Racism against black people in Russia has been making news lately because of the 2018 World Cup.
The Guardian reports about worries concerning the reception non-white players and supporters could receive in Russia.
A recent report by the Fare network and the Moscow-based Sova Centre for information and analysis has documented 99 racist and far-right displays and 21 racially motivated attacks by Russian football fans during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
“The likelihood of a racist incident [during World Cup 2018] is very high. It’s not just that it might happen but that it happens very often,” said the Sova Centre director, Alexander Verkhovsky, at a panel of Russian and foreign football observers last month to discuss discrimination in Russian football.Ghanaian news site Starr FM says African concerns are so high they could spark a boycott:
Racism in the Russian stands has already drawn the ire of international and Russian authorities in recent months.
Unlikely occurrence, you think?Piara Powar, the executive director of the Football Against Racism in Europe and a member of FIFA's anti-discrimination taskforce, has also said a boycott is a possibility, "and without them there will not be a World Cup in Russia."
Well, think again. It really wouldn't be the first time the Dark Continent would have turned its back on the sport's greatest event. Sixteen African nations boycotted the 1966 edition in protest of a 1964 FIFA ruling that required the three second-round winners from the African zone to enter a play-off round against the winners of the Asian zone in order to win a place at the finals, with the Africans asserting that winning their zone was enough in itself to merit qualification for the finals.
Starr FM points out that there are other black players who could boycott outside Africa, in the Americas and in Europe.
Prior to the European football Championships in Ukraine and Poland in 2012 there were very similar concerns about racism. The BBC aired a documentary just before the event which led to calls for fans to stay away.
However the Championships went ahead without any significant incidents. Russia is presumably hoping that it can pull off the same trick, they are talking the talk and have been for a while now. But an incident this week has underlined just how much the international limelight may not shine kindly unless they get serious about racism.
The energy drink Redbull sponsors a 'Flugtag' around the world, including in Russia. It involves groups in costume jumping from height with a contraption over water trying to fly. It's a lot of fun.
But in Russia one of those groups (pictured above) involved a group in blackface with one in an Obama mask chasing a banana. Classic, 'blacks are monkeys' hideous racism that happens all around the world.
Here's a street sign in Lysva, in the Urals from July 2014.(via Mannfred Nyttingnes).
Here's the picture that Irina Rodnina, an MP from Vladimir Putin's United Russia party and a triple Olympic champion figure-skater, posted on Twitter. (She later apologised.)
Last August Moscow police allowed students to project a laser light show depicting Obama fellating an unpeeled banana onto the US Embassy. This sort of imagery is 'normal' and officially allowed, despite Russia have plenty of laws covering racism and 'extremism', so why should the geniuses at Redbull in Russia think twice when they dreamt up a 'Obama Banana' group?
But Redbull is an international brand so what happens in Russia does not stay in Russia. Tell @redbull what you think!
Edited to add: The video has been removed from the Redbull website but a GIF was captured by Nikolay Nikolov.
Edited to add: The Guardian says:
Vadim Shevchenko, a spokesman for Red Bull, denied that the footage was meant to be racist and said the banana chase had not been planned.Reporter Alec Luhn also notes something I'd forgotten:
Photoshopped memes showing Obama with bananas and calling the US president a monkey have appeared frequently on the Russian internet, including on a site of images often used by paid pro-Kremlin trolls.
Edited to add: Red Bull has now given this statement given to TIME:
The organizers of the Red Bull Flugtag in Russia regret our oversight in allowing these participants to tarnish what was otherwise an enjoyable event. It is never our intention to give a platform which would promote an offensive message. For the future, we will take more effective measures to prevent this sort of thing happening again.Edited to add: This is what happened to one guy who tried to publicise Redbull's actions in Russia. The company issued a copyright claim to Youtube and as a result he got banned until 2016!
HT: Robert Ustian, Alec Luhn