Spain has a long tradition of racism and the legislation currently in force is not capable of controlling and punishing aggressors in a compatible way, the president of the Council for the Elimination of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination (Cedre) of the Spanish Ministry of Equality told BBC News Brasil. , Antumi Toasijé, in the face of the last attacks suffered by the Brazilian player Vinícius Júnior in a match on Sunday (21/5).
“Racism has a long tradition in Spain”, says the historian and professor at New York University in Madrid. “But we are living a moment of retrogression.”
According to Toasijé, of Spanish-Colombian origin, the country’s current regulations are not strong enough to deal with the growth of racism and the extreme right — and a specific law against this type of discrimination must be urgently approved.
Furthermore, according to the historian, Spain basically “invented racism as we know it today” during disputes between Christians and Moors on the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages and perpetuated for many years a racist policy against immigrants from North Africa. More recently, he says, Spain has developed an increasingly strong need to “prove its whiteness” as it feels excluded from the rest of Europe.
For Toasijé, this past is directly reflected in the discrimination against people of African descent imposed by Spanish society until today.
According to data from the SOS Racismo Federation, formed by autonomous organizations that fight against racism in Spain, reports of racial discrimination grew by more than 30% between 2013 and 2021 in the country.
In practice, cases can be even more voluminous: according to a survey carried out by Cedre, 81.8% of victims of racism in Spain do not file a complaint with the authorities.
“As the far right gains ground, all the elements are created for the exponential growth of racism in our society – and at any moment there could be an explosion.”
“This is very problematic and the Spanish government has to do more, especially in the legislative framework, because the laws are deficient”, he says.
Still according to the historian, the acts of racism that have been repeated in Spanish football are having repercussions in other areas of society, especially among younger people.
“The insults uttered against Vinícius have an impact on youth and are repeated in schools, for example, against black children who play soccer”, says the specialist. “Racism against a public person multiplies very quickly.”
Vini Jr., as the player is known, has been the victim of racist attacks during Spanish league games.
On Sunday (21/5), the dispute between Valencia and Real Madrid for the Spanish Championship was interrupted in the second half after part of the crowd present at the Mestalla stadium called the Brazilian “monkey”.
This Monday (22/5), Real Madrid filed a complaint with the Attorney General of Spain for crimes of hate and discrimination against their player.
For Antumi Toasijé, the efforts to assist victims of racism undertaken by the Council for the Elimination of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination, which it coordinates, “are hampered by the lack of precise and concrete laws”.
According to him, not only are the laws existing today in Spain dispersed and not very effective, but the rules regarding cases of discrimination in sport are weak and neglected by the authorities.
“There is a law against racism in sport, but it does not offer immediate mechanisms of action and has become completely obsolete”, says the president of Cedre.
“In a case like that of Vinícius Júnior, it is established that the competition must be completely paralyzed, but that is not happening. Punishments for individuals who commit this type of aggression are also very scarce”.
Still according to Toasijé, many referees do not collaborate in complying with the rules because they do not understand the impact and danger of the actions of some fans.
Law 19/2007, of July 11, 2007, establishes, among other things, that judges can decide on the provisional suspension of matches for the “reestablishment of legality”. The regulations also provide for fines of 150,000 to 650,000 euros, a ban on attending stadiums for up to five years for offenders and suspension of the right to host sporting events for a maximum period of two years for organizers.
“But practically none of that law applies. If it were enforced, it would already be a step forward”, says the expert.
The general legislation against cases of racism treats most crimes as a hate crime, especially in cases of harassment or threats against a community, or as a crime of insult or slander. But according to the president of Cedre, the complaints made by the clubs to the Attorney General’s Office are often not taken forward.
In comparison, Brazil enacted a law in January of this year that typifies racial insult as a crime of racism — while racism is understood as a crime against the community, the insult is directed at the individual.
With the change in the law, the conducts typified as injury become non-bailable and imprescriptible. The penalty for those who commit the crime, until then 1 to 3 years in prison, can vary from 2 to 5 years in prison.
In terms of sports, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) defined that clubs may lose points for acts committed by their fans, including racist actions.
For Antumi Toasijé, other European countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom also have legislation that is more comprehensive and prepared to deal with cases of racism in sport and in other circumstances than Spain.
“Each country has its challenges and there is no perfect country in the fight against racism, but that does not mean that Spain has to make much more efforts”, he says.
In a statement released to the press, the State Commission against Violence, Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Sport, part of the Ministry of Culture and Sport of Spain, repudiated the acts of racism against Vini Jr. and he stated that he analyzes the available images to identify the perpetrators of the injuries “in order to propose the respective sanctions”.
“The Commission considers it necessary for clubs to collaborate in identifying the perpetrators of these execrable behaviors and also wants to convey to them the need to work on prevention to combat violence against their fans in the face of the undesirable normalization of behaviors and insults that are very far from the norm. good sporting order and seriously damage the image of our football and Spanish sport.”
history of racism
“Spain is probably the country that invented racism as we know it today”, says Antumi Toasijé.
According to the professor at New York University in Madrid, the Iberian Peninsula was the scene of an intense struggle between Muslims and Christians in the Middle Ages, during which “a racist narrative was perpetuated that did not exist until that moment in the rest of Europe”.
“This narrative basically spread the idea of the superiority of white and Christian people”, says the historian. “It was not only supported by the Monarchy and the Catholic Church, but also resulted in a series of laws whose ultimate objective was the whitening of the Peninsula.”
Among these policies were practices known as “blood cleansing”, whereby people who had non-white ancestors were excluded from society.
Some of these customs were maintained until the 19th century and, especially during the colonization period in the Americas, a caste system was established that classified and privileged citizens according to the color of their skin.
But in more recent history, according to Toasijé, the Spanish population has come to feel excluded from the rest of Europe because of its ethnic background and has developed an increasingly strong need to “prove its whiteness”.
“With its entry into the European Union in the 1980s, Spain reaffirmed its European position and began to establish very aggressive policies on its border with Africa and against African immigrants”, says the historian. “And even today Afro-descendant immigrants and refugees are treated differently.”
“Historically, Spain has maintained the idea that Spanish, white and Christian are synonymous.”
The case involving the Brazilian player became the main subject in Spain and in other countries around the world.
After the match, Vini Jr. he said on social media that this “was not the first time, nor the second nor the third” that he has gone through a similar situation.
Vini Jr. also accused the first division of the Spanish professional football league of omission. “Racism is normal in La Liga. The competition thinks it’s normal, the Federation does too and the opponents encourage it. I’m very sorry. The championship that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano and Messi today belongs to the racists”, he wrote on Twitter.
“I’m sorry for the Spaniards who don’t agree, but today, in Brazil, Spain is known as a country of racists. And unfortunately, for everything that happens every week, I can’t defend it. I agree.”
La Liga president Javier Tebas hit back at the criticism and stated that “neither Spain nor La Liga are racist”. The president of the Spanish Football Federation, Luís Rubiales, defended Vini Jr. and stated that there is indeed a “problem with racism in our country”.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (PT) also spoke. “It is not possible that almost in the middle of the 21st century we have racial prejudice gaining strength in several football stadiums in Europe,” he said.
“It is important that FIFA and the Spanish league take serious measures, because we cannot allow fascism and racism to take over football stadiums,” he added.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Racial Equality said it would notify Spanish authorities and La Liga following the racist attacks.
According to the G1 news portal, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also decided to summon the Spanish ambassador to Brazil, Mar Fernández-Palacios, to ask for explanations.
In a joint note, the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Racial Equality, Justice and Public Security, Sport, and Human Rights and Citizenship also urged Spain’s government and sports authorities to take “the necessary measures in order to punish the perpetrators and avoid the recurrence of these acts”.
The Brazilian government also addressed its appeal to FIFA (International Football Federation), the Spanish Federation and La Liga.
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