Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Racism and xenophobia cannot be kissed away

During election times, in other countries, they kiss babies. In Spain,
it seems they kiss blacks, if a cursory look at some of the newspapers
is to be believed. OK, not all political parties it seems, so I will
omit the Secretary General of the PSOE Zapatero from such activities
but not Rajoy.
I would like to know what is it about Mariano Rajoy and PP that they
manage to get themselves in photos and stories with prominent black
people – presumably immigrants or pictorially seen as images or
representatives of immigrants – when the substance of their message is
racist, xenophobic and intimidating.
One of these cases was the one covered prominently by several
newspapers, prior to the official election kick-off, was that of Khady
Koita on a PP platform with amongst others Rajoy, which I will discuss
further below. Recently, Público's (page 8, 29 February 2008) feature
article Habrá agua para todos also ran a photo of about a quarter the
size of the tabloid page dedicated to Rajoy kissing a black woman
sympathiser, who was unnamed. The huge image represents Rajoy as being
sympathetic, open and fair to say the least to blacks and immigrants
concerns - something the accompanying article (Llamazares tilda al PP
de ¨xenófobo y sectario¨) clearly contradicts.
In addition, the photo does not serve to illuminate the importance of
responsible water utilization and the failed water policies of PP but
represents a Rajoy simply as a happy campaigner!
In the former case of Koita – president of a group called European
Network against FGM –, her message to PP was to tackle female genital
mutilation (Rajoy afirma que su propuesta de contrato ayudará a
prevenir la ablación genital, El País, 8 February 2008), whilst there
seems to be no corresponding call for support nor participation
towards the PSOE, and other left parties in the country. Apparently,
during 2007, the Senegalese born activist received an award from PP's
main women leader Esperanza Aguirre.
I do not have any problems with this, but I have concerns when Black
people and an activist ostensibly committed to tackling such anti
women and anti human practices is privatised by a party whose message
on women and immigrants is at best paternalistic. As regards
immigration, it is racist and xenophobic and I do not believe any
immigrant, let alone any Black person, must be used in process that
will only facilitate his/her own subjugation. What is clearly called
for is resistance and alliances with those who seek genuine dignity
and equality for all in a world where immigration is both inevitable
yet not always equitable and just.

[Hassen Lorgat is on short sabbatical in Spain and studying at UPC.
Was the former chair of Transparency International – South Africa, and
manager of campaigns and communications with the South African NGO