Har­rass­ing the Rich? Se­ri­ously?

METROPOLE - Vienna in English - - OPINION -

“How are you do­ing to­day?” the para­medic asks with a smile, as the am­bu­lance hur­tles to­wards the hos­pi­tal. “I’m not talk­ing to a Neger (ne­gro),” the pa­tient spews back. “Par­don me? “he says. “You heard me!” she re­torts. The para­medic starts to laugh. Then she spews: “Un­buckle me you Neger and I’ll show you what’s what.” He laughs louder. Rami Ali, the para­medic, is just one of hun­dreds of peo­ple who re­cently shared their ex­pe­ri­ences with bla­tant racism in Aus­tria on Twit­ter, un­der the hash­tag #re­ichen­hetze. It’s mind-bog­gling and painful to read: A darker skin color, a slight ac­cent or just a for­eign-sound­ing name bring on some ugly re­marks. The out­pour­ing fol­lowed the ap­pear­ance of the new Chan­cel­lor Se­bas­tian Kurz on a Ger­man TV show, in which he de­nounced Hetze (ag­i­ta­tion) “against the rich,” liken­ing it to that against mi­nori­ties. That in­spired Twit­ter user van­ny­fer­rari to call on peo­ple to share sto­ries of dis­crim­i­na­tion, show­ing why crit­i­cism of priv­i­lege is some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent from the racism many en­counter on a daily ba­sis. The sto­ries are vi­cious. There’s Sabine’s friend Amir, half-ira­nian, who changed his name to Daniel to avoid con­stant heck­ling. There's Alev Korun, for­mer Green Party MP, asked on the play­ground if she spoke French with her daugh­ter. “No, Turk­ish,“she replied and was met with sud­den shock and si­lence. Or @Vic­mato’s mem­ory from high school, when his teacher fumed: “You should be ashamed of your­selves. That girl is the only one with an A.” That girl, born in Aus­tria, hap­pened to have Ser­bian par­ents. Racism can be even more bru­tal. Vanessa Span­bauer, ed­i­tor-in-chief of Fresh, a mag­a­zine on black Aus­trian life­style, re­counted some ugly ex­pe­ri­ences grow­ing up here: At 1: Guy looks into my baby car­riage, asks my mother how she dared give birth to such a child (#im­pure). At 4: I’m al­ready so aware of racism that my half-mor­roc­can friend and I de­cide to talk like Mundl (a typ­i­cal Vi­en­nese char­ac­ter of the 1980s), just to pro­voke. At 10: A kid whacks me over the head with a metal rod to test if my ugly hair can cush­ion the blow. #afro At 12: A teacher tells me I need to go to “Ger­man for For­eign­ers.” But I was born in Vienna, I say, Ger­man is my mother tongue; I’m not a for­eigner. “Yes you are,” he re­torts. At 20: While par­ty­ing at U4 (club), a guy ap­proaches me and tells his friends: “Look, the N*** bitch!” At 22: My pro­fes­sor at univer­sity can’t be­lieve that I handed in a flaw­less pa­per that will be graded with an A. Her en­tire life, Vanessa con­cludes, peo­ple have been con­fused by her speak­ing flaw­less Ger­man, not be­ing stupid, not steal­ing or tak­ing drugs and not be­ing a pros­ti­tute. This dis­crim­i­na­tion – that many dis­pute – has noth­ing to do with po­lit­i­cal dis­course. It’s racism, plain and sim­ple. And against Aus­tri­ans. Skin color, ac­cent or fam­ily name shouldn’t de­fine our place in so­ci­ety. The ide­ol­ogy that sowed con­cepts of blood and soil was crushed in 1945, but over­com­ing its lin­ger­ing re­mains in peo­ple’s minds and fight­ing its roots re­mains a con­stant ef­fort. Peo­ple born and raised here, as well as those who came later in life, are all cit­i­zens. They are Aus­tri­ans. If not by birth, then by choice.

Ben­jamin Wolf Man­ag­ing Ed­i­tor

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