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2004-07-15

Racist prejudice and patriotism 

My patriotism is probably not typical. Yet it exists. On an underground train yesterday I saw for the first time an Austrian soldier in uniform who was black. I am unfortunately not free of racist prejudice. There were few black people living in Austria when I grew up (probably explained by the fact that it's a landlocked country that didn't have colonies, plus it's not famous for its hospitality to non-tourist foreigners), and only when I started travelling as a teenager, people with black skin ceased to look exotic to me. Still, as I became aware yesterday, somehow I must have always regarded blacks in Austria as foreign immigrants. Yet there was this man wearing the military symbols of the Austrian state, having been drafted as an Austrian citizen like all other males at age 18 who don't opt out to do civilian service. This guy was more in line with the traditional view of a good Austrian citizen than I (who chose the civilian option). This idea made me exuberantly happy and patriotic. Two fair-skinned underclass Austrian teenagers, effortfully dressed in mock-mafia style entered the train (prejudice: must have been political chauvinists). Their eyes almost popped out seeing the soldier, probably just like mine had done a few minutes earlier. They stared at him trying to match their conflicting biases, until finally they too were silently transformed for the better. [In the background the title of a short-story by Margit Schreiner [DE] fed to high-schoolers: Mein erster Neger - UPDATE: As moncay made me realise from a comment to this post, the story I meant is not by Margit Schreiner but by Alois Brandstetter.]


3 comments:

your article reminded me of my school times too, when I (secretly, of course, because we were not allowed to read "leftist" literature)read alois brandstetters short story der erste neger meines lebens [DE]
 

I may also add, that it is allready more than 30 years ago since I left school; nevertheless I do think that not VERY much has changed with respect to viennese xenophobia. at least we are allowed to read in school about it ....
 

moncay, nothing against Margit Schreiner, but you've made me realise that I also had the Brandstetter story in mind, only I could not remember the author, then hasty googling etc. But you're right, the situation has changed insofar as the Brandstetter story was included in our high-school book of reading materials.
 
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