The Mole. He needs little introduction. He's mute, but everyone understands him and everyone loves him. So much so that he has become popular far beyond the borders of our country. We're talking about the cute animated character who made our little Czechia famous as far as Asia. Inconspicuous, quiet, black-coloured. Natural. Some see him as being sad. Nevertheless, he's always himself. Did you ever wonder why the director Zdeněk Miler didn't draw the Mole more colourful? Just because black is his natural colour? Or to distinguish him from Disney's bright, almost gaudy cute characters with their deformed faces? Everyone has their natural colour and we are all different.
The Mole is black. And he conquered the world. In his little trousers, in a rocket, in a car. And he even made it to China, but that's another story. Or into space, as he's the favourite character of American astronaut Andrew Feustel, who never goes to space without him.
Huey, Louie and Dewey from Duck Tales look like real ducks, they are white with the only difference from real ducks being their caps that normal ducks don't wear. And then there's, of course, Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse. Bob and Bobek look just like white rabbits as well, except that they live in Pokuston the magician's top hat, where normal rabbits probably wouldn't live. And that's where we're getting to it. Where to live, when your natural colour is a little different, or only typical for a certain country or region?
So why is the Mole black? Why did Miler, who tried drawing countless cute characters, win the hearts of people far beyond the borders of our country? Could it be because he went with naturalness? Black, as we all know, is the true mole colour. The fox is orange. The tiger is streaked. The frog is green. The kingfisher is bright blue. And the mole is simply black and no one questions it in the slightest. We're all different. We were born into the family we were born into. And we have the skin colour we were born with. We couldn't have chosen it.
How a Ghanaian obstetrician has divided a nation
In the context of the upcoming elections and world events, we have decided to bring you a series of articles, interviews, reports and personal confessions in the coming weeks in our On My Own column, where we will be addressing the topic of xenophobia. It was not only modern historical events that inspired us, but also our recently released and highly successful Quick Confession with an obstetrician from Ghana, which generated so much response on social media that we couldn't help but wonder. And do you know why? Because we know from our own experience that "black people don't get any clicks in our country". Articles about ethnic groups never make it among the most read, so we ask, why? Why did an interview with an ethnically different obstetrician cause such a stir and success, and such a stormy and controversial discussion?
The commenters split into two groups immediately, with one of them evaluating the personal and professional qualities of the doctor while not caring about the colour of his skin at all, and the other one up in arms. Comments saying the baby delivered will immediately be frightened by him, or asking why is he in our country instead of treating people in his home country, which is Ghana, appeared. The biggest paradox was when our editor Karolína asked the doctor whether he felt xenophobic elements in the Czechs and whether he himself encountered them, he answered unequivocally and without hesitation that no, he had never encountered it and had no problem with it here. So how is it then? And what are we afraid of or displeased with?
Fear of the other, the unknown
That is why in the coming weeks we will bring you a little excursion not only into the current mindset of people in our society, but also into history. We are going to focus on the concept of xenophobia, not directly on racism.
Miroslav Mareš, a political scientist and expert on extremism, told the Dnes newspaper that "popular racism" is emerging in the Czech Republic, but it is more pronounced against the Romani community than against the black community.
"Black people in the Czech Republic face prejudices, as seen with booing or other racist gestures against dark-skinned football players at the stadiums. A certain 'popular racism' appears in internet discussions as well. But of course, it cannot be generalised, many Czechs are not prejudiced,"
Miroslav Mareš says that Ukrainians and Vietnamese, for example, are much more accepted in the Czech Republic than Romani people, even though hate crimes are sometimes directed against a significant number of them.
What's more typical of our population is xenophobia. It is defined as distrust, fear, in the worst cases hatred of everything unknown, and in a figurative sense fear and distrust of foreigners. Economic factors or cultural differences are identified as the primary causes of racism and xenophobia. On the basis of economic factors, people on the lower rungs of the social ladder, or people fearing for their position, for example in times of economic crisis, are most affected by xenophobia. Cultural aspects, in turn, point to the difference between ethnic minorities and the majority society. Finally, a third theory sees the cause of racism and xenophobia in the problems of modern and postmodern times, which take away people's identity. This is where we come to a vicious circle. The cause of xenophobia can also be immigrants or the desire to maintain hierarchy in society. In short, anything 'other' can be the cause.
The symbol of Czech democracy is the First Republic, meaning the time period, which is often referred to as our golden age. However, we are often unaware of the shortcomings of the democratic system at that time.
Czech Television is currently broadcasting a rerun of the series The First Republic. It is only a few weeks since one of the cult episodes was devoted to gypsies. And even here, it was already visible how the mere employment of gypsies on a farm in exchange for food stirred up waves of discontent in one family. Already during the First Republic, when our country was on the brink of historical change and people were looking forward to "freedom", democracy and liberty, there were prejudices. Back then, it was only that "gypsies steal and are witches", and no one understood their nomadic way of life. Today, the convention is different. We tend to generalize. To lump people together. We generalize from one bad experience. And that's what we're left with from the past.
Yet history says otherwise.
Could it be the "small nation syndrome"?
We don't even have to go far to see a difference. Why are we Czechs so scared, and of what? Is it the syndrome of a small, very talented but often historically oppressed nation? Is it the fear of actually ending up as a mere transit point for Europe? Or am I too far gone and is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?
If we look to our neighbours, I mean neighbouring countries, we would find an example of just the opposite. For example, England, the Netherlands or France - "multi-culture" is perfectly normal in all of them. Of course, these are colonizers, but that is no excuse. In cosmopolitan countries, or better still, cosmopolitan and multicultural cities, ethnic minorities live side by side without any problems. People have got used to it and find it perfectly normal.
Here, we have not got used to it yet, and getting used to it feels difficult for us. In our country, these "other cultures" are not only people of other ethnicities, but also minorities such as Slovaks, Poles, Russians, as well as Vietnamese, Ukrainians and many others. Interestingly, it is the people closest to us who often encounter less tolerance than, for example, the English or the Americans. Yet we could also take inspiration from our history - everything unknown used to be attractive, new, undiscovered.
Models popular by ethnicity?
And instead of getting more modern in our opinions in these modern times, somehow we are stagnating, or even regressing, retarding. In the coming weeks, LP-Life will look at whether we have foreigners in our public services, how do they live, what problems they face. Do we have foreigners working as doctors? Firefighters? Police officers? We’ll look at ethnic differences and explore fashion with its differences in colour, not just skin colour, but clothing, colour typology. We're going to look into the issue of relationships between members of other nationalities. We will go over why people don't click on black people in the thumbnail, or why models of other ethnicities are completely overlooked in our country compared to European or American women. Moreover, people's internet behaviour towards other ethnicities is a completely new - and very serious and dangerous - phenomenon. Under the cloak of anonymity, we are far more "open". I mean, our mouths are...
All in all, our excursion will deal with what should be natural for us - tolerance, understanding and politeness.
In conclusion, let’s all be natural. Let’s respect what we and the others were born with. And be polite. And read LP-life!
References: geografie.cz, thecut.com, migraceonline.cz, irozhlas.cz, iDnes, MAYER, N. (1996): Une approche psycho-politique du racisme. Revue francaise de sociologie, c. 37, s. 419-438.