be plenty.

83 Comments

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83 Responses to “I’m not normal, I’m a nigger”: Are the Czechs More Racist?

  1. I think there is some residual institutional racism here in the Czech Republic. From the people I speak to, I do get a sense that genuine racial harmony is still a long way off, but then, this is still a country that is struggling to assert its own identity.

    With the exception of a brief period between the First and Second World Wars, the Czechs were governed by other people from 1306 up until finally getting their independence in 1993. So just under 700 years of being told what to do by other people, many of whom didn’t treat the Czechs particularly well.

    So there is bound to be some mistrust of foreigners. I do find for the most part that Czechs have no real problems with white foreigners, although obviously the older generations have serious issues with Germans and Russians. Younger people though, at least for the most part, are not too keen to keep up with these issues from the past.

    The big problem over here is for non-whites. I have an Indian friend who was recently beaten up in a club in town, just for having dark skin. And I think this attitude stems from ignorance, which in turn breeds fear.

    If you think about things from a Czech persons perspective, they have a natural mistrust of the gypsies, most of whom are dark skinned. In some cases, this mistrust is understandable, as the gypsies are at the lowest level of society, and in any culture the people at the bottom of the pile resort to crime to survive.

    So the Czechs associate dark skin with crime.

    And I’m sure you have walked through Wenceslas Square and had some African guy come up to you and offer to sell you drugs at some point.

    Of course, the majority of Africans living in Prague are perfectly good people, working normal jobs, and just getting on with their lives. As are the majority of gypsies. But these are not the high profile ones, the ones that the average Czech sees the most of and forms stereotypes against an entire race because of.

    They see the gypsies committing petty crimes, the Africans trying to sell drugs or pimping prostitutes in the Old Town Square…

    Because this is mainly what they see, they form opinions about all people of colour based on the minority of bad apples. Just as we form opinions of racist Czechs based on the few bad ones that we meet.

    Most Czechs I speak to are great people with no problem accepting others, regardless of creed, colour, or anything else, at face value and as the individual people they are.

    But some, especially from smaller towns who have had no prior dealings with foreigners, have a small minded mentality, quite probably passed down from parents and grand-parents, and really have no idea that there is anything wrong with the views they hold.

    We have the same kind of people in the UK, but with much less excuse for it as we have had a multi-cultural society over there for a hell of a lot longer, and it is much more integrated than it is here.

    Yet in my home town of Manchester, a football team was formed in order to get people from the different African nations who have come over to the UK in the last 10-15 years to escape various wars and oppression in their own countries to realise that deep down they are all the same.

    The guy that founded the team said, and I quote from memory so it is probably not 100% correct but the basic message is:

    “When I was a young black kid growing up in Manchester, all the whites used to tease us and call us nigger, and tell us to get on the banana boat back home.

    Imagine my shock when I realise years later that black kids, the same age as my kids, are going to school and giving recent refugees from Somalia the same shit I got from the white kids 25 years ago.

    These are black kids, born and raised here in the UK, telling other black kids to go and get back on the banana boat and f*ck off home nigger.

    I just had to try and do something about it.”

    Some people will always find a reason to hate, and others are too ignorant to even realise that their attitude is promoting hatred.

    Over here, many of them still have the excuse of living in a country that is literally only 16 years old, and like all teenagers struggling to work out which direction it wants to take.

    I’m not sure I can find any excuses for the bigotry that exists back home in the UK. Which is, of course, why I live here!

    Apologies for hi-jacking your post. This was meant to be a short and salient response, but I guess I just got carried away slightly!

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Spawny,

      Thanks a lot for leaving such a detailed, thoughtful comment. Many of the points you’ve raised I agree with, especially the need to take into account Czech history and the link many Czech people make between dark skin and crime.

      What you said about young black British kids in Manchester really struck a chord with me too. How depressing. It reminds me of my Somali friend who told me that her sister was recently complaining about the wave of Eastern European immigration. ‘But we’re immigrants too,’ my friend pointed out to her. ‘But we deserve to be here; we were part of the Commenwealth’.

      Of course not all Czech people are racist but I still find it surprising, puzzling and sad that young(ish) educated people who should know better come out with the kind of comments I’ve described and don’t expect to be challenged. As a teacher, it really puts me in an uncomfortable position as I don’t want to lecture anyone but perhaps by just swiftly moving things on I’m somehow agreeing with them. Answers on a postcard please…

      • I honestly don’t think this issue will be resolved completely in the UK in my lifetime, so have no real hope of it being sorted any time soon over here in the Czech Republic…

        Another example I can give, again in Manchester, was when Amir Khan was fighting for the Olympic gold medal in 2004 in Athens…

        Now this was a 17 year old guy who was born and raised about 15 miles outside Manchester….

        On the afternoon of the fight, a couple of guys came into my bar, in Manchester, and saw that I had Olympic coverage on the television, and one of them said…

        “What time is that Paki c*nt fighting?”

        My instant response was…

        “I thought Khan was fighting someone from Cuba”

        Right after that there was a HUGE discussion, and I ended up throwing the guys out because of their racist views.

        Yes, Amir Khan’s family are originally from Pakistan. The difference I see between the UK and Czech, is that the UK media is always promoting racism in some way of other, mainly in the way they go on about “all the foreigners coming and stealing our jobs” and stuff like that….

        This is designed to get the poorly educated people to think racism is perfectly okay….

        I don’t speak Czech, so have no idea if the Czech press acts in the same way. But somehow, I find it hard to believe that the newspapers in a country that so recently achieved freedom, would already be promoting a philosophy of freedom….

        “as long as you’re like us”!

        Damn, I went and got carried away again!

  2. Matt

    Hi there,

    First to introduce myself: I’m a 28 year old English guy with a long term Czech girlfriend and planning to move to Prague a year from now. I’ve been quietly lurking on your blog for some time and very much enjoying your posts. Very encouraging to see that overall you seem to be having a good time. I’ve visited Prague 6 or 7 times and really love the city but I know living there will be very different to London where we are now.

    Not quite sure why I’ve picked the first very serious topic to reply to. Probably because I’m here in the office at 9pm on a Sunday with no prospect of leaving soon. I haven’t spent enough time in Czech Republic to comment but I did spend a few months working in Slovakia and found a similarly worrying amount of racism. One example:

    I was having lunch with some co-workers (all very well educated, respectable Slovaks in their late 20’s and 30’s) and we began talking about the world cup. “I love football” I said “because it’s the only time you can let yourself be racist”. I meant referring to “bloody Germans” “diving Italians” and the like – the innocent variety of racism which somehow seems acceptable during a football match (ok – others may have different views on this…) but soon realised how foolish a comment it had been.

    “Yeah, too right, f****** niggers” came the reply. I was totally disarmed – it felt like I’d invited the comment so I couldn’t very well say “I didn’t mean that kind of racism…” so I just when silent and then changed the subject. Your experiences above reminded me of this kind of casual racism which to an educated English person are pretty shocking. I’ve no doubt that there’s a good deal of racism kicking around in England but I’ve never heard it from well educated types…

  3. Marek

    Glad you are back. And also glad Spawny took on my usual task of writing the longest comment. Hope I won`t top this one 🙂

    I have worked for some time addressing the issues of discrimination and racism in Czechland. Having also started as a lefty (and beyond) liberal, I must admit, lately, my firm stands on the issue of political correcntess in relation to racism are being heavily tested. I can explain myself better if asked. Just one (long) thought to ponder:

    Being afraid of the unknown is a natural human condition. Wariness used to be one of the key skills to survival. Not talking of the fear of the different does not make that fear go away. Accepting the different without raising questions does not help solve the issues arising from such difference.

    A loosely related note – after expelling a couple million Germans and Austrians after WW1 and WW2 and violent border arrangements with Poland and Hungary, Czechland has become one of the “racially cleanest” areas of Europe. Besides official Czechoslovakland state support to Greek and Vietnamese children (Greek civil war and Vietnam war) and a couple thousand (mostly military, I think) studens from our Commie-friendly countries (Lybia, Algeria, Syria(?), Cuba, etc.), there was no foreign migration to speak of. No wonder we are a bit taken aback by the variety of skin colours out there 🙂

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Marek,

      I absolutely agree that fear of the unknown is a natural part of the human condition. The interesting thing perhaps is that I feel political correctness has gone so far in the UK that I would be afraid to express this simple truth out loud. This is perhaps proof that it is far from easy to find the middle ground of tolerance and acceptance without straying too far into the PC wilderness where you have to say ‘toilet for the non-able bodied’ rather than ‘disabled toilet’. Sometimes I’ve even found myself feeling guilty for *noticing* that someone has a different colour skin to mine and wondering whether this is the first step towards racism. Now you see how strong my internal PC thought policeman is…

      • Marek

        Hi Girl,
        I am glad you found the comment worth responding. What you write is very interesting! Can`t help responding, (sry) ..
        In the past few years, I have developed (or stolen) a theory that too much PCness creates extremism. When the discrepancy between words and reality becomes too large, people just can not let it go unnoticed. When finally some populist comes saying “Here, let me tell you the truth about immigrants /muslims /dogs /Irish…” – he/(she!) just says what everyone has been feeling for quite some time. The problem is that a lot of other quick stupid solutions come along with such “revelations”. Mainstream PC politics leaves these issues boiling under the lid and thus open to “extremists” just because … basically it has willingly lost all the words to describe the problems in the first place.
        So, in a mental shortcut, being less PC and more honest about racism might actually help maintain healthy racial peace.

        Interesting topic you opened, really. I got more, as usual 🙂 but must use my concision scissors here (dangerously nearing the longest comment benchmark again).

        Btw, reading your note, I realized, the Superteacher has slipped in some corrections of my initial comment. Great, thanks 🙂

  4. RyanG

    I agree that it probably comes down to exposure. When you spend time around certain people, you learn that they’re not all that different from you. And when you grow up with them the thought never even crosses your mind until someone suggests the idea.

    I was a little surprised to read that racism isn’t uncommon in Czech. Although in retrospect I should have expected it. Racism seems to be alive everywhere in the world to some degree. I hope that as the internet continues to bring the far corners of the world closer together, those feelings become less common. I wonder how long it will take for such a thing.

    I hope you don’t mind me leaving my comments here again. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog entries.

    • girlinczechland

      Of course I don’t mind you leaving comments: I was hoping/expecting for plenty on this particular thorny issue. Sorry I’ve been a bit slow to respond: busy week…

      I think that racism can come partly from a lack of exposure to other culture but I don’t think that’s the whole story. As I’ve said elsewhere, my Dad is a dyed-in-the-wool racist and he’s travelled all over the world for nearly 40 years as part of his job which only seems to have made him more jingoistic. I suppose there are no easy answers but as Marek says, perhaps if we can feel we can talk about racism openly and honestly we might come a little closer to overcoming prejudice.

      GIC

  5. Pavel

    Well, as a Czech myself I know what you are talking about and can feel your surprise..

    I think that more then “true, deep in the heart” racism, the things you describe are, in my opinion, basic lack of manners… people here talk these things because they think that everyone talks these things, they think it makes them tough and knowledgeable about the “tough World we live in”, but they in most cases do not actually exercise their racist views when dealing with individuals of other races they happen to know personally.

    This is no excuse indeed.

    Get ready, as you will immerse more into the local society, to the fact that many of seemingly open and relaxed people here are in fact, in certain aspects, narrow-minded bigots. Racist “tough” talk is just one, and in interacting with them not the most annoying, dimension of the bigotry.

    Why it is like that? I do not know. I think there is no easy or straightforward explanation. It does not correlate with education, wealth, profession… but it is probably something passed between generations in families.

    …. hmmm, I do not want to sound too negatively… there is for sure a lot of fine, decent Czechs who do not share the sick habits you have encountered…

    • girlinczechland

      Thanks a lot for giving us another Czech perspective, Pavel.

      I’m sorry to hear that you feel there are a fair amount of Czechs out there with questionable views when it comes to race but glad that you think there are still plently who are “fine” and “decent” – this has been very much my experience during my first generally happy six months here.

      GIC

  6. Standy

    Hello,
    at first I would appologize for my english,becouse
    I have been learnig only and Im not too hardworking
    student.But I want to say something to this problem.
    Im sitting in my office and listening some program abouth Germany on radio.There is a man, who is talking abouth foreigners in Germany.He says: in Germany must be allowed less than 10% foreigner to be saved clearness of german nation ( very old storry, isn`t it ?) and german football team is full of such people and must be completely change.
    I would like to say,that racism and bigots are in all the world.But according to this radio talk I can`t consider all Germans as racists.I know they have been dedicating a big effort to rid it off.
    And that is what is missing in Czechland.We all were a long time closed in our country without possibility to go out and can see something different to know other habits and so one.Every foreigner were potential enemy.Look at our history – there were allways somebody who wanted to dominate hier (Germans, Russians atc).And sudenlly the Freedom has came and we weren`t prepared for it.Now I mean the “nationsmixing”.The forigners have brought a new habits,their own means, their own reqiurments.
    But we thoght, we are free and home and there is no place for any forigners.We want do all ourself.
    We allowed nobody to interfere in our society.
    I talk abouth common people, about their incredulity,
    abouth the rudeness particularly to people from other countries.That is defence.We have a bad experience.
    The Czechs have to be persuaded that you are a good man,that your mean is well,that you want to be his friend.It will take a long time and effort,but if you hold on ,the czechs heart will open and doesnt matter what color is your skin .

    Now Im not sure if this post is abouth racism.Maybe it is my answer or reaction to all your by now written post,which is by the way very good.

    I wish you,GIC, nice and happy life in Czechlands

    Standy

  7. Petr

    Hello,

    it is interesting topic you bring.

    One question which came to my mind (and it is just a point for discussion because I cannot give you the answer:) is if it is really higher level of racism in CZ or people being ,politically incorrect,? Isnt it just that in GB people just do not say it aloud?

    I heard about czech girl beaten in GB by gang of teens for being foreign and other stories of people from the ,east, having problems. We are told to be aware of smaller towns in GB. They are said to have extreme wievs and a lot of unhealthy nationalism there. In London and other big cities people are multicultural and have no problem – but London is a mix of nations as is Berlin, Paris etc…

    We are confronted with people from the ,civilized West, assuming a lot of nonsenses about easterners. ,Liebe Kunden die tschechen haben gekommt. Ubewachen euere Geldtasche!, Dear customers the czechs have come. Guard your wallets! – happened to my father on a holiday and believe me he was taken aback:) Also kind of xenophobia

  8. Thank you very much for opening this topic! I completely agree with you and trust me, even Czechs (like me) are badly surprised by the incresing level of racism not only among older generation (I have my own collection of my father’s racist statements) but among people of my age (I’m 31). Don’t be surprised that your students have traveled without their stereotypes having been broken. Most of them go for vacation to Croatia where they can eat Czech food, drink Czech beer and where staff in restaurants speak Czech. Czechs love to stay in their shell even when being far from home. I think it’s not just a lack of education or experience, in my opinion it has something to do with our national cowardliness.
    Greeting from a Czech girl currently living in Yemen.

    • Jerry

      Cowardlines ? Come on girl. You are lost in wide world. In Yemen you are in bold country which accepted you without any problem..? This so called “racism” is only natural fenomena for people in whole world where mass immigration was uncommon in past. It is not hard to understand that people in such background have to learn to trust to strangers. This trust is not automatic by order, it has to evolve – be earned not forced ! As it was mentioned in comments already, people and Czech people are not exception can open their hearts once they find trust to others. It is only natural.

  9. Pavel

    I’ve been living abroad for over a decade and every time I come home to the CR, I feel that Czechs like to show they’re superiority more then they ever have before. Does it have to do something with the growth of Czech economy? Maybe. The country has been doing pretty well and I think people are getting a bit snobby about that.

    I do not understand this arrogant racist behavior though. There is nothing wrong with being patriotic but this has nothing to do with patriotism. Demographically, we are just such a small community. We don’t mean much in this big world, although many of us think exactly the opposite. I don’t think this is only a product of the communist era or poor education. I also don’t think it is necessary a Czech behavior. Generally, people from Eastern Europe tend to be this way, but I think “we are the champions”.

    Bohdana: I often think about the same phenomenon. Czechs seem to act tough as long as they can speak/understand the language (Croatia, etc.). However, when I meet the same “tough” Czechs abroad, they are ready to pee their pants. It seems to be very similar to childish behavior. Why is that? I can’t find a good explanation. Does it have to do something with our young democracy?

    And last but not least there is one more thing worth observing — when we achieve something, we love to tell the world that we are good. And we like to repeat it for years to come. We have great beer, we have Svejk etc. And the point is? The Japanese can brew a pretty damn good beer. The Americans have Mickey Mouse. And the Germans make good cars…

    Don’t get me wrong, I love this country and I don’t try not to be Czech. It is just tiring to deal and listen to those Czech comments all the time. Either racist or critical of the entire world. Can’t we just grow up and enjoy ourselves rather than be this miserable?

  10. Petr

    Forgot what You have beed taught and start thinking –
    remenber western culture – You are bouncting from wall to wall. Extreme rasism and then extreme tolerance.
    Both are equaly wrong.
    Moderate amount of racism, prejudice, tolerance and corectness is good, but never overdo it! Is it wrong to call black black?
    Stop bashing those who express their opinions, try to find out why they have them, Thanks.

    • girlinczechland

      Hmm, I agree that both extreme racism and extreme tolerance are wrong: in fact, I think that’s what I’ve already said. Of course it ridiculous when you’re afraid to call a black person black or a white person white but to say the Chinese are like ants? I also have to say I really have tried to be sensitive when talking about this issue and don’t think I’ve been ‘bashing’ anyone’s point of view. Thanks for your comment though in any case.

      GIC

      • kim

        Hi Girlinczechland

        Don’t wanna discuss the ‘racism’ issue. Just to clarify – saying “je jich jako mravencu” or similar czech expression using the word ” ant ” has nothing to do with racism. It’s nearly idiomatic expression meaning “many” / “a great many” and I would use it myself ( in this context) without trying to be pejorative in any way.
        Regardless of what else she’d say about the Chinese, this particular word is entirely benign (but it obviously struck you 🙂
        Subtle linguistic nuances …

  11. Sarka

    Dear al,
    I red all you comments to Czech racism, only one thing I want to tell, I have a lot of friend from Vietnam, Poland, Japan… So I think I am not racist, but I am afraid of Czech gipsy, as someone alredy wrote, dark skin (no nigger skin, no Japan, vietammese…) associate me a crime. One day I was shopping in small city called Kladno, a group of gipsy hit me and stole my wallet and all my documents. I feel I am not racist, but I am afraid if I see group of gips. Vietnamese, Jan, Poland, Russia, GB etc… I feel they are part of my life and some of thme they are also my friends.

  12. Danny

    I am a British Indian guy and I live in Prague. I’ve been teaching English here for the past few years and I think that most Czech people are living in a backward society (with diversity)…..but it is slowly getting better. This is partly because of communism and the deprivation it caused to Czechs – they were not and are still not really comfortable with seeing brown, black and non-white people here. As a British Indian, this means that my parents were originally from India, they came to England, then I was born in England…..and 100% British in every way….apart from the fact that my skin colour is BROWN (like an Indian). But most Czech people do not understand that I can be a British citizen, even though I look Indian….or that there are non-white people who are living in England as British citizens….LIKE ME!!! This might sound strange, but it is very true….because people think I must be joking when I tell them that I am British Nationality and I am from England. They even think I am a GYPSY and I’m probably going to steal something. BUT, I must say that, my job as an English Teacher gives me much respect with the Czech students that I teach and I have a feeling of importance over here. The racism I find here is mostly with dating Czech women. They find it awkward to have a long term relationship with a non-white guy because of what other people think or because it doen’t look so pure. At the best of times, I can get a one-night stand with a drunk Czech woman….and other times I am paying for sex.

  13. Random Avenger

    Berlin – The second biggest Turkish city in the world; got to remember that one 😀 Here in the dark, cold North this quip would give good laughs as well.

  14. Juan E. Salazar

    I am a man of Latin American origin married to a Czech woman. We were required to obtain a permission to marry from the local police, just a few days before our actual wedding ceremony. The Police officer who received our request warned my then wife- to-be not to “commit a fatal mistake that she will certainly regret later”. According to him, all Latin American men beat their wives, are lazy and lie all the time…Of course she didn’t pay attention and now we are a happy family, but I will never forget the incident.

    • Emily

      I am American and I am half Czech and half Venezuelan. My father is Czech and my mother is Venezuelan. They got married in Venezuela before leaving to the States, and the venezuelan priest that was to marry them refused to do so, because my dad was a ‘gringo’. He told my mother at the time that he probably already had a wife back home in Europe and that he only wanted to have a good time with a latin woman. They have now been married for 27 years. I have grown up with both of their cultural influences and would visit the Czech republic every summer. My family and every friend I have made there has been wonderful and I have never been judged for having tanned skin.

      At the end of the day everybody is a little iffy, judgmental, or even hostile to what is different. That is human nature. I believe that it is also human nature to befriend, care for, or fall in love with an individual solely on the basis of character. At some point skin color, race, culture, etc. just becomes a very minor detail.

  15. Alena

    Thank you for bringing this up. It is a very important topic and one that is very difficult to talk about with Czechs, in a large part because due to the way general public discourse is set, both in private conversations but also in the media, and, as the recent political scandals show, even on the highest political levels. So, there are certain things that many Czechs are simply unable to see, i.e., understand that there is a problem.

    I am a Czech who (has) lived in the US for over a decade, currently spending an extended time in the CzR on a work-related matter. I have a 7 year old daughter whom I took with me and whose care I share with my mother, who lives in a small village. My daughter’s father is from the Indian Subcontinent. In the US, we have always lived in very mixed areas and my daughter has always been exposed to all kinds of people. On the one hand, she is enjoying her stay in the CzR immensely and loves it here. At the same time, however, my heart breaks, as for the first time in her life, I hear her saying things like: “I am the only brown Czech girl there is; we have to go back to America because nobody would marry me here/because there white people have already learned how to treat black people.” or: “I don’t care if I have beautiful brown skin, I want to be ugly but white!”… (this one really made me stop in my tracks as it so closely matches what Toni Morrison wrote about in the Bluest Eye)… now, she is not exposed to anything that any “regular Czech” would consider racism, she is well liked and loved at school and by people who know her and who she comes in contact with. Yet, she senses the … what to call them? — generically racist messages floating around. One example of a thing that appears utterly innocent to most Czechs, so much so that I find it extremely hard to explain to most that there is anything wrong with it, is the following: my daughter participated in the Three Kings’ (Magi) procession in January… guess which of the three kings she was assigned to represent, by default. To Czechs, the assignment appears not only not racist, but simply as the only logical solution. There probably are people even outside of the CzR, those complaining of too much PC, who, too, might say: so what? and argue that purposefully *not* assigning her the role of the black King is precisely an example of too much PC… While I understand that PC may lead to absurdities, I think we tend to forget the original — and crucial — rationale behind the “PC” efforts: which is that much racism is (and is perpetuated) precisely in and by the speech (and acts) that appear innocent and are taken for granted and seen as the natural, logical order of things by the *majority*, i.e., by those at whom the “subtle”, or implied, punches are not directed. It all feels very different when you personally are on the receiving end.. (one can try a little thought experiment: pick a thing that you are particularly sensitive about, weight, shyness, anything, and imagine a constant stream of good-natured jokes at your expense)

    This does not mean that I would think that the problem of racism has been solved in the US (country I am familiar with). Of course not. And not by far. The forms racism assumes there are different — for the US due to its history of slavery, and I would venture to say, for the UK due to its colonial history. So, in some ways, the Czech (Central European?) racism is a different (sub)group of the phenomenon, one that emerged in a nation without colonial/imperial history, but one that, in some ways, was (has been?) looking up with admiration to its more virulent paragons..

    Ah… there’s just too much to say, so this is entry is quite disorganized and incomplete. But wanted to say thanks for the immensely thoughtful original post as well as for most of the discussion contributions.

    • Emily

      That was a very interesting insight. I agree that racism assumes different forms in different countries/regions of the world.

      As for what you shared about your daughter, I can relate immensely since I am bi-racial (czech/venezuelan) and have lived in areas that have been majority white. When I was little I would also make comments to my mother like, “Why is my skin brown?”. I would also worry that I wouldn’t be found as attractive because of my skin color and that I’d rather be an ugly tall blonde instead of what I was.

      My czech family and everybody I knew over there were completely nice to me and never showed any racism towards me, but I believe that a bi-racial child (especially one who is very exposed to their cultural counterparts) will struggle a bit with understanding who they are and where they fit in…and if they fit in at all anywhere.

      For me, I eventually came to realization that I go beyond what my skin color is and that it doesn’t determine how czech (or venezuelan) I am. Other people might not get that, but I don’t really care anymore. Over the years, I have come to accept my very culturally mixed appearance and enjoy how unique it is. There is racism everywhere, but it will not affect you when you have a solid understanding and acceptance of yourself (which is in all honesty an on-going process).

      I am sure your daughter will come to similar realizations. A lot of bi-racial people that I have met have as well. She is still really young and her comments/questions are natural. You can only love her and guide her as she figures herself out on her own.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Alena,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m not sure what to add in response: I don’t really have any further wisdom to offer because as you suggest in your post, things are far from perfect elsewhere. I do hope your daughter succeeds in finding her place here and feeling comfortable in her own skin – whatever colour it is.

      GIC

  16. Mike

    GIC,

    One can be a dyed in the wool conservative such as myself and also be offended by racism. Conservativism and Racism don’t necessarily go together. Here in the United States I can point to liberals who are much more racist than my conservative friends.

    In Ostrava there seems to be a bit of racism toward the Roma, or Cikan…gypsy they’re called in the States. It’s not everywhere and it’s not everyone, but racism is alive in every country…unfortunately.

  17. I saw a Roma taking a right old brutalizing from the police outside Masarykovo Nadrazi the other day. When they arrived they didn’t stop to ask for his side of the story, they went straight for him.

  18. Human

    Hi,

    I happened to land on your blog through another blog, and I’m so very glad to have read through many of your posts, though this one in particular really caught my attention.
    I live and work in Brno, as a telecom engineer, and have been here for well over an year now.
    I am a Pakistani, and like most South Asians, my skin colour is brown. Fortunately, I’ve never experienced any sort of racism during my stay so far in the CR, albeit the countless tales I’ve heard. Infact if you would ask me, I wouldn’t associate racism to Czech Republic (based on my experience ofcourse). I work with many Czech people, and I find them very helpful and caring, and to be honest, I have a lot of respect for them.
    Nevertheless, I have realized that the Czech people (infact most other Eastern Europeans also) detest the gypsies, for obvious reasons. Surprisingly enough I’ve been told, because of my skin colour there’s a high chance I might be associated with gypsies, which at times does worry me, after having heard some bad stories of mis-treatment to them.
    A few months ago, I came across a program on the Discovery Channel, particularly focussing on racism in the Czech Republic, and how a gypsy family was almost burnt to death with their children, a horrifying incidence of hate crime. Moreover, as a coloured foreigner I have also been advised by my peers to keep a low profile on the 1st of May, when the Neo Nazis hold their notorious march.
    Having said that, I cannot accept that an average Czech person would have any soft corner for the violent incidents of racism in the CR. I think in every country of the world, there are people, a handful usually, who bring bad name to the rest, and stereotyping the whole nation is unfair. At times I feel that the Czech society is not very open to foreigners, and I think the main reason is the meagre presence of foreigners (besides Prague ofcourse), and I believe with due time and more people coming in for jobs, this will change.
    Though most of what I wrote is not directly related to your post, I still wanted to chip in my 2 Korunas 🙂
    I hope and pray, that one day we humans would grow taller than our egos and vices for colour, religion and race.

    Will keep visiting your blog. God Bless.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi there,

      Thanks a lot for taking the time to leave such a detailed comment outlining your experiences. I’m really glad to hear that overall your experience here in CZ has been a positive one and I enjoyed reading your 2 korunas 🙂

      GIC

    • My colleague Amit Rana set up – I hope GIC will not mind the plug but it’s to try to help people – the following Linked In group:

      http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=3529535

      It is for Indians and people from neighbouring countries in the Czech Republic. All people like Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Nepalese, Sri Lankans, etc are just as welcome as the Indians, I’m told.

  19. Ada Petrova

    Hi everybody!

    I, as a Czech girl, have to say that I firmly believe Czechs are not a racist nation at all. I tend to think that the fact we might seem racist is caused by our inability to properly express ourselves in English. To say “He was not a nigger, he was normal” was actually a result of an enormous effort to say “I’ve met a Caucasian in Africa, who…”

    Another source of our alleged racism could be our spiky, however well-intentioned jokes. Every time I come to work I ask my friend who is Polish (the only one amongst a bunch of Czechs): “And what about a Polish minority here, do you want a cup of coffee?” He always smiles and sometime he answers to my racist remarks in a similar way (“You Czech girls..”).. I bet that would land me in jail in the Great Britain.. Nevertheless, we Czechs don’t take it that serious, nor feel we offended about that.

    Another thing is when one comes across what I call “a real racism”.. which I believe happens everywhere irrespective of where exactly one is at the moment.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ada,
      Thanks for your comment which I found really interesting. I agree with much of what you say (or I think you’re saying), that sometimes we in Britain are too politically correct (I find your Polish minority comment quite funny and would if something similar was addressed towards me, depending on the circumstances of course). I can see how sometimes students *might* use the word nigger simply because they don’t realise just how powerful the negative connotations are (although ganger rappers have tried to reappropriate it) but the woman I mention *did* know – she must have been able to tell from my shocked reaction – and carried on using it anyway.
      However, as you point out, racism exists everywhere, even in multicultural Britain – just ask the Pope’s aide, who arriving in the UK today said Heathrow looked like ‘a third world country’…
      GIC

  20. Ada Petrova

    I’ve just read about it on BBC too. And could not believe my eyes.

    Looking forward to any of your further comments and contributions,

    Yours Sincerely (as our British minority might say)
    Ada Petrova:)

  21. mimoběžné

    Would you actually like to know what is going on in the country you have chosen to live in?

    http://www.czechfocus.cz

    • I will admit looks very interesting. You got one reader out of your spam post. Whether journalistic rigor has really been applied to some of the articles I’ll keep my jury out on, but interesting it is.

  22. igor

    …”but she was not a nigger”.
    In Czech it is still politically correct to say “Cernoch” – which was translated into English as Negro – and this translation is still appearing in the dictionaries. Your student may just pronunced it in the way that you heard “nigger”.

  23. Bára

    I am wondering why everything that Czechs do diferently has to be viewed as their problem or symptom of communism or something similar (in this case “the fact that the country was closed off from the outside world for so long”). Why for once can’t people who judge us look at it the other way around. Maybe sometimes we ar not the weird ones.
    I know there are some very racist people here in the Czech Republic (as are pretty much everywhere in the world) but most of the examples you gave seem completely innocent and harmless. The thing is, we don’t care so much about political corectness as you “westerners”. I am not racist, at all, I really wish that Czech Rep. could be a multicultural place and all but your (and not just yours but other foreigners’ as well) attitude seems just way too uptight to me. I see what’s wrong with not having a clue why we should object racism but the rest not so much. We don’t get so upset about the word nigger because a) we don’t neceserilly know that it has a negative connotation in English and that there is a right and wrong way to say that someone’s black and b) it is just a goddamn word! Seriously… And please would you explain to me what is wrong with the Berlin comment? That there are lots of Turks in Berlin is a fact and there is nothing racist about saying that. So why should such a joke bring an embarrassed silence? It’s just a joke, I’m not saying it’s a very funny one but to be so appalled by it one has to be really uptight.

    • Jerry

      I feel that this racial nitpicking is actually insensitively directed towards Czech people considering that same situation exists all over the world. While situation is based upon recent unprecedented growth in migration among nations. Note that some of you admit same conditions in your home country. Maybe this discussion would be more beneficial to be directed to how this migration affects situation in the world by inability of newcomers to accept culture of country they entered voluntarily. Should not they stay in their home countries instaed ? This may be more important to evolving future. Is the main purpose of this wave of immigration to erase variation and value of human culture ? We could as well start world cultural revolution according to Mao then . All dressed in black pants andd shirts to look as same as possible. Lets kill the sparrows – lets kill individuality of nations as they existed. Do we realise loss which is result ?

      • girlinczechland

        Hi Jerry,
        I’m sorry if you feel the post is racial nitpicking. As I said in response to Bara, I’m aware that coming from the UK I bring along a certain politically correct (over?)sensitivity in regard to issues of race. I’m not too clear what you’re trying to say in the second part of your post though. Do you mean you’d prefer it if migrants stayed at home? Or that we should embrace cultural differences rather than trying to ignore them in an attempt not to appear racist? If it’s the latter, then we agree with each other 🙂
        GIC
        GIC

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Bara,
      I wrote this post over a year ago and don’t feel in the mood to come back to this well-covered ground in a lot of detail but I will say a few things in response if I may.
      I agree about the ‘Blame it on the Communists’ syndrome – it particularly annoys me when expats cite that era as the reason for everything from bad service to the supposed Czech standoffishness. Who knows, one day I may write a post dedicated to this phenomenon…
      However, I’m not sure *all* the examples I’ve given in the post could be seen as ‘innocent and harmless’ Perhaps my own politically correct squeamishness in reaction to the Berlin joke might be ‘uptight’ but calling the Chinese ‘ants’? What’s innocent about that? And I’m not entirely sure that I believe Czechs wouldn’t know that ‘nigger’ has strong negative connotations. Furthermore, in the example in the post, I pointed out to my student that she shouldn’t say ‘nigger’ and she carried on using the word regardless.
      However, however, however, as I’ve said in response to other comments here, I *do* think political correctness has in many ways gone too far back in the UK and that perhaps we Brits might be oversensitive in regard to supposed racism. That’s why I just recounted a few incidents in my post without too much commentary so that readers themselves could judge and give their feedback – which you have done, so thank you. The blog would be very dull if it didn’t elicit strong reactions from readers and I enjoy having a forum for debate. I hope others do too.
      GIC

      • Krista

        Hm, you may find that funny (or scary), but i guess Bára is right in something. When reading your “African but not Nigger” and you described your terrify – I didnt manage that you were so upset for the word “Nigger”… I first though that you find it as a rasist when she needed to tell you, that her previous teacher weren’t black (Because if the teacher were black, the women -Ludmila?- could have been some kind of infectioned or signed.) I think she could have the same missunderstanding problem and use the word nigger again, because she didn’t get that THAT’s the point of why she’s wrong…
        I guess there is a problem how to call blackies in english for czechs… the original czech “černoch” could be translated as a “black-man”. But we somehow know, that this isnt correct, because you should call american blackies “afro-american”. But we totaly don’t know what to do about afro-americans who are not americans. Afro-british? Afro-French? Afro-Czech? So the word nigger is kind of essencional, because we know that – we hear it in the radio, in tv, why schould we try to translate something for what we can use already known english word. I would not look for any racism in this concrete case…

      • girlinczechland

        Hi again Krista,

        Using a non-offensive term to talk about people from different ethnic minorities is a bit of a minefield. My understanding is that ‘black’ is ok (as in the American blogger Black Girl In Prague) but nigger or blackie definitely aren’t. I do see, however, how by translating directly from Czech people could unwittingly offend but I don’t think this was the case with my student. My impression was that she understood the resonance of the word ‘nigger’ and just didn’t care. Anyway, I’ve done my best to reproduce what happened in the post as objectively as possible and then let others decide the reasons for her behaviour.

        GIC

    • Janica

      Hi all,

      most of all GIC, of course, and Bára. I subscribe. I wanted to write a comment like that, was just going through the reactions if someone had done it berfore me. I think there might be some weirdoes in the educated circles of Czechs but in general I wouldn’t say Czechs are big xenophobes. Actually, I believe Czechs are very open, curious and friendly.
      Excuse me one memory: I remember when I saw my “first black guy live”. I was 15, just got from a small town to Brno, getting tram to school and there he was. I must have stared at him:). And one later tought us on conversation classes, cool! So exotic! I actually hadn’t met many black guys in my life until I lived in London. There I got focused on this issue as I didn’t want myself to tell between the faces like it, to feel straight away that something is different. But I still do, in a way – and not in a bad one – it is just not like when I realize after 10 minutes that the film is not in Czech, but in Slovak.
      I think, I also got a bit carried away.
      I also think the main issue with racism in Czech lies in our relationship with Romes, or Cikáni as they also call themselves like this (some of them). And it’s a tough one. It is a serious problem which has been being overlooked (Jesus Christ, do you see the verb?) for a very long time. We don’t live together, we live next to each other. And now I mean the complicated, I would say, to disagree with one post here, majority living in communities with a special social behaviour. And I a bit struggle here to understand what the word racist means. Is it that I am aware that it is someone who looks different? Because I do, because he/she does! The same with behaviour. But that doesn’t mean I automaticly dislike him or her. I am curious and I try to understand and I think about what could be done. There was one good street festival in Brno this summer, for example, which I really liked. But let me just say – to make it to the end any soon – sometimes is difficult not to have prejudice.
      Thank you for this debate and GIC, I know it has been a long one and you are tired of it. Just too catchy topic:).
      And I really like how you write.

      Janica

    • Olivia

      ‘It’s just a word…’
      Let me tell you that there is no such thing as ‘just a word’. Words give meaning to our world. There is a concept behind every word whether abstract or concrete. Think about the word nigger which once evoked thoughts of a person of dark skin. Over the years however, we gave the word nigger a new signified and the new signified is very negative and we all (including you, who say it’s just a word)know that it no longer only means a dark skinned person. It has come to mean ‘contemptible, inferior, ignorant…’ and when we use it today, we know that’s what we are saying. This type of justification is what’s wrong. ‘Oh come on it’s just a joke…’; ‘Come on it’s just a word…” Is it really just a joke or just a word? Does that really make you feel better about hurting someone else’s feelings?

  24. Jerry

    Hi GIC,

    what I am interested in is impact of migration. Please let me know how you observe impact of migration on your own home country and how do you imagine “we should embrace cultural differences” in view of emerging problem, when some ethnic groups are not willing to accept their chosen new country language, laws and traditions.

    Jerry

  25. 314159

    The problem is probably connotation. Did you expect your students to be able to tell the difference between calling someone a negro or nigger?
    Remember, most of us grew up under communism so we are just getting acquainted with the whole of political correctness b/s which has been shoveled down your throat since childhood much like communist propaganda down ours.
    Before you call me a racist know that I’m just tired of debating racism, I think we are all racists in a way and no amount of propaganda will make us less racist.
    I don’t mean this in a bad way but you liberals (btw. we use the old term socialists here) are dead wrong in assuming that discrimination is bad.
    Discrimination (against anyone for any reason) is perfectly fine as long as it doesn’t turn into violence or coercion.
    What is really bad is positive discrimination which has been proven to stir more hatred toward the selected groups.
    End of my rant.
    Have a nice day.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi there,
      You’ll forgive if I just respond briefly as I feel like I’ve already commented extensively on what I wrote here and don’t want to repeat myself too much.
      No, I didn’t expect my student to tell the difference between ‘negro’ and ‘nigger’ – both are offensive, unless you’re 50 Cent (i.e a black American rapper) and using it ironically. I asked her not to use the term ‘nigger’ as it was offensive and she continued to do so anyway, which suggests she just didn’t care.
      I’m no big defender of political correctness, believe me, and I do believe that in many ways it has gone too far although at least it is well intended. It has though in many ways, turned into a kind of propaganda for the good, and I can understand why you would it tiresome in some ways. But I cannot agree that discrimination against anyone for any reason is ok so long as it doesn’t turn into violence or coercion. Surely that would mean as a woman I could be denied access to education or interesting meaningful work?
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts anyway.
      GIC

      • 314159

        I don’t see how you could be denied education in any civilized country if you have enough money for tuition or if you have the necessary qualification nobody cares whether you are a woman or a man. At least I do not know of a single case (in a country that respects basic human rights and liberties) where a woman was denied education simply because of her gender. Most countries have state run education and there are legislative or constitutional laws that provide education for anyone irregardless of sex, race etc. But even if education were a fully private enterprise women wouldn’t be discriminated against (so long as they met the necessary criteria) because people wouldn’t tolerate it but most of all it wouldn’t be good for business.
        As for the other part of your argument, there is no law that entitles you to an “interesting meaningful” job. In fact there is no law that entitles you to any job. Nobody is forced to hire anyone if it’s not worth it. It’s all about making use of one’s capacities, making oneself useful to others and knowing one’s limitations.

        A modeling agency is looking for a female model, a bar is looking for a female waitress, a company is looking for a male CEO. Everyone is discriminating, but who is most likely to get sued for gender discrimination?

  26. Yeah there is something with the Czechs for sure. Maybe that’s why it was the need to bring so many non-Europeans in Europe. Maybe in other times and near places it was worst.
    Anyway I think this topic is very complex to analyze. Its not so simple.

  27. So I felt this article was really right.

    I had an odd experience in meeting an immigrant who is Czech. She seemed proud and fun to be around. I am in the United States. I had her over to my apartment for a little party with some neighbors of mine.

    Over the course of drinking, she let out her true “values.” She said that America should have never had a black president, black people are lazy. That actually came out of her mouth. Note, I’m not a “nationalist” but, come on! You not only are racist, you slam the president of my country that you immigrate to? I suddenly felt she had no respect for this democracy and definitely didn’t have any values that I agreed to.

    I kicked her out of my party right then and there. I don’t tolerate racism to any degree. She just stated her real being and that was ridiculous. A person can not be judged based on their race, religion, or heritage/culture. But I will judge a person based on racism, which I consider hate based upon fear and ignorance. Racism can be “taught” however, I won’t associate myself with it, no-matter where they arrive from.

    I feel that she felt open enough to say such statement because all of us are pretty light skinned. Though she probably would have been surprised if I were to tell her I was born in Mexico and am half Mexican. I think human beings need to arise above such things. I will shun those out that believe such blatantly stupid comments. She didn’t apologize, so that’s why she wasn’t welcome anymore. I don’t have her as friend.

    What’s fascinating is the history behind the area. I was told by a friend that they do associate darker skin with crime. He recently went to visit Prague and LOVED it. I’m excited to go sometime. I love people and different cultures! I however give no excuse to racism. I’m shocked since you would think historic scenes like WWII would show people what hatred/racism can do.

    Though we are still pretty ignorant over here- in some states.

    Ah humanity! Will we ever get it?

  28. @Carla, I think slamming Obama is not necessarily out of order in an immigrant, after all, all US folk are immigrants, some have just had time to pay more taxes than others. But slamming him on ethnic grounds is ludicrous, especially as he isn’t someone who would even be seen as black in Europe. He is black by the American definition, which is intrinsically racist itself, and that is that you’re black if you’re only 1/16th originally black. The guy has an English mother and a Kenyan father, so he is half European and half African. And then what she said about black people generically of course is unacceptable, but then again I think that throwing someone out of your party is also pretty extreme. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and you won’t win the heart or mind of an ill-informed people by using what she’ll inevitably see as bullying tactics on them. That person will find no shortage of Americans who share her views, and your chance to influence her is gone. Her new friends will soon persuade her that you are simply someone from the loony left, and she will simply become retrenched in her views.

  29. Honza

    Under socialism, people were exposed to various cultures. There were African students, Cuban workers, Vietnamese exchange laborers… etc. Children collected old toys around Christmas to send to the third world… Multiculturalism was promoted. Racism appeared as a bourgeois backlash to socialism.

    • girlinczechland

      I think this is an Interesting point you’ve raised here Honza but I think this implies that racists decide to be racist based on some kind of intellectual rationale. Aren’t most xenophobes simply motivated by fear and ignorance?

      • Jiří/Giri

        Or is it the other way around? Are xenophiles motivated by fear and ignorance? Fear that their multicultural society might not be so great and refusing to accept facts that point in that direction. I was living for five years in England and when someone asked me what I liked the most about England my replay was that I liked all the people from all the cultures from all around the world that could come together and share their differences. I was forced to change my opinion in no later than four months. In the end I could not wait to leave the multicultural shithole full of drugs, hatred and extreme “multicultural” violence that the England of today has become. Peace.

  30. Baz

    Hello, I just thought I’d drop a comment. I was born and raised in the UK and both my parents are from India. I’ve been studying in Prague for five and a half years and I can safely say that I had experienced more racism in the first year of my studies here than I have in my whole life in the UK.

    I find the comments posted here (yes, I’ve read all of them) very typical – that is to say when you have a conversation about racism with Czech white people alot of these points are often raised;

    1) You are too politically correct in the UK. – In my opinion this is a catch all term which has little to no meaning. Too politically correct in regards to what? In an enlightened/democratic society everything should be discussed and debated and foremost people who have actually experienced what they percieve as racism should be listened to and not muted. How many Czechs know what it feels like to be a victim of racism, or indeed even know what racism is? And if that is the case why the reluctance to listen? There are some exemplary demonstrations of this in the above comments.

    2) I’m not racist! – Number one, you may not be racist but what you did was racist in my opinion and two, would you ask a criminal to be their own judge, jury and executioner? Surely, I, the victim of racism should be the one to say if I percieved something to be racist.

    3) Communism – While I understand that communism and the history of the Czech Republic is most probably the most important underlying factor which has prompted this discussion, there are some points I would like to raise. I believe England has a rich history of dissent/free thought. This has allowed them to become cultrually very advanced (this is more fact than opinion – have a look at the scientific output, such as studies and journals, compared to other countries as well as the output of music, art, philosophy etc). This dissent/free thought and our longer history of free speech, free thought, freedom of religion etc has resulted in being able to voice ones opinions without many major reprisals (relatively speaking, compared to a communist society).

    I believe that communism which severly punished any dissent has created a culture in the Czech Republic which still rewards conformity. As a student here I can safely say that the education system in this country is far more conforming than the more western countries and is therefore less conducive to free thought and creativity. Indeed this conformity which starts at a young age permeates the whole of Czech society to this day. I believe this conformity manifests in many ways in this country, not least the xenophobia; It’s normal to hate the Roma – saying anything else would be social suicide for Czechs – conformity, it’s socially extremely awkward to be in a mixed relationship – conformity, it’s a social taboo for a Czech to point out other Czechs racist opinions/actions – conformity.

    I could go on, but there’s too much to say for a comment.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Baz,
      I’m sorry to hear that your experience here has been less than positive. I do sometimes find myself wondering whether political correctness in the UK just means that although it isn’t socially acceptable to express racist views people still have them. However, at least in the UK we are trying to move in the right direction. Of course I don’t believe *all* Czechs are racist but it will take time for a racially homogenous society to become more tolerant and accepting of others.
      Good luck with your stay in Czechland,
      GIC

  31. gonefromczech

    You know, if your students are not complaining about your lessons and your job is not in jeopardy, then I don’t see what the problem is. You should go to China. You probably won’t even get a job there. There is racism to a degree in every country in the world. I lived in Bohemia for 4 years back in the days when Vaclav Havel was still presiding over the Czech lands. I’m only 50% white and many Czechs were quite surprised that I was their English teacher. Nevertheless, I believe that the Czechs are generally not racist towards most foreigners. The Czechs are more concerned about gypsies and the vietnamese. This is because the Czechs have experienced bad experiences themselves with the gypsies and they believe the presence of the vietnamese markets taints their neighbourhoods. Compared to some other European countries, particularly France and Germany, racism is low in the Czech Republic and you don’t need to speak their language. However, there is of course the language barrier which is a problem for all foreigners regardless of race. You can think of Prague as being much like Vienna, and Vienna in my experience, is not racist.

  32. Danny

    What is it about Czech women? I simply don’t understand the mentality with them. I have dated and met many Czech women in Prague. But most of the Czech women I meet are just cold, anti-social and strange. They just disappoint me and I always meet Czech women who are just selfish, racist and gold-digging bitches. I know it sounds rude, but there is no other way for me to describe it. Are all Czech women like this? They are just so materialistic, with their own selfish agenda, just looking for a better life for themselves as they ruin the lives of foreign men over here. The colour of your skin makes such a big difference to a Czech woman. The darker you are then the harder it is to find love here. Prague is supposed to be a great romantic city, but ever since the velvet revolution, there has been such a spoilt, selfish and greedy nature of Czech women and their very racist attitudes. They do not and can not openly welcome the foreign coloured men into the Czech society and always find a way to disrespect and cause heart-break. This is because Czech women are naturally very racist and they make very unfair assumptions about coloured men. For example, it is considered to be absolutely disgusting in the Czech society for a white woman to be seen with a non-white man…..and especially if there is a baby born with mixed colour (from white woman and black or asian man). Those children are considered to be bastards of society by Czechs. That is the Czech mentality. They are just naturally so racist and prejudiced. I tried for over 4 years to find a proper Czech partner here and it is impossible, because I am not white and because I won’t let myself get conned by the gold-digging mentality. Of course, I have tried to date Czech women and be nice to them, but that is while I tolerate their selfish, racist and pretentious attitude.

    Don’t be so deceived by the so-called good looks of Czech women. It is true that a lot of Czech women can look great, but the inner personality is quite opposite with a cold, disgusting, spoilt attitude and a pathetic, selfish and gold-digging mentality. The Czech women of Prague are becoming more and more hostile to the foreign men and they are full of stupid assumptions about other cultures and men from other countries. They are racist but they do not accept it. Czech women have no idea of real love and what love really is and how to really share love with each other. It is not surprising that Czech Republic (especially Prague) has one of the highest divorce rates in Europe. Some women really act like whores and use me just for free drinks. I just can’t stand it anymore. It is so disappointing and frustrating. I earn money. I have a flat and work hard in Prague. But Czech women are always showing me how selfish, racist and gold-digging bitches they are. Czech women are obviously spoilt for choice in Prague. They see so many foreign guys with money and they immediately just target the white guys first and then they treat foreign coloured guys with disgust and disrespect. And even a lot of white guys can be ripped off by Czech women. I have a white friend who was just used for his money. And he was never really accepted by the parents of the Czech so-called ‘girlfriend’, because of the cultural differences and because of the silly assumptions that were made. For coloured guys, it is almost impossible or it is very difficult. Czechs are very conservative about their roots and race and colour. They can’t mix with non-white society. They are too scared to do this. I once dated a woman who was scared to walk with me and hold my hand in the streets (like couples should). She was worried about what other people would think because I am ‘not’ white. She told me that. I am a professional man looking for a caring, sensitive and affectionate woman who understands commitment and respect for her man. I just need a woman who is open-minded, intelligent, smart and just plain nice and normal. So far, the Czech women in Prague always prove to be selfish, racist and gold-diggers, just too cold and brutally deceptive. I work hard and I have money and assets, but I am interested in the person and not material possessions. Czech women always disappoint me so far and they only take and never give back. I am a loving and sensitive guy with all the great things in life – a top university education, excellent career, flat in the center of Prague. I just want to fall in love with a nice Czech woman and I want a real relationship that is based on real love. Why are Czech women so selfish, so racist and such gold-digging bitches..? Why? Why? Why? I want to open my heart out and offer my love for a Czech woman, but every time I get the same selfish, racist and gold-digging behaviour. Czech women are so cold inside, so pathetic, so materialistic and just pretentious idiots. You will not learn anything positive from them and they are mostly no better than the cheap whores on the streets.

    • Classic chip-on-shoulder rant by Danny there. Fantastic. 10 out of 10.

      If you dismiss all Czech women as being this or that just on the basis of unenlightened behaviour by a few racist individuals, then in my opinion you are just doing the same thing, and being prejudiced in return.

      Treat them as individuals, and look for the individual who is right for you, who is your soul mate. It doesn’t matter if she is Czech or not. It could be another one of the foreigners in Prague. But in all likelihood seeing you say you have real love to offer, there is a taker out there. It’s not like there’s too much love going on in the world, that’s for sure.

      If all you are finding is people who are trying to get free drinks out of you, then you may be looking in the wrong place, and you might try different sorts of places to meet with people, like bookshops, for instance. In the worst case, you might end up supplying girls with free books, but at least you won’t be responsible if they end up as alcoholics.

      • girlinczechland

        Hi Danny,

        I have to agree with Jerzy’s response here. It does seem unfair to tarnish all Czech women with the same proverbial brush, whatever negative experiences you may have had.

        I don’t have much to add, except that I wish you more luck in affairs of the heart in the future. Czechs make excellent life partners in my experience 😉

        GIC

    • Krista

      Did you think about that maybe you those gold diggers? Not because colour of your skin but just because you have a “top university education, excellent career and flat in the center of Prague”? I guess you are “dicriminated” (=preferred by whory bitches) coz of these things and not your skin colour. Every woman cares about man’s character AND wallet. Some are interested more in one, some in the other. More money you have, less girs is looking at your character. From your comment I judge you are so rich, that your money are “blinding” girls. With your income, you would have the same problem as a white.
      Ideas:
      – Arent you meeting women in society where gold diggers are concentrated?
      – Do you often talk to women about money? Aren’t you like “Hello, my name is Harry (or whatever) and I have sooooo much money
      – Do you pay everything for the girl? (Because thats particulary the same as previous…

      I wish you good luck finding, not all of us are bitches 🙂

  33. Jaroslav

    Move back to Africa.

  34. I know this is very, very late, but as I read it now, I suddenly realise that saying that the Chinese are like ants may be just an instance of Czenglish and an inablity to express oneself properly in English (obviously, it being a lesson of English!) Of course, there is still an amount of xenophobia behind the comment, an amount of xenophobia I am alarmed myself to observe, but it may not be as bad as it sounds.
    You can say in Czech “je jich jak mravenců”, “there are as many of them as in an anthill”, roughly translated. It’s a very colloquial way of saying there are many of them, but it may sound worse to English ears than it does to Czech ones… Just what Ada wrote: a bit of a language barrier.
    What the woman may have said had she known how to express it (and maybe she did not even know exactly how to express it in Czech – because we are not taught in our schools to express our thoughts, someone mentioned the conventionality of Czech education above – let alone in English) is that China is a large country, a powerful country, with many, many people, and we know next to nothing about it, so we don’t know what to expect from all those people, which scares her.

    And the lady who kept saying “nigger”: I’m just wondering, did you, in your shock, manage to supply her with a better word to use? Maybe she had never discussed this issue with anyone in English before, so she really had no idea how to talk about it. And the fact that she works in a multinational company may not have helped at all. I imagine she would usually discuss work with her multinational collegues, not such tangetial issues as race.

    I don’t like this definitely existing Czech xenophobia and casual racism myself, mind you – just like I don’t like the Czech casual disregard and ignorance of Christianity, being Christian myself. Having felt the brunt of that when I was growing up in a small town, I feel sympathy pain for all those other groups that take the brunt of all the other casual -isms I encounter. But I thought, in those two particular examples, the issue may be smaller than it seems to you, and not so much racism as rather a general inability to sort out their thoughts and put them into words… A very challenging task in any language learning.

  35. Krista

    Very very late – girl, at least you see that your post is still actual.

    In czech, there are 2 classes of racism. 1: “Foreigner racism” and 2. “Gypsy racism”
    For the first kind, I guess its pretty like everywhere, no big problems, some racist jackasses – like in every country. Only thing different is, that elder generation, and espeially on small towns, just live in the world where no foreigners are… I mean, I don’t find my granny racist, but if I would presented some blackie as my boyfriend to her, I hardly doubt that she could be able to think about him different way than the “Oh, thas very very dangerous huge gorilla touching my little girl!” Not because she would be racist, but simply because she havent seen any black an in her life and she would find it scary. Because hes different.

    For the second case – the gypsy racism is everywhere here. Problem is, I guess, on both sides. I may not like it, but typical czech sentence is: “Im not a racist, I just hate gypsies!” I know many of czech people, which have no problem to friend with blackies, asians, south americans, arabians, but as soon as a gypsy appears, theyre suspicous, mean and sometimes even offensive or agressive…

    • It’s not typical to refer to black people as “blackies”, hopefully nobody takes offence at that…

      The prejudice against Gypsies is a different matter to the prejudice against people based on race, as you could find two people of an identical skin colour and similar physical appearance, one of which was called Patel and known to be an Indian and the other clearly a Romany, and you’d find that many of the people who were perfectly friendly with the Indian would be hostile to the Romany who physically resembled the Indian. Therefore the prejudice against Roma is a cultural prejudice rather than a purely racial one.

      This is turn makes it in my view less damnable than a real racial prejudice. I’m against all manner of prejudice against people for things about them which they didn’t choose or had no possibility to choose or change. A Romany doesn’t choose his skin colour or appearance, just as we don’t choose it either. However a Romany can choose, or at least should be able to choose, whether or not to play by the rules of the society in which he finds himself. It’s observable that Romanies have been offered many opportunities and incentives to become part of normal Czech society and educate their children in schools and universities, and enter the job market, buy property, pay taxes and pursue social interests in an integrated way. However, the reaction of Gypsies has been mixed. There are those who have been assimilated into normal Czech society and for many people you’d have to know them in order to realise that one or two generations back they were living in caravans. I would like to hope that these people would be able to do so without encountering barriers and prejudices. But then there are other Roma who seem to take a pride in rejecting the culture of the settled people where they are, and who regard themselves as entitled to take advantage of the softness of the settled people and to turn them into the targets of their antisocial ways of living. That’s why there are plenty of Czechs who have had the experience of being stolen from by Gypsies.

      Now if a person is untrustworthy to Gypsies after having encountered them in that very negative way and been the victim of them, is that still prejudice? I think we need a different word, something more like “postjudice” to describe negative feelings generalised to a population but which is actually borne out of personal experience.

      I actually believe that if all the Gypsies in East Europe decided to call it a day and join society and take on the norms we live by, that if they abandoned the things that they do like stealing and tricking and really looked for some help, most European nations would be ready to give them the help they needed to integrate. As long as they feel that they would be untrue to their nation and their culture by doing things our way, then there will be division and it won’t be the fault of the majority in that case if the minority receive the negative effects of prejudice.

      • girlinczechland

        Hi Jerzy and Krista,

        I’ve been a bit slack in replying to comments recently, especially to ones on old posts, but I felt I had to say something in response here.

        First of all, I have to agree with Jerzy – ‘blackies’ is not a typical way to refer to black people and might well offend.

        @Jerzy – I’m really taken by your idea of creating a term like ‘postjudice’. I had my phone stolen a few years ago by a person of Roma origin. How do I know? Because when I called my phone, he picked it up, arranged to meet me to give me back my SIM card – but wanted cash if he was going to return my phone! I didn’t oblige.

        Now I’m a Guardian reading wishy washy liberal. However, I have to admit after this experience, I’ve been having some feelings of ‘postjudice’ towards the Roma myself. I feel uncomfortable admitting it but there we are. What do others think? Are the Roma who steal just a tiny minority who give the rest of the community a bad name?

        Not sure what to add, so will leave it here for now…

        GIC

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Krista,

      I think you’re right – it does seem more socially acceptable to make racist comments about the Czech Roma than to commit what you call ‘foreigner racism’. Just feel I should repeat though that we don’t use the term ‘blackie’ in English; some might take offense at this 🙂

      GIC

  36. Barbara

    The only one who is racist here is Danny with his comment about Czech women. Very ignorant and stupid. And offensive.

  37. Barbara

    Oh, and i forgot this comment(danny’s) is also very misogynist towards czech women! So racism is bad but misogyny is ok?

  38. honza

    Czech in general are not racist. There are however several phenomena that my seem a bit odd to the “Westerns”.
    1. Czech humour. Czech people make fun of everything. There is a huge accident and you’ll get jokes about it in your inbox the same day it happened. The same applies to different skin colours. It’s not about racism, it’s about the fun made of the difference that would get you in jail in the US but is considered perfectly normal here. 99.9% of the people making such jokes would never say such thing in front of the respective person and would never do any harm to anyone with different skin colour. We actually quite like different people. There are black (or what’s the word, African-Czech?) presenters in the main news on the largest commercial TV and people love them. We also have a very popular businessman and a politician that is half Czech, half Japanese. One of the presidential candidates was Czech but with tatoos all over his body. No problem here 🙂
    2. Czech people hate when someone gets some undeserved advantages. This is the problem with the Roma or Gypsies here. A great number of them (not all, but certainly much larger percentage than in the Czech population) don’t work and only get money support from the state. The crime rate within this community is also way higher. They often get so much that they have expensive cars or at least more money than a Czech factory worker. They often get free flats that they destroy completely and get new ones. People hate the system for this and subsequently have problem with the Roma community. And again, it’s not racism. If there were such problem with e.g. Austrians or whoever “white”, it would be the same.

  39. Dee

    I think Czechs are partly not racist and they are slowly becoming better people….but they are partly still very racist. For example, they refer to Chinese and Vietnamese people as ‘Yellow’ people. This is rather offensive and could be rather racist. However, they don’t see it as racism, because they want to blame everything to communism. Czechs are using their suffering in communism as a way to tolerate their own racist mentality in current society. There is a lot of evidence for this and it has been studied to a big degree. Czechs are very single-minded. They do not see the world in such a multi-cultural way like the British or Americans, but they can see everything in a more single-minded approach. For Czechs, they are only most comfortable in white society, as they think that blacks and Asians are somehow quite inferior. Czechs have a superior mentality about themselves.

  40. crowley

    Actually you are right. However I don`t think it is a bad thing. Actually I have read some Czech blog recently that stated the people in CR are not racist if you are more than 100% assimilated and I agree. I hope it stays that way. To be honest GB is a very bad example for immigration (and multiculturalism if you want).

    I think it`s just normal reaction. I don`t believe in some bright future of multicultural world`s peace and harmony.

    P.S. I studied in the university in the Netherlands and i work in a big international consultancy firm and it did`n changed my mind in any way. I also know that my friends (late 20s, similar education) feel the same.

  41. How many Czech people do you know that will happily speak their own language with a foreign friend?
    The problem for many of us who live in Prague is that Czechs don’t want to speak to us in their own language. Of course there are exceptions, but I’m surprised that only a few fellow language learners/bloggers have picked up on this.
    On the other hand, if I go to a party and speak English, suddenly everyone wants to talk to me.
    Speak Czech and a few people feel uncomfortable that a ‘westerner’ can understand them..

  42. Tomas

    Hi everyone, very interesting discussion.. I am Czech , I am not racist..but of course I am afraid of foreigners coming to my country and doing crime etc… Doesn’t matter what colour of your skin is .. .I also think Europe should keep its unique heritage, and not become Muslim or black.. Europe always has been white at least past 1000 years and we should keep this…. This is not racism this is keeping our history and heritage …. Our identity. I don’t want Africa or Asia become white as well :))

  43. Black man in Prague

    I can only speak from my own experiences, but as a black man from Sweden who’s currently living in the Czech Republic I think the bit about blacks in your article is very exaggerated. I’ve been living in Prague for almost 8 months now and not once have I been treated unfairly or approached in a racist way. People treat me in the same manner they treat other foreigners and oftentimes they approach me speaking Czech which I find very refreshing seeing that most people back home assume I don’t speak Swedish which I find very offensive. The CR is no more racist than anywhere else in Europe so instead of pointing out what was said, how about focusing on the intent behind it? Normal to her is obviously white, but did she mean “not normal” as in sub-human or was it more like “different” as in not like her? The intent easily gets lost in translation and therefore it’s important to dissect the meaning behind what was said.

  44. Brenda R Harris

    Just a note or two about your comments concerning racism and the people you tried to correct their racist remarks. It’s hopeless to do so. They need to die out. Racism is something that is taught by those who wish to oppress those they decided are beneath them. They currently have the upperhand. They continue in this endeavor to teach their young. Their offspring thinks it’s just another way to think about things. Stupid to the fact that they have been brainwashed by their own parents early in life to be little racists, that grow up making those people they have been taught to look down on, their lives unbearable, being oblivious to the fact they are oppressing people, they never met, just because of the brainwashing received by their parents as little children. No amount of discussion about their beliefs about those they oppress is understood, because to be racist is a condition that has no basis in reality about the oppressed. It is a made up story about a people that is propagated each time a new born oppressor is able to say their abc’s. It’s ingrained into the baby’s psyche, like abc’s.

  45. MHK

    Hello!
    Very interesting. British and brown and been here since 2009. Now with two little children born here in the Czech Republic I am seriously considering returning to the UK given the institutional racism in schools, perhaps even hospitals and the healthcare sector.
    They feel compelled, as if some great force inside which is not in their control what so ever, to ask a) where I was born, b) where my parents were born c) if at least one of my parent is white d) how in the name of God, I can speak English so well and also, unrelated to race but still worthwhile mentioning in this list of inappropriate questions a) my age (even on my wedding day!) b) my husband’s age, c) the salary I earned and so on!
    I was recently advised by my neighbour / friend that she hopes that I would not live under any false beliefs that ‘I am not Indian.’ ‘Abych nezila v omlylu!’
    Every person who looks at me or invites themselves or us for a cup of tea has only interrogating questions about my race. Of course, once they know the reason for my brown colour, I am not British anymore! I am referred to by my race!

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