The Program is interested in continually working to improve conditions for and increasing representation of Students of Color. As part of that effort, the program focuses awareness on racism in Spain and works to increase awareness and anti-racist support across the board, both inside and outside of the program. We offer a peer lead Student of Color Intercultural Focus Group (IFG) to provide a safe space for discussion and support among students who may share similar experiences and challenges while in Spain. The program trains staff, faculty, Spanish peer mentors and host families in the principles of anti-racism, and in how to offer effective support to a student who has experienced a racist aggression. The program teams with other anti-racist collectives and agencies in Madrid in promoting awareness and justice around the issue of race and racism (and its intersections) in Spain and Europe.
Although racist hate crimes are very rare here, Students of Color on the program can reasonably expect to be affected by racism at some time during their stay here. Spain has its own particular brand of racist attitudes and practices, which can be shockingly flagrant for Students of Color who have previously been exposed to racism only in the U.S. For example, uses of black-face in advertising, racist sayings (“es trabajo de chinos”) or racist attitudes on public transportation (several years ago an elderly man prevented one of our SOC from sitting next to him on the bus). While the latter is not an everyday occurrence, it happened here to a young Black woman in our program.
Because the concept of American multiculturalism is still foreign in Spain, students who do not look stereotypically American to a Spanish person (i.e., White, blonde, blue eyed), may be asked blunt questions about their race or ethnicity or national origin and they may feel singled out. Additionally, the Spanish university continues to have a low representation of Students of Color, and minority students studying on our program may find themselves to be the only Person of Color in their class at the Spanish university.
While most Spaniards are horrified when they hear overt racism expressed or demonstrated in public, their usual response is to insist that Spain is “not a racist country,” something that can intensify, rather than de-escalate the suffering caused by racism. Many Spaniards, including those at the university, know little to nothing about structural or institutional racism, and have little if any critical consciousness about Spain’s colonial past in Latin American and Africa, and its implication in the racism that continues here to this day. In fact, many Spaniards continue to see the conquest and colonization of the Americas as a source of Spanish pride, and to deny the reality that it is the Spanish colonization of Guinea, and not immigration, that has given rise to the Afro-Spanish population in Spain. There is much work to be done here.
This environment can be disconcerting to American Students of Color and to all antiracist students who are used to a relatively high degree of consciousness and analysis around issues of colonization, race, racism and social justice, especially on college campuses. The program is aware of these complexities, challenges and restrictions, and works actively to promote antiracist awareness and to offer antiracist support. And although neither consciousness nor discourses about skin privilege, race, racism and antiracism are widespread in Spain, racialized communities in Spain are actively organized and increasingly vocal and visible.
In general, the Program recommends that all students, of Color and White, resist racist attitudes and practices openly, whether they are exposed to them in Spain, in the United States or in any other part of the world.
In the event of a racist incident, the Program Director insists that you report it to her immediately, no matter how slight, so that she and the staff can validate your experience, offer you the support and guidance that you need, and so that the incident may be documented and shared with the appropriate authorities. We’re here to listen to you, to share your experience and to assist you in facing any race-related challenges that may arise.
- Abya Yala. Asociación de estudiantes latinoamericanxs.
- Espacio Conciencia Afro.
- Espacio Muchas. de Fundación Entredós. Mujeres racializadas.
- Intersect Madrid.
- Kwanzaa. Asociación afrodescendiente universitaria.
- Madrid Resistance.
- Mezzkla. Intercultural art.
- The Black View. Actors, actresses and artists of color in Spain.
- Women’s March Madrid Chapter.