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Racial discrimination on the Camino

Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
"I'm not racist but I'm scared of them" sits in every heart until its nurtured and loved and confronted and burned away. The histories of our races are not our histories. The language of our ancestors need not be our language. And while we wander slowly into the light one thing we can do is try to bring others with us.
Just...1000+ likes, TInca.
(Sniff, sniff...)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Walked in "2016"
I would hope zero. But hard for a white male to really know.

I thought we had zero in Australia but my wife (Asian) tells a very different story sadly.

But I’ll still bet on zero for a Camino ;);)
I'm surprised that you should be saying,"I thought we had zero in Australia." Many press reports have openly covered incidents of attacks against immigrants/students in Australia recent times. Also Australia's treatment of the natives has not been exemplary. Your wife is right.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
I'm surprised that you should be saying,"I thought we had zero in Australia." Many press reports have openly covered incidents of attacks against immigrants/students in Australia recent times. Also Australia's treatment of the natives has not been exemplary. Your wife is right.
I don't want to get into Politics. Let's just say local perception and reality differ.......
 

Raggy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
I would guess that an overwhelming majority of pilgrims and people who interact with us on the Camino are strongly opposed to racial discrimination. But I don't think we're at "zero," racism yet and I'm not talking about subconscious or implicit biases. Here's the story:

I encountered a retired Spanish policeman with quite old-fashioned views - He was a proud man with a somewhat gruff manner, but always friendly to me. He reminded me of other "rough diamond," types that I've befriended. During my Camino, I connected with him on Facebook and we sometimes sent messages to let each other know how we were getting along.

My first sign that something was wrong was when a female pilgrim told me that she stopped walking with him because if crime or other societal problems came up in conversation, he would always blame Muslims. Although this shocked me, I hadn't heard him talking in this way, so I didn't change my attitude toward him. Later, I noticed that he scrubbed out the Galician spelling of people's names (e.g. Xuan Xose) and changed them to Spanish spellings (Juan Jose) in the registration book at an Albergue. I thought that was an insult to the pilgrims who had passed this way before us, but I didn't confront him about it. After my Camino, I noticed that he often posted rude comments about the Catalan Nationalist leaders on his Facebook wall. I thought it was a shame that he didn't have a more inquiring attitude but he's a proud, old-fashioned guy and it's an emotive issue, so I didn't think much about it.

And then, on 20th November this year, he posted two or three photographs of General Franco - old propaganda pictures with captions like "A simple man" and so on. I was confused, so I did some digging and discovered that this was the anniversary of Franco's death. And that's when I decided that I couldn't ignore the evidence any longer - My Camino companion is not a harmless, old, rough diamond. We are no longer connected on Facebook. It freaks me out to know that he was in law enforcement.

And, I'm sorry to say it, but there are a few (very few) un-evolved racists among us.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Can we find the courage to confront hatred when we see it?
Your story is a brilliant example of how complicated and challenging it is to do that, @Raggy.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese.
I think the problem with confronting someone is that it seldom changes their attitudes, beliefs or behaviours. Usually they get defensive, and that can lead to further polarisation. I don't have a solution. Talking and information does not seem to work. I think to make a difference it needs emotional bonds to be formed with "the other".
 
Camino(s) past & future
2018 CF Jan-Feb, Roncesvalles - SdC - Muxia - Fisterra
I lived in Spain for 2 years in the 90s. I love the country. I was immersed in the countryside of parts of Navarra near Olite to the south of Navarra, many parts of Rioja and Campo de Borja near Ainzon. Am I an expert? Absolutely not but I pay attention, I talk and I listen.

This may upset a few people potentially and for that I apologize as that is not my intention at all. Intolerance/Racism/Fear what ever you want to call it is alive and well. While I have never seen anything or heard anything in Spain to the degree that I have seen or heard in other places and likely others in this group as well. But let's not forget the monkey calls at soccer games in Spain. Working In villages and immersing myself in the language I learned some pretty bolt-of-lighting type of swearing...I don't brag about it was just me learning the language the way we all do; hearing and repeating and not necessarily understanding what I was saying. My Spanish girlfriend was not amused...and I was mortified at times when she told me what I said. My point is unless you are fluent in a language the subtleties of what we speak of can be lost to people that don't understand.

I have shut down conversations. I am a big guy but I am a non-violent person, not a bully, but I do have convictions that when somebody makes a comment that is hurtful to somebody I have a very hard time standing by. I have had words with people in Spain over the years mostly friends and coworkers.

Most recently the murmurings about some of my recent Korean walking partners about the use of ketchup on Tortilla Española took a turn. Personally a sin in my book but really, who cares?! The bartender was discussing this with another patron and it quickly devolved into ketchup ruining culture and then something more directed at her and the other Koreans. This continued for a minute or two and I calmly looked at them, "Basta, maleducados...!@$#". The !@$# is something that doesn't need to be discussed. It was quick and to the point. The poor Korean lady standing next to me didn't understand a word of what they were saying, but I know she understood that behavior. What a crummy feeling that somebody has to feel that way. The guys were a little taken back and visibly uncomfortable that I understood them and didn't say another word. Should I have handled it differently, perhaps. She was never in danger, should I have let it slide and not confront it? Could I have stirred something more that what it was? I don't really believe so in this instance.

The next morning in very broken English she asked if she could walk with me and I smiled and said of course because much of the mornings I was walking alone. What she said next made me cry, "I feel safer walking with you." Happiness, sadness and anger. Happy that somebody thought that I was a safe person to be around, sad that perhaps she felt I was her protection. Angry that somebody is treated that way. I would like to think she just enjoyed my ability to order for her and help her with communicating but I don't know. I still get emotional thinking about it.

At another location on the same journey I was a bit more courteous but shut it down none-the-less in my favorite mountain area. Chatting with a local at a bar a young Japanese man that I had crossed paths with a few times came in. As soon as he walked in the guy I was talking to immediately started in on this guy. Against better judgment I told him to give the guy a break. Neither he nor his friends really wanted to let that slide and it did get uncomfortable. Much to my drinking partners credit we kept it civil and continued talking about what just happened for quite some time. In the end he apologized, we shook hands had another beer and he gave me a keychain that I use to this day. We are all outsiders sometime and someplace and he realized it.

These are two of my recent examples. They are small snapshots and I do not believe that they represent Spain or the camino as a whole. Anybody that says it their country is enlightened and free of racism is part of the problem. This is not a political problem this is a people problem.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
I think the problem with confronting someone is that it seldom changes their attitudes, beliefs or behaviours. Usually they get defensive, and that can lead to further polarisation. I don't have a solution. Talking and information does not seem to work. I think to make a difference it needs emotional bonds to be formed with "the other".
You're absolutely right, @Kanga. I should have used the phrase 'speak up' rather than confront...more what I meant was not to be silent in the face of hatred, but to engage and (gently) challenge.
And yeah...If there were a solution I guess we would have found it by now...
Heart connection is the only way to see each other. And how to do that? The more of us there are the more of a challenge it becomes.
This is not a political problem this is a people problem.
Indeed. Heart disease...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances from Astorga (2018)
Frances/Invierno from SJPP (2019)
What she said next made me cry, "I feel safer walking with you." Happiness, sadness and anger. Happy that somebody thought that I was a safe person to be around, sad that perhaps she felt I was her protection. Angry that somebody is treated that way. I would like to think she just enjoyed my ability to order for her and help her with communicating but I don't know. I still get emotional thinking about it.
THANK YOU 🙏
May you make many more people feel safe, until the day it is longer necessary.
 

Opa Theo

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francais to Santiago
I lived in Spain for 2 years in the 90s. I love the country. I was immersed in the countryside of parts of Navarra near Olite to the south of Navarra, many parts of Rioja and Campo de Borja near Ainzon. Am I an expert? Absolutely not but I pay attention, I talk and I listen.

This may upset a few people potentially and for that I apologize as that is not my intention at all. Intolerance/Racism/Fear what ever you want to call it is alive and well. While I have never seen anything or heard anything in Spain to the degree that I have seen or heard in other places and likely others in this group as well. But let's not forget the monkey calls at soccer games in Spain. Working In villages and immersing myself in the language I learned some pretty bolt-of-lighting type of swearing...I don't brag about it was just me learning the language the way we all do; hearing and repeating and not necessarily understanding what I was saying. My Spanish girlfriend was not amused...and I was mortified at times when she told me what I said. My point is unless you are fluent in a language the subtleties of what we speak of can be lost to people that don't understand.

I have shut down conversations. I am a big guy but I am a non-violent person, not a bully, but I do have convictions that when somebody makes a comment that is hurtful to somebody I have a very hard time standing by. I have had words with people in Spain over the years mostly friends and coworkers.

Most recently the murmurings about some of my recent Korean walking partners about the use of ketchup on Tortilla Española took a turn. Personally a sin in my book but really, who cares?! The bartender was discussing this with another patron and it quickly devolved into ketchup ruining culture and then something more directed at her and the other Koreans. This continued for a minute or two and I calmly looked at them, "Basta, maleducados...!@$#". The !@$# is something that doesn't need to be discussed. It was quick and to the point. The poor Korean lady standing next to me didn't understand a word of what they were saying, but I know she understood that behavior. What a crummy feeling that somebody has to feel that way. The guys were a little taken back and visibly uncomfortable that I understood them and didn't say another word. Should I have handled it differently, perhaps. She was never in danger, should I have let it slide and not confront it? Could I have stirred something more that what it was? I don't really believe so in this instance.

The next morning in very broken English she asked if she could walk with me and I smiled and said of course because much of the mornings I was walking alone. What she said next made me cry, "I feel safer walking with you." Happiness, sadness and anger. Happy that somebody thought that I was a safe person to be around, sad that perhaps she felt I was her protection. Angry that somebody is treated that way. I would like to think she just enjoyed my ability to order for her and help her with communicating but I don't know. I still get emotional thinking about it.

At another location on the same journey I was a bit more courteous but shut it down none-the-less in my favorite mountain area. Chatting with a local at a bar a young Japanese man that I had crossed paths with a few times came in. As soon as he walked in the guy I was talking to immediately started in on this guy. Against better judgment I told him to give the guy a break. Neither he nor his friends really wanted to let that slide and it did get uncomfortable. Much to my drinking partners credit we kept it civil and continued talking about what just happened for quite some time. In the end he apologized, we shook hands had another beer and he gave me a keychain that I use to this day. We are all outsiders sometime and someplace and he realized it.

These are two of my recent examples. They are small snapshots and I do not believe that they represent Spain or the camino as a whole. Anybody that says it their country is enlightened and free of racism is part of the problem. This is not a political problem this is a people problem.
The world needs more Darbys!
Ted
 
Camino(s) past & future
Walked in "2016"
As I get older I have less time and tolerance for thoughtless hatred. When such things start up in my presence I will say something; my faith compels me. Sometimes I will DO something. A racist who would not stop spouting is one of only two people who have ever been told to leave my house.
Well said. Anyone with conscience and integrity should act similarly.
The irony of it is that racism probably stems from insecurity. One who's comfortable/at ease with oneself doesn't need to harbor ill-feeling towards others.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
As I get older I have less time and tolerance for thoughtless hatred. When such things start up in my presence I will say something; my faith compels me. Sometimes I will DO something. A racist who would not stop spouting is one of only two people who have ever been told to leave my house.
Brava, Reb. I for one do not always have the courage to do that, no matter what I say when it's a hypothetical 'what if.' But calling hatred into question is what we all need to learn to do, if we care about peace.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Many, various, and continuing.
Well said. Anyone with conscience and integrity should act similarly.
The irony of it is that racism probably stems from insecurity. One who's comfortable/at ease with oneself doesn't need to harbor ill-feeling towards others.
What I find most troubling is how "comfortable/at ease" the bigot is with his opinions. He assumes everyone around him is just like him, and he can spout off with impunity anywhere.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Walked in "2016"
What I find most troubling is how "comfortable/at ease" the bigot is with his opinions. He assumes everyone around him is just like him, and he can spout off with impunity anywhere.
That sounds scary! Unfortunately there are people like that in every culture and race, and we need to speak up wherever we can.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
I think the problem with confronting someone is that it seldom changes their attitudes, beliefs or behaviours. Usually they get defensive, and that can lead to further polarisation. I don't have a solution. Talking and information does not seem to work. I think to make a difference it needs emotional bonds to be formed with "the other".
I completely agree that confronting generally changes attitudes or opinions and that what really works is when they form emotional bonds with "the other". That said, there are often reasons for confronting people. One reason is that it shows that the opinions of the racist are not shared. There's an old saying that "silence equals consent". I certainly don't hold to that, but people who hold intolerant positions often believe that their opinions are widely shared because when they spout off people let it slide. Confronting them can help disabuse them of that notion. More importantly, there are many marginalized people who when they are attacked (even verbally) or hear disparaging remarks about their identity and see people standing by, they assume that the bystanders are okay with what is happening. Confronting people lets them know they have allies. That, in itself, is a good reason to confront.
 
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP to SDC 2013/14
SJPP to SDC 2016
Porto to SDC 2017
VdlP Sevilla/Salamanca 2018
You cannot change anyone else. You can only change yourself. So be the best that you can be and accept that other people are not sufficiently far along their journey to see that race and gender (and whatever else separates us) are merely attributes we have for a short life time and do not truly characterize who we are.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Via de La Plata (spring, 2019)
This came up before and I think it is a legitimate question for a non-white pilgrim to ask. But I would strongly suggest that it can only be answered by other non-white pilgrims. As a white person, we don't see the many ways that discrimination can be perpetrated or felt. I think it is insensitive to pretend that we can.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017)
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
Just finished the Camino Francis. My thoughts would be to try and relax. I know easy suggestion for me as a white to be saying. I only connected with one woman who appeared tbe of American American descent. She did not seem To all uncomfortable; I did not see another person with similar heritage so be prepared to be in the minority. And be prepared for warm and welcoming fellow Pilgrims. I cannot imagine you will find things to be otherwise. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask. I will be more than happy to share with you my experience, ideas and thoughts. I walked the Camino blister free. Very happy about that
 
Camino(s) past & future
Planning Italy to Finisterre and back (20xx)
As a white person, we don't see the many ways that discrimination can be perpetrated or felt. I think it is insensitive to pretend that we can.

Well, not quite.

It didn't happen on the Camino, but I've been physically assaulted twice because I'm a [insult] white, the first time I manage to run, the second time I was trapped in my car which ended with several thousand Pounds of damages. I can't recall how many times I've been refused to be served in shops, because "they" don't serve the ones of my race. Insults to my nationality were a daily occurrence. Even if these where racially motivated aggression they've been downgraded as common street crime.

All kind of racism and discrimination is wrong and everyone can be a victim of it. I don't believe that if you are white in a "white" country you are immune to it, it simply won't show on statistics.
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean 2017.
Hello and big thanks to members of the forum for sharing. I have been reading posts religiously hoping not to have to bring this question up myself. I plan on hiking the Camino Frances solo starting April 1st. I am of African descent and black ; I wonder what level of racial discrimination I may come across during my Camino.
This will be my first Camino. I would appreciate if anyone has experience they can share or advice.
Hola @KCarole , yes a very warm welcome to the Camino Community. I have to say that as a "white man" I am not really in a position to comment on any experience of racial discrimination. However what I have found from the pilgrimages is that (in general) all pilgrims are treated as equals. Its also a "two-way" street, greet each pilgrim you meet with a smile, a buen camino and they will return the smile and greeting. Hope you have a great pilgrimage.

(I note that the original post was back in February 2018, so I was a bit surprised that it started up again. In fact I was going to delete this my post on relevance grounds, but will leave it for a few days to gauge reaction!)
 
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Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese.
...That said, there are often reasons for confronting people. One reason is that it shows that the opinions of the racist are not shared. There's an old saying that "silence equals consent". I certainly don't hold to that, but people who hold intolerant positions often believe that their opinions are widely shared because when they spout off people let it slide. Confronting them can help disabuse them of that notion. More importantly, there are many marginalized people who when they are attacked (even verbally) or hear disparaging remarks about their identity and see people standing by, they assume that the bystanders are okay with what is happening. Confronting people lets them know they have allies. That, in itself, is a good reason to confront.
Yes, I agree with you David, I did not mean to imply one should stand by idly. Particularly when the subject of the insult is present. Following some nasty incidents on public transport, after the Sydney Lindt Cafe siege, the "I'll Ride With You" movement exploded. I think the stories about real people made the emotional connection.

There is much to be said for student exchange programs, where young people go to live for several months with a family in another country.
 
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2, El Norte incompleto
This came up before and I think it is a legitimate question for a non-white pilgrim to ask
Yes, it originally came up in this very thread which was first posted in February. 😊

But I would strongly suggest that it can only be answered by other non-white pilgrims. As a white person, we don't see the many ways that discrimination can be perpetrated or felt. I think it is insensitive to pretend that we can.
You are so right. There have been many of European heritage who have jumped in to say that it's absolutely not a problem, but how can they really know for sure?
 

KJFSophie

My Way, With Joy !
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2014 & 2015 ) ,Via San Francesco, Italy (2017 )
Camino Portugese (2018 )
I had the opportunity to meet and walk with several women of color on a few of my walks and it didn't occur to me to differentiate them from others based on their skin color. Kind pilgrims will be viewed as kind pilgrims...nasty folks will be seen as nasty no matter what their appearance. Having said that, I've no knowledge of how these lovely ladies would answer your question. In my experience, there were many who had preconceived notions of others " big people are unhealthy "" beer drinkers have alcohol issues"" older people are frail" "Americans are prudes" ...it's endless, and at times both frustrating and entertaining to hear what others think. I simply embrace the opportunity to set them straight...teaching moments and learning curves. We are all walking ambassadors. Put out kindness, you will receive the same ...Buen Camino !
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x4), Fisterra/Muxía(x2), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham,
C inglés. 2019? Who knows! ;-)
I can't "like" your post Reb but I can empathise with the conflict. I'll venture into dangerous language here but Gran would witter on about "nig-nogs" even while nice white people threw stones at her Vardo. My dad would tell me to beware of "wogs" even while nice white people who'd employed him for a month would try to dodge paying him by accusing him of theft. When I finally got admitted to the village school the Headmistress told me not to be "silly" as I fought my way through every play-time as the "ditch-pig" that everyone feared and hated.

"I'm not racist but I'm scared of them" sits in every heart until its nurtured and loved and confronted and burned away. The histories of our races are not our histories. The language of our ancestors need not be our language. And while we wander slowly into the light one thing we can do is try to bring others with us. Not the lightest of burdens.
You made me laugh, thank you! When new in my road, I had to call on to my new neighbour to ask if I could retrieve my children’s football from her garden :rolleyes: She spotted my accent and said ‘oh I don’t mind foreigners,’ ‘No honestly. I met a black one once in Lorrimers (a local shop) and he actually held the door open for me, didn’t attack me or anything.’
I was lost for words :oops: Still am.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
There's an old saying that "silence equals consent"
It can, certainly. And even if it isn't consent, fearful silence is complicit because of what it allows.
One post states the bad treatment by the local Spanish towards pilgrims from Asia. Whaaat???? Totally offensive post
It's an what someone witnessed, simply being reported. How can someone's description of their experience be offensive? In fact, this is the kind of response that the OP is requesting, essentially: "Tell me - what did you experience?"
 
Camino(s) past & future
Walked in "2016"
It can, certainly. And even if it isn't consent, fearful silence is complicit because of what it allows.

It's an what someone witnessed, simply being reported. How can someone's description of their experience be offensive? In fact, this is the kind of response that the OP is requesting, essentially: "Tell me - what did you experience?"
Well said. Also open discussions help us to self-reflect on our own deficiencies and to improve ourselves to become better human beings. Isn't that much of the spirit of the camino is all about?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
open discussions help us to self-reflect on our own deficiencies and to improve ourselves to become better human beings. Isn't that much of the spirit of the camino is all about?
@Gadflyparexcellence , it is for a lot of us. But unfortunately perhaps not for everyone.;)
 

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