a word about discrimination


Discrimination is an odd little thing.  Things can look so nice on the surface but it’s all rather grimy underneath.  I live in a country with a female president.  It’s also proud to be one of the first nations to legalise gay marriage.  You may be imagining a nation where women are treated as equal to men, and gay couples are free to live their lives as they choose.  It can all too easily be viewed as rather progressive.

Yet, here I am, frequently disgusted when I turn the TV on to see the gender balance in play.  The president addresses her political minions and it’s a sea of man, with one or two women on the sidelines – if you look really carefully.  Discussion programmes frequently see tables of only men talking about the serious issues.  In fact when I expressed my surprise that there were two women on one of these programmes, it turned out the topic was a frivolous one relating to females.  Women can discuss women’s stuff, but human stuff is for men.  To be fair, women are given reasonable airtime on TV, once they’ve sorted their bodies out and lost most of their clothes.  They’re welcome to dance half-naked in the background but they rarely get to join the serious discussions.

It’s not just women that get interesting televisual treatment, gay people are represented too on this prime broadcasting media.  Represented as two-dimensional, comic and critical queens.  And out in society I don’t see much evidence for their existence.  I’m in a town of about 150,000 people and I haven’t seen a single gay couple.  In fact, I don’t know anyone who knows an openly gay person.

But the most insidious, disturbing discrimination here is one that I think will cost the country for years to come.  Rascism is an odd term to use when there are no distinct races to separate.  It seems to come down to the fact that descendants of mainly European immigrants live in the nice areas and people with a more indigenous heritage are more likely to live in slum housing.  There’s a bit of overlap but not much.

Inherent in the language is the use of ‘negra’ or ‘negro’ (black), to describe anyone with dark skin.  This extends to a common nickname for friends, or just a general ‘mate’ type word for anyone with any skin colour.  But it’s also commonly tagged with ‘de la mierda’ (shit) to describe the type of person who lives in the slums who is blamed for the all too frequent criminal or antisocial activities.

I have no idea how a country goes about redressing a vast racial social and economic divide.  It’s a huge job.  But what totally disgusts me on a daily basis, is the people who dwell in the land of privilege refusing to think about the issue beyond their own person inconvenience and fear.  There is so little concern about improving education in the poor areas or about addressing the shocking discriminatory attitude towards people because of their appearance.

I walk about the streets and see mainly dark-skinned people.  I turn on the TV and see only fair-skinned people.  Well, apart from the ‘follow the drunk criminal’ shows and ‘watch teenagers fighting with comedy overdubbed noises’ programmes.  People with darker skin have no voice, they have no hope and they have few educational or working opportunities.  Something needs to change if Argentina doesn’t want to see this situation getting much worse in the next generation, because crime is rising, the divide is escalating and I can’t see any moves to making it better.