Wednesday, July 6

Institutional racism: more than is seen and said

On April 15, 2021, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union – CJEU – issued a judgment in a preliminary ruling procedure brought by the Supreme Court of Sweden. In the case, a passenger of Chilean origin residing in Stockholm, with a reservation for an internal flight in Sweden, was subjected to an “additional” security check by decision of the aircraft commander, for which the Ombudsman Regarding discrimination, he filed a request for compensation for said citizen for the discriminatory behavior of the airline linked to reasons of physical appearance and ethnic origin. As the defendant company agreed to pay the compensation, although without acknowledging any discriminatory action, the judicial body refused to examine the substantive issue, which even reached the Supreme Court, which raised the referred question for a preliminary ruling. The CJEU concluded, very briefly, that it must be guaranteed that complaints of discrimination are always examined.

This reference is relevant in relation to what happened in the Madrid Assembly in the investiture debate of Mrs. Díaz Ayuso, in which the Vox parliamentarian, Mrs. Monasterio, referred to the illegal entry into Spain and her work as a street sale, also illegal, of the also parliamentarian – from United We Can – Mr. Mbayé. And it also comes to the thread of everything said and written in relation to these words that have been described very largely as “racist”.

I am not going to qualify Mrs. Monastery’s speech, it is not necessary. Even less do I intend to whitewash or blur it in a general framework of racism to which I will now refer. I do not share her position at all, but neither do those who are alarmed and demonstrate against her but uncritically – or almost – assume the situation of immigrants, or simply poor, since there are immigrants from the first division, of course.

To speak of “institutional racism” is no longer today, unlike what has been considered for too long by many people “of order”, an extravagance or a manifestation of an extreme radical ideological position. Unfortunately, it is not. And I say unfortunately because “institutional racism” undoubtedly exists, as well as “structural racism” and “systemic”, as has been studied by specialists in sociology and anthropology.

” Institutional racism ” in terminology already adopted by the European Court of Human Rights – ECHR – which in its judgment of April 16, 2019 – Lingurar case against Romania – has used it for the first time. It was a case in which the ECHR declared the existence of discrimination in police conduct for intervening in a small town in that country due to suspicions of criminal acts, and the Lingurar family reported discriminatory treatment due to their ethnic origin – Roma -, which was not sufficiently investigated by the national courts. The ECHR concluded that there had been a violation of articles 3 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights – ECHR – and argued that “In the respondent State, Roma communities often face institutional racism and are prone to excessive use of force by law enforcement authorities.”

It could be said that we are talking about other states and not Spanish. It could, but it would be an extraordinary self-deception, a trompe l’oeil. A trap, an illusion, a distorted image far from reality, through which we see what it is not and we do not know what it really is.

Let’s see, if not, what happened these days ago. What do we see and hear? That the representative of Vox reproaches Mr. Mbayé for having entered Spain illegally and having worked in illegal street sales. Harsh words, no doubt. But there are many questions that should be asked in relation to them. Words that, being true – it is not denied that Mr. Mbayé arrived from Senegal and entered Spain irregularly or that he worked as a “mantero”, as he himself explains it in detail – should raise questions.

That is why questions such as: why did he have to enter this State illegally, why did he have to work in an illegal activity persecuted by Spanish regulations, why was Mr. Mbayé himself persecuted? what is our immigration regulation, how is border control exercised by the Spanish authorities and by the European Border Agency -FRONTEX-, how are we treating migrants who enter irregularly, what is happening in the Mediterranean, in the Canaries , in Ceuta and Melilla … where and how are minors who enter Ceuta and other places irregularly …

Questions that, although they are uncomfortable, because they put us in front of a mirror, we have to ask and answer.

And this is not only about what Morocco or other countries do that occasionally or systematically allow migrants to leave, but about our shielding of borders in the already known terms. And it also goes, of course, about political speeches, legal regulation, the police system and action, the judicial system, public welfare policies … In short, what our structures, mostly institutional, have arbitrated for respond to the unstoppable and, in my opinion, legitimate immigration, even if it is not legal or regular –that is, the actual closing of borders– and the treatment that these people then receive in this State –as in others, as we have seen– .

I perfectly remember some resolutions of the magistrate Ramiro García de Dios Ferreiro in which he referred to “institutional racism”, in relation to some police actions and also to the situation of the Foreigners Internment Centers –CIE–. It was not, despite many comments, no madness of the magistrate, but the lucidity of one who does not allow himself to be seduced by a comfortable trompe l’oeil. Today, as I say, no one doubts the existence of this “institutional racism”, but the now retired Mr. García de Dios has taken a further step in his appreciation of the situation and qualified, quoting Luigi Ferrajoli, as “sadism police ” and ” institutional sadism ”, for example, the internment of immigrants from the Aquarius in a CIE in the summer of 2018.

You see, what happened to Mrs. Monasterio in the Madrid Assembly could help us to try, once again, to reflect on the issue and address it politically seriously, honestly and consistently. Or it can serve, once again, for the mere partisan fray without more.

And all this, without going into social racism, of which each of us knows a little or a lot.