I once had a conversation with a good friend of mine who wanted to go on a trip with her (black) boyfriend to Russia to meet some of her family members. I suggested that perhaps that might not be such a good idea. She asked what I was talking about. I was talking about this:
More than 100 Russian skinheads have attacked a music festival in central Russia, reports say. At least 10 people were injured while attending the Tornado festival in Miass, in Russia’s Chelyabinsk region. The skinheads were reported to have been armed with truncheons and sticks when they launched their attack on the event, attended by some 3,000 people.
What I was actually talking about at the time was reports of ethnic Uzbeks and Kazakhs being assaulted on subways and busses by gangs of young neo-Nazis, but it was symptomatic of the larger problem. Russia has well-known economic problems, made even worse by the wildfires that destroyed much of the wheat crop this past summer. As I’ve said since I started this blog, any time there’s an economic crisis the first people to be blamed are those who look different from the majority group. It happened in Uganda when Idi Amin drove out the South Asian population, almost immediately turning a prosperous country into an economic ruin by removing an entire class of workers. It’s happening in Arizona, where draconian laws are being signed into law to discriminate against Latinos, and it’s happening with violent assaults in Russia.
There is, of course, a non-trivial irony of the existence of Russian neo-Nazis. Somewhere in the area of 20 million Russians (~6 million military, ~14 million civilians) died fighting the Nazis. There’s an argument to be made that they didn’t fight the Nazis so much as the invading German army, but at any rate Russia is no friend to the Nazis. It’s then bizarre to see the mantle of the master race be picked up by the youth of Russia, but since race bigotry is fundamentally non-logical it’s not really that strange.
We can’t separate race from economics, and until we recognize that a rising tide raises all boats, we’re going to keep falling back into this trap.