Keeping a Perspective on Racism


Several days ago, several videos of Georgians assaulting a group of black youths were spread on social media and Georgia’s principle television networks. The Georgian perpetrators allege that the black young men had been aggressive to a group of Georgian children playing football on a public pitch, and their assault on the foreigners was in defense of their children. The victims claim all they wanted to do was play football, but the Georgians wanted the pitch for themselves and so kicked them off it…quite literally. One of the Georgian men (who looked about sixty) launched a flailing kick at one of the black lads that knocked him down.

It is encouraging to see that there has been a torrent of comments from Georgians condemning racism and publicly apologizing for the behavior of their countrymen. Less heartening has been the sight of other Georgians supporting the attack – mostly men, but also women. Exactly whose fault this was remains to be properly established; the victims of the attack claim that although they called the police, the officers were unwilling to help, and implored them to just forget about the incident. I’m inclined to believe them. Female acquaintances of mine who have called the police with complaints of domestic violence have reported a similar reluctance to do their job. This, I suppose, is a consequence of the police being made up mostly of working-class Georgian men, who, as a group, generally have particular ideas about race, sexuality, gender and being asked to tackle crimes committed by other working-class Georgian men.

I also think it unlikely that a group of black young men would be aggressive towards Georgian children: I’m sure they are very aware of what the harvest would be, ie. something like the incident which happened anyway. Dare I say it’s far more likely a group of Georgian children saw the black lads playing football, decided they wanted the pitch for themselves, and told their fathers and all their mates that they had been insulted (if they even needed to); that’s well within the realms of possibility, for the Georgian child is the most entitled, arrogant creature on this planet. Their conceit makes the Chinese look modest.

Whether the Georgian men were carrying knives or guns is another aspect left unresolved; there has been mention of threats made with firearms, and it has been alleged some of those involved in the altercation were carrying knives. However, it can clearly be seen that one man in the video is wielding a metal bar, and that others landed punches and kicks – whether they were carrying firearms and blades or not, these men must be arrested for assault.

This ugly incident, however, does prove a point that I have been making for some time – that as Tbilisi modernizes, the attitudes of certain sections of the populations of both the city and the country as a whole will become clearer. Soon, it will no longer be accurate to speak of ‘Georgians’ in the way in which foreigners have become accustomed to in years past; this sort of racist assault would be far less likely to happen in the Vake, Saburtalo, Vera and Sololaki parts of Tbilisi. Two friends of mine were threatened with knives here two years ago, but it was on the other side of the river close to Marjanishvili, the side which has not seen anywhere near as much development as other sections of the city.

This isn’t anything unusual for any capital city, and I think it is important for all sides involved to keep some perspective. There are racist people everywhere, after all, barely a year goes by without the American police shooting unarmed black people. Furthermore, despite modern-thinking and LGBT Georgians thinking the West is a liberal paradise, a gay friend of mine was verbally abused in a street in England while walking with his partner. To be fair, Georgia struggles more with ethnic and sexual minorities than other places due to their relatively new status in this country, but even the ‘tolerant’ countries of the West suffer from prejudice.

Would a gay person be at risk of harassment on New York’s 5th Avenue or London’s Piccadilly Circus? Unlikely. But rural Kentucky or the backstreets of Manchester would perhaps be a different story.

Nationwide, Georgia has a long way to go before minorities are treated as equals, but so does everywhere else: perhaps the very idea of total equality is nothing but a liberal dream that will never come to pass. But the denunciation of the attack by many young Georgians gives me hope for the future, and the intolerance faced by minorities in Europe and America should be remembered, so as not to compare this country with a Western ideal that does not, in fact, exist.

By Tim Ogden

12 April 2018 20:27