On Halloween night in the Deusto neighborhood of Bilbao, some teenagers broke into a food establishment run by Chinese people. Theft aside, they attacked the employees, insulted them and also recorded everything on video and uploaded it to social networks. In addition, the group of minors were regulars at the premises, they went several times a week, but not to buy, they were going to steal.
Pulling from memory, I remember that my relatives and I assumed ‘with relative normality’ that setting up a business in Spain as Chinese would have as a consequence, not only robbery, but robbery with verbal or physical aggression (and that neither our restaurant nor my relative’s bazaar were in troubled neighborhoods). My parents, my uncles, friends of theirs, and even employees of our restaurant or the bazaar, at some point or another have been attacked: my uncle was robbed at the point of a knife in his small shop, a delivery man of ours was stabbed and they robbed while delivering food at home. Stealing and physical or verbal attacks were part of everyday life.
“In our establishment they were cute, they threw eggs at you, they left the garbage at the door, they threw the bags with dog poop at the front …”
Chinese respondent, Community of Madrid.
This is not an isolated pattern, in an informal survey (informal because I did it in a digital tool), my sample of 200 respondents from China or from a Chinese family, residing in different parts of the peninsula, affirm that crimes are committed mainly in bazaars (85%) and hospitality (63 %), and the majority are robberies (93.3%), verbal harassment (71%) and assaults (33%). The surprising thing is the assiduity, it is not that it is done once, most of them suffer crimes several times a year (47%) or what I have found chilling, very assiduously (13%). (Note: the sum of the percentages is greater than 100% for the multi-response, since you can suffer robberies and verbal attacks, and have restaurants and bazaars)
“Young people who come in groups and steal. They laugh and insult us. Sometimes we had to call the police, although it was not that they helped much.”
Chinese respondent, Catalonia.
I remember how, when I was little, my relatives told me: Spaniards are very bad! I didn’t know it at the time, I also had that not-so-subtle synophobic bias that western society instills in us. So I tended not to take into account, and even apologize, to the other party: those who attacked and robbed us, those who harassed me at school and high school, who for the most part, as you can imagine, were also Spanish .
Because (drum roll) surprise! Most of the robberies are not perpetrated by other minorities as certain political groups would have us believe, according to another sample of my informal survey (940 people) 75% of the assailants are Spanish. Most men (54%) and in an age range that varies from adolescence to young adult. I contrasted this percentage with the CIS, and in 2020 of the total reported robberies, 71% of thieves were Spanish (Where were the victims from? It is not known, because it seems that this is not studied or not interested, but where They are the criminals, yes, that is very interesting).
“My friends and well-known people around, always went to the bazaar to steal food (such as pipes, chips, sweets …) or headphones, batteries … and it was always counted as a feat, showing off. I was a teenager and did not participate, even one I once said that it didn’t seem right to me, from that day on they made fun of me and I opted for silence “.
A witness, Andalusia.
After reading hundreds of messages about robberies, there is something that seems terrifying to me: the bragging and arrogance of the thief or thief, even if you are caught and they ask you to pay (and we don’t even talk about the complaint). The Deusto girls robbed assiduously, in the video they insulted the employee and laughed, I have many other messages in which if you confront the thief, it is almost worse than letting yourself be robbed, hello, impunity?
“A man came in to steal, they saw him on the cameras, they went to him to tell him that he should pay for what he had hidden … The girl from the bazaar ended up in the emergency room because the man punched her in the face.”
A witness, Castilla-La Mancha.
I’m not going to focus on the, let’s call them, professional criminals, let’s focus on the girls from Deusto, on the young people who are going to rob and attack after class. What leads these young people to think that stealing and assaulting gives them status? Which is something to brag about. That stealing from those who have less is cool. That stealing and assaulting is pleasant.
And when you are ready to attack, if you are a hyena, you are not going to face the lion, obviously you want to get out unscathed and unpunished. In a recent collaboration with the Madrid diversity brigade, I was interviewing an agent who has more than 20 years of experience working in Usera, Madrid’s Chinatown within Madrid city (Fuenlabrada and other peripheral districts is something else), and fun fact: In Usera you also have more ballots of being robbed or assaulted, of having your car opened or robbed at home if you are Chinese. Despite being Madrid’s Chinatown and that, indeed, most of the neighborhood is Chinese. His words were: if you are going to rob someone, you choose the easiest victim. And who do we think they are? Bingo. The Chinese community. And I want to emphasize “we believe.”
“It was a Friday morning, and one entered a Chinese grocery store with bad intentions. Well, the owner kicked him out of the store literally doing martial art with a stick! good time at the door playing with the stick in case he came back. I swear I almost started clapping. “
A witness, Andalusia
The current narrative of the hackneyed stereotypes we have about the Chinese community contributes to the perception of easy victim:
– The Chinese do not speak Spanish well and they will not report
– They have a lot of cash
– Short and thin, a lot of resistance because I do not think there is, nor is it that they are famous for their aggressiveness
Holi, impunity again?
I give you another piece of information, according to Alejandro Portes in his study that won the 2019 Princess of Asturias Award in sociology, the minority that perceives racism the most in Spain is the Chinese and the Filipino. But then, Sinophobia doesn’t exist. I think that in the western imaginary, for not understanding, the same word “synophobia” is not understood, in fact, I did not even know it. No one had taught it to me, nor had anyone ever talked about it anywhere (Sinology is the study of the language, literature and institutions of China, Sinophobia, because hatred and fear).
What’s more, in Spain it is usually thought:
– Nobody has a problem with the Chinese, if they come to work and make a living.
– Do not commit crimes or if they do it is between them.
– How funny the Chinese with their oddities, jojojo, have you seen the china of the anthill?
–Massage with a happy ending?
These beliefs coexist with:
“When I was going to high school, 10-15 years ago, it was fashionable to go and eat Chinese things. (…) There were other bazaars in my town, run by” local “people, they didn’t go to handle those small groups of people who used to give a mangar stick, but went to the Chinese bazaar basically to touch the balls, to ask strange or nonsensical questions and laugh at the Chinese man / woman when he did not understand them “.
A witness, Principality of Asturias
“A neighbor entered the bazaar of a friend’s parents to steal and went so hot even if they caught her. In passing, she took the opportunity to insult with a repertoire of racist comments if they caught her attention.”
A witness, Catalonia
“Years ago the lady who ran the candy store on my street was beaten up. From what I heard, they were minors from a mixed group (racialized and non-racialized). They used to rob her, but after the beating, she had to close the store. “
A witness, Community of Madrid
That Sinophobia does not exist in Spain? I honestly don’t think so. That we don’t want to see it is something else.