Since the mass migration of Ethiopian Jews, or Beta Israel, to the nation of Israel in the 1980s, racism in Israel has been a pervasive part of life for many of these refugees. Israel was founded upon the old racist practices of European nations against the Jewish peoples. Spain expelled the Jews in the 15th century, Russia issued Pogroms that killed countless Jewish citizens, and Nazi Germany exterminated over six million Jews throughout Europe. The founding of the nation in the 1950s finally gave the Jewish people a homeland where they could escape the persecution that dotted their troubled history.

Ethiopian Jews have not received the same experience as their European Jewish counterparts. The idea is not alien to the Israeli people. The Jerusalem Post released a report where over 95 % of the populace believe at least one population group in Israel is subject to some form of racism. The Ethiopian populace has been the most drastically affected, with over 79% of those surveyed replying “that Ethiopians suffered from racist attitudes.” What exactly is happening to Ethiopian-Israelis?

Jobs discrimination has become a pervasive problem. Unemployment amongst “Ethiopian men in Israel ranges from 27% to 66%.” Jobs are typically not given to Ethiopians, as many employers refuse to give them jobs. This has created a dire situation for the community as whole, with over 72% of the 100,000 Ethiopian residents living “under the poverty line.” The communities where Ethiopians live are also noted for their poor schooling, with illiteracy remaining high amongst the populace.

The Brookdale Institute of the Joint Distribution Committee released damning information about the education system that has failed many Ethiopian youths, detailing that the “school dropout rate among Ethiopian immigrants is double what it is among the general Israeli population.” This lack of educational opportunity has allowed inequalities between Ethiopians and their European Israeli counterparts to continue, and has created an economic gap that may not be easily combated. This is a sad reality, as many of these Ethiopians came to Israel to escape the hardships that plagued Ethiopia in the late 1980s, particularly poverty, famine and a politically unstable society.

Racism in itself has grown out of general unsupported fears about Africans. The Health Ministry in Israel has directives that prevent them from receiving Ethiopian blood donations out of “fear of spreading HIV.” The directive does not just prevent the common Ethiopian populace from donating blood; Knesset, or the Israeli Parliament, Member Pnina Tamano-Shata was barred from donating blood as well. The reason she was given was that she has the “special kind of Jewish-Ethiopian blood.” It was a stark reminder that Israel does not readily accept Ethiopians, and many of their beliefs about Ethiopians are based on racist ideologies about Africans.

– Joseph Abay

Sources: Jerusalem Post, YNET News
Photo: SodaHead

An event hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus has sparked a national effort to confront inequality around the world. As reported by the Baltimore Afro-American weekly newspaper, also known as the Afro, the National Day of Prayer to End Poverty and Income Inequality on February 6 was intended to bring awareness to high rates of poverty among African-Americans.

“The specter of poverty has long haunted communities of color,” reports the Afro. “Nearly 10 million African-Americans, including four in 10 Black children, live in poverty and almost 12 percent of African Americans are unemployed.”

While the event focused on African-Americans, 25.8% of whose income falls below the poverty level (just behind Native Americans,) it also investigated how global trends in wealth disparity negatively affects already disempowered communities around the world. The World Economic Forum’s “Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014,” published in November 2013, listed expanding income disparities as the second greatest trend facing the world today.

“Widening wealth disparity affects every part of our lives,” states the report. “It’s impacting social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale [and] it’s essential that we devise innovative solutions to the causes and consequences of a world becoming ever more unequal.”

Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima underscores the importance of addressing global inequality and emphasized its relationship with reducing poverty.

“We cannot hope to win the fight against poverty without tackling inequality. Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table,” she said.

“Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and of disadvantage will continue down the generations [and] we will soon live in a world where equality of opportunity is just a dream,” she added. “In too many countries, economic growth already amounts to little more than a ‘winner takes all’ windfall for the richest.”

– Emily Bajet

Sources: Census, Afro, World Economic Forum, Daily Mail

Last week a post on a National Front party candidate’s Facebook page compared France’s black justice minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey.  The post included a picture of Taubira next to a picture of a dressed-up baby monkey.  More racist posts followed, and a right-wing newspaper ran the headline “Clever as a Monkey.” All sides of the political spectrum condemned the post and the candidate who posted the photo was suspended, but it sparked a discussion over the way in which France deals with racism.

Taurbira told the Liberation newspaper that the attacks are “violent” and shocking.  Even more disturbing is the lack of response from the government or the public.  There have been no major protests or demonstrations in response to these incidents, but intellectuals are speaking out to prevent further inappropriate remarks.

Historian Pap N’Diaye told CNN racism is on the rise in France.  He says while slurs used to be uncommon they are becoming accepted in many circles.  Jeremie Mani, CEO of Netino, a company that monitors Internet forums and social media posts, says racist remarks are a common occurrence.

The National Commission for the Rights of Man was ordered by the French parliament to monitor racism in France. It puublished a report citing a 23% increase in racist incidents, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism this past year.

Some social scientists are examining the link between racism and the strict immigration laws proposed by the far-right.  Though the National Front party denies any connection between racism and anti-immigration, the party was barred from political debate in the past for being too extreme.  The National Front party insists their immigration policies are strictly economic, not racist.

France’s motto of equality is supposed to create an open and accepting environment, but in recent years it seems to have only made discourse on racism and cultural differences more difficult.  Justine Marous, a French-American of African heritage told The New Yorker, the French “have a hard time with difference, people who maintain customs, dress, or religion that makes them appear different.  And, in the case of black people, we are conspicuously different no matter how French we feel.”

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: CNN, NBC News, New Yorker

With the abolishment of apartheid came new possibilities: for black and white South Africans to coexist bearing the same rights and allowed the same opportunities. However, 19 years later, racism in South Africa still segregates socially and economically, hindering the opportunities for many to escape the burdening shadow of the apartheid.

During the apartheid, whites were given a systematic advantage; they were the only ones allowed to vote; allowed a higher standard of living with the segregation of schools, hospitals, housing and leisure facilities; they also benefited from having the most skilled jobs reserved for them.

This dramatic disconnect between blacks and whites created a social divide that still exists today, 19 years later. This social divide contributes to inequalities, unemployment and pockets of deep poverty suffered by many black South Africans, the majority of which reside in rural areas. Because of the strong correlations between race and rural location, and rural location and high levels of poverty, this leaves black South Africans in rural areas at a disadvantage to obtain the same education and job opportunities.

Although the income differences have narrowed in recent years, a large income disparity still exists between the two groups, with black South Africans making $65,000 less, on average, than white South Africans.

Isolation may also be a contributing factor to the racial attitudes expressed by South Africans. Socially, South Africans still harbor racial differences. An annual survey by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) revealed that 43.5% of South Africans rarely or never speak to someone of another race.

Class and racial disparities that are present today impede development efforts for the nation as a whole. South Africa isn’t able to truly escape the effects of the apartheid with the racism that lingers in the country.

– Maris Brummel

Sources: BBC, UNRISD, The Guardian
Photo: WordPress

Romania, the small country in southeastern Europe, has struggled with poverty throughout its history.  The traditionally agricultural country has floundered since ceasing to be a communist state in 1989.  Poverty is most pronounced in rural areas, which are home to 44% of Romania’s population.

Low agricultural production is a large problem for the rural poor.  Additionally, there are few opportunities for formal employment or higher education outside of urban areas of Romania. Remote mountainous areas receive little support from the government, and suffer from a lack of social services, infrastructure, sanitation and opportunity.

Poor Romanians often leave in search of better opportunities overseas, sometimes at rates of hundreds of thousands per year.  The earnings sent home by these emigrants have made up as much as 6% of Romania’s GDP.  While poverty is a clear and large scale problem in Romania, the government has no formal policy to help raise the employment rate or improve conditions in rural areas.  In fact, there is a marked absence of government initiatives to reduce poverty.

One ethnic group in particular is plagued by poverty, illiteracy, squalid living conditions as well as government discrimination and social persecution.  The Romani people, known negatively around Europe as ‘gypsies’, were held as slaves around Europe until the mid-eighteen hundreds.  They were exterminated by the Nazis on a large scale, and continue to be mistreated around Europe.  Romania is home to as many as two million Roma people, and they are five times as likely as other groups to live in poverty.

Frequently, Roma, like other Romanians, leave to find work and better fortunes in more affluent parts of Europe.  Many Europeans discriminate against the Romani, however, and an influx of Roma people in France has contributed to the recreation of racist, fascist groups from the 1940s.

Romani people often live in segregated neighborhoods, or in their own villages entirely.  One such village, in a rural region of Romania, is generally ignored by the authorities and does not even appear on maps despite its population of over 500 people.  The citizens of Ponorata live without electricity, in handmade wooden homes and frequently in conditions that have been described as ‘medieval’.  Illiteracy and unemployment are rampant.

The plight of Ponorata is a symptom of a wider problem in rural Romania, which is the lack of initiative taken by the government to solve the poverty of these areas. While some non-governmental organizations run schools and health centers, there is a desperate need for a more widespread and coordinated strategy to improve the quality of life of Romanians, especially the Roma.

Abigail Hanson

Sources: Daily Mail, Rural Poverty Portal, Euractiv