Mr. Obama, How Dare you Stand Mute on Russian Racism?
If you were to simply peruse the news accounts of race violence in Russia during the last two weeks, they would read like pulp fiction — and the realization that they are nothing like fiction, but the cold, hard reality of daily life in the neo-Soviet dictatorship for hundreds of thousands of dark-skinned people, both visitors and residents, this realization would surely curdle your blood.
The silence of Barack Obama in the face of this outrage, just as certainly, would make your blood run cold.
On Sunday evening December 14th, an 18-year-old named Yerlan Aitymov was stabbed in the stomach by an unidentified assailant at the intersection of Ulitsa Butlerova and Ulitsa Akademika Volgina, near the Kaluzhskaya metro station in Moscow. Aitymov was ethnically Kazakh and a first-year student at the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas.
Two days earlier, the severed head of Salekh Azizov, 20, from the city of Vidnoe, south of Moscow, was found in a Moscow dumpster. Azizov was ethnically Tajik, and racist gangs were proudly bragging of their horrific deed soon after the discovery was made.
A week before that, African-American student Stanley Robinson, 18, of Providence, Rhode Island, was in grave but stable condition at Hospital No. 12 in the southern city of Volgograd after being stabbed by yet another pack of rabid racists. He had to be evacuated to Finland when Russian physicians proved unable to deal with his horrific injuries.
The Moscow Bureau of Human Rights estimates there have been 110 xenophobic murders in Russia so far this year, compared to 74 last year. That’s an increase in race murder of 33% in one year, and amounts to one race murder every three days like clockwork, week in and week out, with the lion’s share of the killings occurring in Moscow — supposedly Russia’s most advanced and prosperous metropolis. Nearly 400 others have been victimized by race-motivated violence without actually being killed.
Almost as disturbing as this river of blood is the horrifying silence of Russian civil society as the atrocity widens and deepens. One could almost draw the conclusion that the population of Russia approves of these events, were it not for the fact that its government has so totally crushed the media establishment that one cannot be sure whether the population is even aware these barbarous acts are being carried out.
How is it possible that there is no prominent dark-skinned social activist demanding justice for these persecuted people? Is it because Russian society has sent the clear message that any such person would be instantly liquidated, that political action has not even the vaguest hope of resulting in anything like justice?
Even so-called “opposition” forces like those of Garry Kasparov do and say nothing about race violence. Is this because they fear undercutting their already flimsy support by daring to reach out to dark-skinned Russians? Is Russian racism that pervasive?
You bet it is.
And where is Barack Obama? How dare this man of color stand mute while his brothers and sisters are brutally cut down over and over again? How can anyone believe Mr. Obama’s professed committment to racial justice when his silence speaks so loudly denouncing that committment?
We call upon President-Elect Obama to step out of the shadows of cowardice and speak out on behalf of the victims of Russia’s racist nightmare. If he does not, history will condemn his presidency before it even begins.