While in Barcelona over spring break, I found myself thinking a lot about our discussions in Contemporary Racism. The points about the history of the racial caste system in our country that were highlighted in the New Jim Crow readings were put into context when I visited Spain. Although race relations are troublesome universally, it seems when you step outside of this country that poverty may impact minority populations to a greater extent here in the United States than in other nations. I visited Barcelona for eight days last week with a couple of friends and we spent the majority of our time walking around the city. While exploring, we came across a number of seemingly homeless people begging for money. Throughout the eight days that I was in Spain, I started noticing that the vast majority of homeless people were white. Although there is undoubtedly an astounding number of both white and nonwhite homeless individuals in the United States, I came into contact with much fewer homeless people of color in Spain than I would walking through an American city like Philadelphia. This experience provided me with some context for understanding that American poverty is in many ways about race. While the impoverished people with whom I came into contact in Barcelona represent a very small sample size, it is evident that racism simply operates differently in the United States than it does in other places around the world. Racism perpetuates because people often forget that it doesn’t have to be this way and they therefore feed into the system without trying to fight it. What can be taken from looking at the way that race operates in varying countries? How can we begin to improve the state of our own systemic problem by looking to the operation of others?
2 thoughts on “Race & Poverty: It’s Different in America”
I think it’s important to think about the socio-historical context that leads up to the homeless that see today. While Spain and America certainly have a shared history when it comes to colonizing there are other ideological and systemic differences between the two countries that I would argue manifest itself in the racial disparities you see. I don’t know anything about Spain’s race relations but we know that in America there have been decades and decades of marginalization that ensured the people of color were excluded from economic activities, therefore forcing them into poverty. Homelessness is also often tied to mental illness so I would be interested in investigating those connections.
Part of me is curious to the diversity present in other countries like Spain. For example, I studied last spring in Vienna, Austria and although I didn’t see too many Black people begging for money, I also didn’t see too many people of color in general in Austria. I also don’t necessarily find it a coincidence that Austria is primarily run by old, White men. Perhaps I wasn’t there long enough to learn about the racial and economic disparities in the country, but I also wonder if, like systemic oppression in America, much of their oppression has moved to a more implicit realm. Nonetheless, it is also possible that America is doing some things right and other things wrong. I definitely believe that a more global approach could help with a better understanding of how to approach America’s state of systemic injustices.
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