Letter to the Editor: People must take action against street racism

Dear Editor,

I am wondering if your title on the front page ["Racial beatings provoke outrage," Vol. 5 No. 31, August 23 to 29] was selected purposefully, as few people really seem to be outraged by attacks from skinheads. I would like to report a case I witnessed recently to illustrate my opinion.

Last June a Chinese-Canadian stayed with us for one night. He came back around 8 p.m. with a black eye and swollen cheeks and lips. He explained that while he had been sitting quietly on a bench on Hlavné Námestie in Bratislava, a group of skinheads had approached him, beat him up and then run off. He got first aid from a nearby pub, and returned to our house as quickly as possible. We proposed to file a complaint with the police, but he said he didn't want to do this - something similar to what you reported in your article, that a majority of these cases are not reported to the police.

What worried me most about this incident was that many people were around at the scene of the crime, but no one tried to do anything to stop the beating. The beating of a Chinese diplomat in a Bratislava bus, reported in The Slovak Spectator recently, also occured in the presence of many people, but nobody tried to stop that attack either.

Slovak law might not be fully adapted to handle racial crimes, and may not always be enforced properly. But I think that blaming the police and the justice system is an easy way for society to avoid a problem that concerns all citizens. Unless each individual citizen treats the problem seriously and does something to fight it, it will soon be unsafe to walk along streets anywhere due to racially motivated attacks.

I have spent at least three years travelling through Asian countries over the last 12 years, and I never encountered any sign of racism there, whether I was in a rich or poor country. Whenever I faced difficulties, such as losing my way on the streets, local people tried to help. Have Europeans forgotten how to help each other?

Jean Francois Baholet,
Bratislava

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