Saturday, February 26, 2011
The challenges of biracial children in Russia
For biracial or mixed race children in Russia growing up can be a challenge. It often means being singled out at school, discriminated against and sometimes even being attacked by Neo Nazi skinheads.
But the Afro-Russian organisation for mixed race children 'Metis' supports the children and learns them to love themselves for what they are and shows them that they are not alone. And not without reason.
In 2006 two men attacked and stabbed a 9-year-old girl of mixed Russian and African heritage in St Petersburg when she was returning home after a walk. The incident came just days after a St Petersburg jury acquitted a teenager of fatally stabbing a 9-year-old Tajik girl two years ago.
According to the Russian Cloudwatcher-Times (Russian) in 2010 in one incident, biracial children were been beaten with chains by skinheads near their own house. They survived because their light brown uncle rescued them.
Because of these challenges and because most biracial children are often raised by a single white mother, the founder of Metis proposed a drastic solution. Warn Russian white female students for the consequences of having relationships with Africans and giving birth to a biracial child. See the story 'A SMALL TRAGEDY' below.
The founder of Metis is Emilia Tynes-Mensa and she is of mixed Russian and African-American heritage. In an interview she talks about the Metis program. "We give children education, language training ,computer classes ,we organise events, but more importantly we learn them to love themselves for what they are and show them that they are not alone."
And the program works. Seventeen year-old Fatima Udayevna said it took her a long time to join the Metis program because she too was afraid. "Its use to be even more difficult; when you would ride on public transportation and they would see a black person they would start pointing at them,’ she said. "They’d say, ‘Look, a black person!’"
But Udayevna said with help from the program, she’s really found herself and she’s comfortable in her own skin. As for the future, the self-assured Udayevnya said she’s got big dreams, but not here in Russia. “I play two instruments, the violin and the piano. I also work as a model and dance. My life is bright,” she said, “and in the future I hope to move to Europe and be successful there if possible.” Read the interesting story and listen to the audio here.
Emilia Tynes-Mensa has been the main force behind the organisation. Her father, George Tynes, was an African-American. Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Tynes fled to the Soviet Union in 1933 to escape discrimination. He lived there for 51 years, working as a poultry specialist, and married a Russian woman.
About her father Emilia Tynes-Mensa wrote. "He could hardly imagine that half a century later his grandchildren would be leaving Russia for the same reason he had left the United States." Mensa is one of the first Blacks in the former Soviet Union to recieve a dual US/Soviet passport.
Website Metis at www.fundmetis.ru
A SMALL TRAGEDY
By Daria Okuneva
From Izvestiya, 16 September 2005
Recently Ryazan' was shaken by a wild scene. A ten year boy was beaten by his 40-year old neighbor. The kid was guilty only of not having white skin – he was a mixed-race (metis) child by the name of David Nahenu. David was taken to the hospital with bruises and injuries to the soft skin of his head. Luckily this story didn't have a tragic end: David recovered from his injuries, and the offender subsequently agreed to pay the compensation for the harm caused.
Based on data from the Institute of Africa of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN), from the 1960s up to now, more than 70,000 students from the “black continent” have been to Russia. Leaving behind a trace of their existence here, they left over 40,000 metis offspring. Today the number of children from mixed marriages is constantly on the rise, and all of them encounter the advent of xenophobia. Eight of every ten such kids are taken care of by Russian mothers who are in no condition to fight against poverty and a society turned nationalistic.
A normal story
“The story is similar for most of the girls,” says Emilia Tynes-Mensa, President of METIS-The Inter-Racial Children's Charity Fund. They met students from Africa in clubs and institutes. In their twenties, they are neat, clever and very sexy and of course they are also intrigued by the local blondes, and the blondes by them. Love affairs are started which often end in pregnancies. Africans are deeply convinced that kids are a blessing and the more there are, the better. They don't resist and with pleasure marry the Russian girls. And after five years they finish their education and fly back home. The young man who has graduated and knows a foreign language is considered an ideal husband [back in Africa]. Moreover the conservative African family at times looks negatively at “white” brides.
There is one more scenario, but it is truly very rare: the African takes his family along. Most of the girls find this variant acceptable. But in practice they find it nearly impossible to stay in Africa. In the first place many countries are experiencing civil wars, for example in Congo; also, there are the problems of poverty and high unemployment. Secondly, most mothers just can't adapt to the hot and dry climatic conditions and different epidemics, in particular malaria. Thirdly, for the ladies, probably the hardest thing is to accept their husbands' unfaithfulness. Africans are polygamists by nature, if this was subdued by the local order, then in their native land nearly all the healthily men have, if not more than one wife, then definitely more than one lover. And don't forget about the language and cultural barriers.
“What I hate most in the whole world is going to school,” confirms 12 year old metis Alina Silvia. “At home I was tenderly called ‘chocolate,' in class the name ‘starveling' has stuck on me. There was a time during physical education when I fell and soiled my uniform. I definitely cried. The others just laughed and said that I'm supposed to always wear dirty clothes so that the clothes match with my skin color and unclean origin. Another time, when I faltered at the blackboard, my classmates were shouting to the teacher: “Yes, she's stupid. It's a nigger from the palms”. It was very humiliating. At long last I convinced mother to take me from school. I study at home with hired teachers. Up to now I have very few friends, yep kids from the neighborhood, only one girl from my courtyard.”
The worst thing that takes place is that some of the teachers take part in hurting the metis. Many such examples have accumulated in the METIS organization. Angela, a dark skinned girl with a great voice, could not received her well-earned prize at young talents competition. She was told: “How can a nigger win in the festival of Our Home – Russia?”
Mother return me to womb
A truly tragic story was told by Galina Victorova Fedina, who is now taking care of her grandson, a metis. “After my son-in-law, an Ethiopian, left, my daughter tried in all ways to organize her private life. She had an affair with a Russian man and when things were heading towards marraige she decided to introduce him to her son. The man went berserk and shouted, ‘I hate prostitutes who sleep with niggers. Forget about the wedding!' My daughter was depressed, and later she went to another man, practically leaving me with the kid. Now we are not communicating.”
If there are no relatives ready to take in the metis, then he is in dire straights. Not long ago one of the organization's members heard over the radio that the director of a children's home was basically begging listeners to adopt a metis – he was being beaten by his age mates. Sadly METIS was not able to rescue the boy and the SOS signal was never repeated. METIS hopes the boy was adopted at long last, but we also fear that he might no longer be alive.
A message from Africa
Maybe the situation would not be this critical if the mothers were paid alimony. Theoretically it's possible but in practise, it's not realistic.
“The possibility of getting alimony from one of the African governments is maximum 10%”, - explained to NI Roman Dyachkov, head of the judicial firm Fact. In order to sue an African who is in his homeland, it's necessary to locate him first. No court will take the case if you don't prove that the person in case exists. You need to get his letters or bills. The consular departments are supposed to help in such instances but they normally don't deal with such cases. One has to use personal resources. Then the court starts calling the African to court hearings. More than half a year pass for the court to decide whether to listen to the case without the defendant. Even if you'll have the court's decision, it's not a fact that you'll be paid the money. Firstly, there may be no respective international agreement between Russia and the African country. Secondly, the court has to send a letter to the employers of the defendant, about the plaintiff who in most cases they have never heard about. Thirdly, even if the employer gets the letter, he can decide to ignore it. Practically the Russian court has no way of putting pressure on the person who is not paying alimony, if he is in Africa.
This way the decision of whether or not to support his Russian family is in the hands of the African father only. But according to METIS there are practically no cases of voluntarily payment of alimony. At home the Africans usually have families and usually they don't even have enough for them.
The answer to the situation, according to Emilia Tynes-Mensa, is propaganda to female students. “Because when they start a relationship with Africans, most of them are not aware of the situation they are putting themselves into. The young ladies have no idea of African culture and taboos, nor about the effects of even a short affair with a fine African man. The decision to give birth to a metis child should be well thought out. Then the situation of the unusual child will be better.”
“Of course, we hope that the xenophobic mood of our society will come to an end,”
According to specialists at the social-psychological centre of Moscow State University, the problem of discrimination against metis on the local arena is a problem that won't be solved soon. People are sour with the political-economical instability in Russia and they will aim their anger towards the “strangers” until the situation changes. The situation is worst in schools.
“In most cases in classes, the children who are physically and morally unfit,” says NI's judiciary director of the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights, Vladimir Novitski. “A metis will always be the minority, which is usually considered the weak enemy. With the advent of xenophobia some teachers also take out their aggression on the “stranger” kids, changing the stronger objects of hate with weaker ones. In this way the dark skinned kid becomes an outcast. According to us the only way to cure xenophobia within the youth is to have a program on tolerance in kindergartens. The existing projects have not produced the required results up to now. But we will keep on hoping that soon or later Russians will - at long last - have tolerance in relation to people from other nationalities and with different skin color.” (Source Fundmetis.)
See the trailer 'Family Portrait in Black and White' of biracial children in the former Soviet Union republic Ukraine. The children in Russia are in a similar situation. See the post of Ukrainian children here.
Also read the post Video: Black in Russia - harsh life on the streets in Moscow