When traveling to Germany it is important to know that the country’s constitution prohibits racial discrimination in general, but there is basically no case law that specifically deals with it, according to Hendrik Cremer, who has worked with the German Institute for Human Rights since 2007. “Those who want to take action against racist remarks are only able to refer to Section 130 of the Penal Code, which refers to sedition.” The legal hurdles, therefore, are high.
However, racial insults may not be what Black travelers (Africans, Americans, Caribbean people, etc.) visiting Germany should be most concerned with. Former government spokesman Uwe-Karsten Heye said in a 2006 radio interview that dark-skinned visitors to Germany should consider avoiding the eastern part of the country where racism runs high.
“There are small and medium-sized towns in Brandenburg, as well as elsewhere, which I would advise a visitor of another skin color to avoid going to,” said Heye. They “might not make it out alive” if they dared set foot in certain towns, he warned.
Africans and other dark-skinned people in Berlin, Wisner and other cities know certain areas in the eastern part of Berlin, such as Marzahn and Hellersdorf, are “no-go” areas where they are certain to be attacked or killed. It is also reported that German police routinely ignore these racist attacks and Germans, in general, are in denial about the depth of racism in their society.
Black visitors will also have to be extra careful when they venture outside of Moscow into the rest of Russia. In a chilling warning, the Russia expert of New Republic, Julie Ioffe, said, “There’s quite a bit of violence against people considered to be Black” in Russia, raising new fears about the safety of Olympic athletes, visitors and media attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Ioffe warned that nowhere in Russia is safe for a person of color to visit, outside of Moscow’s city center.
During an “Ask Me Anything” discussion on the social media site Reddit, Ioffe was asked by a Black college student whether it is safe for an African-American to study in Russia. Here’s her answer:
“Hmmmm, that’s a tough one. I think that, for the most part, you’d be okay — if you consider people glaring at you and cracking racist jokes okay. (Russians are, er, not the most tolerant bunch.) There’s quite a bit of violence against people considered to be black, which includes, in the Russian mind, people from Central Asia and the Caucasus. My advice is go, but stick to the city center and try to go to a bigger city like Moscow. (St. Pete is crawling with skinheads.) Be extra, extra careful and make sure the American Embassy knows you’re there. They have a special unit to deal with threats to American citizens, so you should report anything that happens immediately.”
Human rights groups report that the number of racially motivated attacks have increased in Greece, as did the severity of the violence involved. Kostis Papaioannou, head of the National Commission for Human Rights, says the 2012 figures “shows some very interesting and very worrying tendencies regarding racist violence in Greece. We have both an increase in the numbers of attacks but also – which is really worrying too – we have an escalation of the tension of this violence.” The incidents have spiraled as Greece’s economy has worsened over the past few years.
The vast majority of attacks occurred in Athens, mainly in inner-city neighborhoods. Immigrants are often set upon by groups of men wielding metal bars, chains, brass knuckles, broken bottles, knives and wooden clubs. The victims suffer from broken bones, damage to sight and hearing and extensive bruising, reports the Racist Violence Recording Network, composed of 30 aid and human rights groups.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Greece has warned Americans traveling to Greece to be wary of “a rise in unprovoked harassment and violent attacks against persons who, because of their complexion, are perceived as foreign migrants.”
“U.S. citizens most at risk are those of African, Asian, Hispanic or Middle Eastern descent in Athens and other major cities,” cautions the embassy in a statement first posted on its website last November.
Spain has a long-standing reputation for virulent racism, and many tourists of African descent complain of their poor reception by Spanish citizens. The nation was singled out by United Nations Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, who called on Spanish leaders to take greater steps toward eliminating racist and discriminatory practices against Africans and other immigrants in the country.
After the unjustified arrest of two African-American government employees in Barcelona in 2009, the U.S. State Department issued a warning that “racist prejudices” could lead to the arrest of African-Americans who visit Spain. The notice was removed two days before first lady Michele Obama visited the country, but many Black tourists say they experience racism during visits to Spain.
The world is not yet colorblind, and Italy is no exception. Anyone not noticeably of European descent will likely be looked down upon by Italians. Oftentimes a darker-skinned tourist will only have to deal with imposing stares, however; some Black women report a rather high incidence of gawking that leads to inquiries for prostitution.
While physical violence is not commonly practiced against Black tourists in Italy, biased ill-treatment of Black visitors can run rampant. A dark-skinned traveler may be questioned longer at border crossings and on trains, and his baggage may be rifled through by officials more often than those of white travelers. Sometimes hotels may tell Black tourists they are full for the night, and then give a room to the next white person who walks through the door. A Black traveler may also be a more frequent victim of ripoffs and scams, as is true for all foreigners.
Many people of color who have lived in Thailand can attest to the problematic racial attitudes commonplace in the country. Thais have an aversion to dark skin in general, and are prejudiced against people of African descent or anyone who has a darker skin tone, even among themselves. Black people frequently face discrimination in the workplace and are targeted for scrutiny from police. According to some travelers, it is legal there to discriminate on the basis of skin color or ethnicity.
In 2010, while visiting Thailand for a series of music performances, Ribkat, a well-known member of the multi-platinum selling group Fort Minor, and Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park were notified by a hotel manager that they did not allow Blacks or Indians at their hotel. Ribkat and Shinoda, who are both African-Americans, were told they should respect the racist policy and leave. The white band members were told they could stay. The policy to exclude Blacks and other foreigners can also be seen implemented by some local businesses.
A person of African descent traveling to China should not be surprised if they are repeatedly stared at or even swarmed by crowds of curious Chinese who will treat them as a spectacle by taking pictures, touching their hair, rubbing their skin, and asking questions that reflect their ignorance and lack of interaction with Black people.
Racism against Blacks may be the strongest form of prejudice in China. Chinese racism is linked to ignorance, class divisions, ethnocentrism and colorism that exists within Chinese society. Many people in China look down upon other Chinese of darker skin, and believe the whiter skin has more beauty.
In China, Black people are viewed through stereotypes, and most Chinese assume Blacks are poor, uneducated, violent, play basketball, are barbaric and wild, and even eat each other. The most common Chinese slur used against Black people means “black ghost.”
Racist mockery of Black people is very common in the public sphere in South Korea. When a Black person turns on the television in Korea, they can expect to experience Koreans using blackface and other stereotypical depictions to mock African people, the Diaspora, and Black culture in general.
Tourists can also anticipate being mistreated because of skin color or ethnicity. Foreigners say although many Koreans are polite and respectful, it’s not unusual to experience an angry, public xenophobic outburst from some of Korea’s citizens and taxi drivers, who they say overlook them in favor of picking up Koreans. A number of visitors have also reported locals shifting uneasily away from them on public transportation.
Some Koreans and visitors explain the racism against Black people as stemming from a fear of the unknown, since the country has historically been one of the most ethnically homogeneous nations in the world. Some Koreans will go their entire lives and never see a Black person. Others say Koreans, over time, have adopted whites’ attitudes towards Blacks.