Travel

In Athens: Racism and Discrimination

This semester, Athens is my home. The city is a patchwork of neighborhoods sewn together with a common history. These neighborhoods are not like the neighborhoods of New York; they all melt together with little differentiation between borders and inhabitants. Those who live in Plaka stroll through Monastaraki with little difference of deference. I have not seen the regional pride that comes with the attribution of neighborhoods such as in Queens or the Bronx.

Steps at the base of the Acropolis in the neighborhood of Plaka

Rather, there is a shared history of struggle and regional suffering that binds those native to Greece to each other. While there is this soft nationalism that binds causes to each other, there is also a deeply seeded racism and fear of “others” that permeates society. This fear is not directed at white tourists. It is instead focused on Asian appearing tourists as Greeks may remark that they do not pay as well as American or Western European appearing tourists. When asked, Greeks remark that these tourists are cheap, clueless, loud, and know no English. The disdain is palpable and comes across in tone-deaf conversation as some tourists are mocked and others are lauded.

This disdain and discrimination is not just found in conversation, it is also found in action. On a trip, friends witnessed Asian tourists accosted and forcefully shoved onto a bus. Another incident occurred when classmate was accosted for her dark skin on a field trip in Piraeus. Another friend is always asked her ethnicity when meeting Greeks. Despite these separate incidents, the Greek people loathe to call it racism. They insist that racism does not exist in Greece due to the country’s lack of slavery. Here, racism is intrinsically linked to slavery in the fact that as slavery has no history in Greece neither does racism. The definition of racism here is so fluid that it becomes impossible to categorize any action under the label.

Dilapidated and abandoned housing from the 1930s on the outskirts of Athens where immigrants are often socially sequestered with their families, many who live here work low wage jobs and must provide for extended family

Despite how difficult this definition may be to adhere to and categorize actions by, racism may be found in the differing treatment off tourists in addition to the sequestering and consistent marginalization of immigrants in the slums of the city.