“Concrete nouns are tangible and you can experience them with your five senses. Abstract nouns refer to intangible things, like feelings, ideals, concepts and qualities.”
Racism is technically impossible to see, hear, taste, smell, or touch. Because of its abstract nature it is difficult to identify, to discuss, to understand, and to stop. So how do we know what it is? Do we rely on concrete manifestations or examples of what we think racism is in order understand it? Can we ever truly understand what racism is without first understanding ourselves?
Is racism the death of an unarmed black man by a white police officer?
Is racism an abandoned football game between Albania and Serbia due to escalated violence?
Is racism the graffiti below?
I’ve walked past this graffiti near my flat several times, but I didn’t really see it until I began to understand where it came from.
Before living in Albania I knew very little about the Balkans, the countries, the people, and the complicated relationships between each nation. For those of you that also might be a little uncertain, feast your eyes. The Balkans refer to the Balkan Peninsula and usually include Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.I recently read Balkan Ghosts, a political travelogue through the Balkans by Robert D. Kaplan in order to extinguish some of my ignorance and to better understand the Balkans. I have much more to learn about the history of this region, but it is becoming clearer that in the Balkans, just like in America, the past isn’t quite the past.
Balkan Ghosts has given me some insight into the graffiti near my flat, why it is there in the first place, and the importance that history plays in current events as they develop around the world. Though before we go too far back in time, allow me to explain what happened more recently between Serbia and Albania that has brought the past once again into the present.
On October 14th, 2014 Albania’s football team played Serbia’s team in Belgrade. Because of previous tensions between the two nations, Albanian fans were prohibited from attending the match. During the match this flag was flown above the field.
On the flag is the word “Autochothonous” which means “Indigenous”. The red portion depicts what is considered by Albanians to be a “Greater Albania” including parts of Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro, and Kosovo. The man on the left is Ismail Qemail, responsible for declaring Albania’s Independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912 and on the right, Isa Boletini, who fought for Albania in Kosovo during the 1910 revolt against the Ottoman Empire.
Upon seeing the flag, Stefan Mitrovic of Serbia grabbed/swatted the flag down (Depending on your perspective) whereupon Andi Lila and Taulant Xhaka of Albania attempted to grab the flag from Mitrovic. This initiated fighting on the field. Watch for yourself, because it is better than me explaining, the Albanian team is in white.
In the aftermath of the abandoned match there has been much controversy. “UEFA awarded Serbia a 3-0 victory, but docked them three points and ordered them to play their next two home games behind closed doors. In addition both teams were fined 100,000 Euros. Both authorities have appealed against UEFA’s decision.”
The match has not only been heavily discussed but has inspired questions and conversations about current race relations between countries. Captured on video is the crowd chanting “Kill, slaughter, so Albanians don’t exist.”
Is this racism?
In the aftermath of the match there were instances of violence on both sides. “In Austria after the match, about 50 Albanians threw bottles at a Serbian coffeehouse in Vienna. Several cars, including police cars, were damaged.”“In Serbia, after the match, several bakeries and snack bars owned by ethnic Albanians were set on fire in Sombor and Stara Pazova, and a bomb was used in one case.” Are these instances of racism?
Where did all of this come from? When did the relationship between these two countries become so cold? Why is there still conflict today? For the sake of brevity, I will summarize the issue, but I encourage you to do your own reading on the matter to more fully understand the conflict.
In Tito’s former Yugoslavia, a chunk of Serbia’s land (Kosovo) was given to ethnic Albanians in order to balance out power between ethnic Serbians, Croatians, and Albanians. Or more eloquently put by Mr. Kaplan, “Yugoslav nationalism, as Tito defined it, meant undercutting the power of the numerically dominant Serbs in order to placate other groups, particularly the Croats and the Albanians. By giving the Albanians their own autonomous province, Kosovo, and by placing this province within the Yugoslav Republic of Serbia, Tito thought he had reconciled the aspirations of both the Albanians and the Serbs. The Serbs thought differently.”
After Tito’s death, Slobodan Milosevic rose to power in Serbia and Yugoslavia with a campaign aimed at giving power back to Serbians and stripping Kosovo of its autonomous state. Ethnic violence between Serbs and Albanians escalated as the Kosovo War began in 1998. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo fought against Serbians with the help of Albania and NATO. The fighting stopped in 1999, and Kosovo decalred its independence in 2008. Serbia still does not recognize Kosovo’s independence, and this is where the conflict rests today. As a large amount of ethnic Albanians live in Kosovo, Albania considers Kosovo a brother and is generally displeased with Serbia and their previous treatment of Kosovo. This is obviously not giving you all of the important details, if you are interested click on this link for more detailed information Kosovo Timeline
So why did I simultaneously bring up race relations in America with race relations in Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania? What do they have in common?
History, regardless of the nation is relevant and powerful. In order to end racism and to understand how it manifests within our society we must begin to understand historically and more importantly, personally, where racism comes from. If you are questioning whether or not something is racism, dig deeper, go further into the issue. This means that we all must be willing to look inside ourselves to find the problem and also the solution. In this way we will be able to heal ourselves and the world in both an abstract and concrete way.
“How do you fix Ferguson is the question?”
“We have a chance to make a real difference, or we could die doing the same thing we’ve been doing over and over expecting different results. So the question then is what have we not done? Everyone’s worried about changing this, changing that, what’s on the outside, right? But we’ve forgotten about that which is looking outside, which is ourselves. Who are you? Is the question. Who are you in the deepest sense? I’m not talking about your fucking race, your ethnicity, your heritage, your fucking ancestry, I’m not even talking about your experiences or your memories, who are you in the deepest sense? Because, figure that out, because there will never be external peace if there is not first internal peace, and once you figure that out, I promise you the entire world will transform, will change, and as more and more people find themselves, mankind has the opportunity to transform into kindman.”