Wikipedia describes racism as:
"...a product of the complex interaction in a given society of a race-based worldview with prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination."
And in popular usage:
"Racism can be said to describe a condition in society in which a dominant racial group benefits from the oppression of others, whether they want such benefits or not."
It's a complex issue which is fuelled by hate and ignorance
And it's an issue that will never be resolved, at least, as long as there are humans.
One may experience racism in the most civilised of the countries, and one may not face any racial discrimination in a country that is generally considered racist.
Individual experiences of racism vary, are mostly circumstantial and do not represent a particular country's demographics. At best, they are merely anecdotal.
In light of which, this SAYS writer came across a popular thread in Quora, that seeks answers from people regarding the most racist experience they went through in a foreign country. To put their answers in context, the Quora thread asks people to state their home country along with all the foreign countries they have been to.
We decided to share some of those answers here.
The answers we picked have all been upvoted at least 1,000 times or more.
Some of the answers even received over 10,000 upvotes.
In other words, these individual experiences of racism, while anecdotal, received a wide support that to an extent proves that racism is an issue in those particular countries.
Senjuti Kundu from India, who has toured more than a dozen countries, and currently resides in Canada, writes that the most racist country she has visited is South Korea
While pointing out that this was her personal experience as a brown woman, Senjuti gives an example of Seoul, which, she writes, is filled with "Korean-only" bars.
"A case of false advertising that would make the Ku Klux Klan proud. They ought to market themselves as paper-bag-test bars - if your skin is pale enough and you don't appear to have South Asian or African features, you're welcome. Otherwise, it's oh so sorry, Korean-only."
"The pitying backwards glances I received even in a "cosmopolitan" mega-metropolis like Seoul were ubiquitous and extremely hurtful," writes Senjuti, adding, "In fact, systematic racism against foreigners is so widespread and entrenched in Korean culture that even the United Nations has expressed concern on this matter."
Dave Adali, an African-American who has travelled and lived in the UK and in several Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea, has ranked India as the most racist country
"Indians aren't so much 'racist' as they are intolerant," Dave writes.
He points out that Indians discriminate even against their fellow citizens based on the colour of their skin, the region they come from, the language they speak, their religion and caste.
"Indians outside of India endlessly complain about the intolerance and racism they have to put up with in places like Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, the Middle East and even Africa. These very same Indians conveniently choose to ignore the fact that Indians themselves can be such pathological bigots against their fellow Indians, other Asians and especially people of African ancestry," Dave explains in his lengthy answer that received over 10K upvotes.
While acknowledging that "India is a great country to visit briefly because the country itself is endlessly fascinating" Dave warns that in a country where "fellow Indians who happen to be from the 'wrong' part of India, speak the 'wrong' language, belong to the 'wrong' religion or caste etc are discriminated against, as somebody of African ancestry, you face a double whammy in a culture that hates dark skin."
Shavan Bhattacharjee, an Indian with a keen interest in South Asian politics, military and strategic affairs, wrote that his most racist experience was in Singapore
"I stayed in Singapore at a 5-star hotel in Orchard Road," Shavan wrote.
"30 minutes after check-in, someone knocked at my door. I opened it and it was a housekeeping lady of Chinese origin. She didn't even bother to ask me if she could enter my room. She just walked in, picked the room service menu and then I stopped her. I asked her what was she doing. In her typical native Chinese accent, she told me and I quote "White man in next room have no menu card. So, I take from your room and give him. I bring you menu card later". I just snatched it from her and said, "Get out of my room."
Shavan's answer, while sort, received the most number of upvotes in the Quora thread.
Kedaar Raman, an Indian living in Muscat, Oman, wrote that it was in Qatar where he had the most racist experience
Kedaar was flying from JFK to Muscat and had a brief layover in Doha, Qatar.
However, due to his Qatar Airways flight leaving 45 minutes later than planned, by the time he reached Doha, the gate for his flight to Muscat had closed. Left with no choice, Kedaar made his way to the airport, which, he writes, "was in complete chaos and English-speaking staff were nowhere to be found."
Amidst this, he noticed a number of people from his earlier flight. They all (11 of them, 8 Americans, 2 Omanis, and Kedaar himself) decided to form a group as it would be effective in countering the language barrier in a foreign country and proceeded towards a Qatar Airways help desk, where the staff collected their passports to arrange another flight for them. What happened next made Kedaar feel not just humiliated, he vowed never to return to Qatar.
According to Kedaar, the staff told him that they only had 10 boarding passes printed out, and they used their passports to determine who would miss out.
And it was Kedaar who was left based on his race and ethnicity, despite him being the one who was not only at the front of the line but also the one who helped others.
For Geetanjali Sharma from India, it's definitely France
Years ago, on her first trip abroad, Geetanjali went to Paris. There she wanted to buy miniature Eiffel Tower souvenirs to take back home for relatives and friends in India.
"We got into a brightly lit shop and started looking at the flashy souvenirs. The shopkeeper gave us a cold expression but I guess, we were used to seeing people not smile in Paris. When I touched one, I heard a voice loudly and angrily blaring in broken English, 'Don't touch it. You bloody Indians. Come into shops and waste my time when you can't afford anything.'"
The incident made Geetanjali, she writes, cry and she left the shop.
While sharing other incidents that she experienced there, Geetanjali writes that she is not too sure if she will go back to Paris.
Erman Idil, from Turkey, said it was in Austria
In the summer of 2014, Erman was in Wien, headed to Schönbrunn Palace.
"While we were in the metro, a well-groomed Sardar (Sikh) boarded the metro. And within 5 seconds, an old lady stood up and started yelling at him in German," she wrote.
"She just came to very vicinity of the man with no respect for his privacy. The only words I could understand from her discourse were 'mörder (murderer)' and 'raus (get) out'. I was observing the man from my seat. However, that man unperturbedly looked uploaded and stocked-still stance and determinedly did not give any reaction to her in the mood of ignoring her. Meanwhile, she was raising her voice louder as he was not responding. Heavenly, in following minutes, a young couple stepped into this ignominy and managed to silence her. And they must have intimidated her because she muted from that moment and got off in next stop. However, without denouncing to express her hatred one more time while getting off."
Erman was baffled to witness the old lady's hostility towards someone who didn't even say a single word and yet still how she felt entitled to yell at him for no fault of his.
Jocelyne Gilead from West Africa, who has lived in 6 countries, and currently resides in California, writes that the most racist experience she had was in France
"I'm half white and half black and sometimes I look Hispanic or from the Middle East. Every time I go to France I expect at least three racist experiences. It's never been less."
It was in the French resort city of Nice where she had one such experience.
"I was waiting to meet up with my dad. While waiting I noticed a small clothing shop and decided to browse through it. I called my dad to let him know where I was and while on the phone I could sense the shop keeper was following me. I smiled at her but she gave me suspicious looks. I kept talking on the phone and picking out clothes to look at," Jocelyne wrote.
"Once the phone call was over, she immediately proceeded to yell, 'Get out of here! You can't afford this! Get Out!'. At first, I thought it was a joke and said with a smile 'ma'am, I'm just looking'. 'Get out!' She said as she was shooing me out."
While tears ran down her face, her father, who just got there, asked Jocelyne what had happened. After she explained to him, he went inside to speak to the shopkeeper.
"He told her in French, 'That is my daughter you treated so badly.' She seemed a bit confused as my dad looks like a white Frenchman," Jocelyne wrote.
"'You can't treat people like this just because they look different. She's just a young girl interested in what you have to sell. If she wanted she could buy your entire shop!' I'm thinking, 'way to go, dad' and at the same time thinking, 'I definitely can't afford the whole shop. Are you kidding me!'"
Even after all this, the shopkeeper just apologised to her dad, but not to Jocelyne.
Moiz Noor from Pakistan, who currently lives in Germany, and has travelled to India, Iran, and Switzerland among other countries, experienced racism in France
"It happened at the central station in Strasbourg, France. I was waiting inside for the departure of my bus back to Germany. An undercover police officer comes to me, displays his badge, and asks to see my passport. I show it him, he checks the visa and walks away," Moiz wrote, adding that in a little while, *"a group of 3 police officers in uniform come strolling, and one of them catches a glimpse of me as they are walking past. She motions it to the other 2 officers, they turn around and come over to me. So I know that they weren’t notified by the first officer and that it was "random"."
They ask to see his passport and tell him that he doesn't have the necessary visa for France, contrary to the fact that it was a Germany long-term visa Type D which counts as a Schengen Visa. They then ask him to follow them. Moiz writes that the whole drill of walking behind 3 police officers with all his luggage inside a crowded train station was an extremely humiliating experience.
"They take me to their office and search ever single part of my bag. After they find nothing suspicious or anything in my bags, they start making some calls and working something out on the computer, while I sit there for around 20 minutes. Finally, they let me go with around 7 minutes left for the departure of my bus," Moiz wrote in the Quora thread, where his comment received over 4K upvotes.
As Moiz was leaving, the police officers told him to "get the ‘proper visa’ before coming next time". However, Moiz writes, if he wasn't carrying the proper visa, he was certain that they wouldn't even let him leave. This happened in October last year.
Where did you experience racism (if any)? How did you deal with it? Use the comment section below to let us know.