My beefs with the Spanish police, and on racism in España


For the most part, I’ve found myself pretty happy with the police forces around Madrid. In general, they don’t seem too bothersome, and they let you just go about your day. But I have had a few incidents with the policía that seem to merit mentioning, just because they seem a bit absurd.

A few weeks ago, my parents came to Madrid to visit me. I was super excited for them to visit, because I would finally be able to show them just why I love Europe so much. My parents arrived on a Thursday morning in Madrid, and we had booked a train to Barcelona Friday morning; so we decided that I should just stay in their hotel with them Thursday night so that we could stay together and not have any problems in the morning. We did it all by-the-book, paying for 3 people in the hotel and checking in with my Spanish ID card and all.

So Friday morning, we’re all sleeping comfortably in our hotel room. All of a sudden at 8:30 a.m., there’s this loud, incessant knocking at our door. I open the door to find two Spanish police officers there; I think it’s some problem with the booking. Everything from here on out happens in Spanish.

They say to me, “Are you Amit Kumar?”. I say, yes, I am. They ask me, ¿Tú tienes un aviso para detenerte? // Do you have a warrant out for your arrest?”. I say, of course, no. He says, “This here says you have a warrant out for your arrest.” He shows me literally a piece of normal computer paper with nothing but my first and last names scribbled, handwritten, on it.

They tell me I need to give them my passport, so I give them my passport and my Spanish NIE ID card. They say, “Is there anybody else with the name Amit Kumar in this room?”. I say no, it’s just my parents and me, my parents just arrived yesterday. I had to then give the officers both of my parents’ passports. Mind you, this is my parents’ very first time on this continent, all of this is happening in Spanish, and they’re kinda freaking out (rightfully so).

For the next few minutes, one of the officers talks with another officer at the police station over his walkie-talkie relaying over all my information — my name, NIE number, passport number, birthdate, what I look like. Eventually, they say:

Policía: “OK, you need to come with us.”

Yo: “Really, officers, I haven’t done anything; can you at least tell me what the alleged crime is?”

Policía: “No, simply you have a warrant out for your arrest.”

Yo: “Look I’ll come with you, but I’ve got a train booked with my parents for Barcelona in like 4 hours, I can’t miss it.”

Policía: “Eh, come on.”

Yo: “Well, can my father at least come with me?”

Policía: “No, you can call him.”

Yo: “Man, they just arrived in the country yesterday, they don’t have any phone here.”

Policía: “Alright, come on, that’s enough. You can call through the hotel, now we’ve got to go.”


So they walk me out, put me in the back of their cop car, lock up the car and everything (no handcuffs though), whole time asking me if I’ve ever been arrested in any other country or anything. Like, no, dude, I’m clean! Anyway, we get to the police station (pretty dilapidated building, honestly), and as soon as we get there, they pull up the file of the guy they’re looking for.

And immediately, they know the guy’s not me.

The person-they’re-actually-looking-for has my same first name and surname (both of which are very common names in India, as I’d told the officers at the hotel, and there’s tons of Indians in Madrid) and my same month and date of birth — but this dude’s birth year was 1967! Like, just straight up not mine. The officer who had brought me in immediately starts cursing out the other officer from the station, yelling in Spanish, “Come on *******, I told you the birth year like 5 times! None, literally none, of this other info matches!” And he was right: I heard him relay my full birthday over the walkie-talkie at least 5 times, and they let me look at the guy’s file (they thought it was a funny joke, actually, that nothing matched). He was just another Indian dude, sold drugs or something, but none of the other info matched mine.

The cops took my fingerprints — don’t really know why that was necessary, but hey I wasn’t about to start asking questions — and I asked where the nearest metro was. The two cops who’d brought me in, though, were actually really, sincerely apologetic, and they said they’d actually drive me back to the hotel. That really meant a lot to me, that they felt sincerely bad about their mistake, and it was a small victory for me.

So the officers I dealt with personally were really nice, and I know that sometimes the cops have to bring in the wrong guys in order to catch the really bad guys. But the incident pointed to a larger issue for me: What kind of absurd, nonsensical policy is it, that you can just yank somebody out of their bed, take them to the police station, with literally nothing more than a handwritten first and last name?? No info about the alleged crime. No picture of the person. Nothing typed up, nothing with an official “Policía de Madrid” letterhead. Not even a birthdate, not even the care to listen to the birthdate as it’s being relayed to you by another officer!


So that, to me, was what really made me mad about the police. This type of policy makes no sense. There should be a higher burden of proof required before being able to involuntarily bring somebody in to the police station. I mean, the incident didn’t ruin the rest of our day; but on top of everything, that morning was my mother’s birthday, and I didn’t even have a chance to wish her a happy birthday before the police took me!


And I’ve had a few other less-than-pleasant encounters with the police here. Probably 4 or 5 times the police have just stopped me while walking around in the streets and demanded that I provide my papers/passport/visa. Like, smack in the middle of the day! I remember the first time, I was just walking to the gym around 5 p.m. I saw a cop on a motorcycle, just driving around, who suddenly stops his bike and RUNS over to me. Immediately, he asks me for my papers. I give him a copy of my passport (which luckily I carry around with me at all times, for situations exactly like this, you never know when it’s going to happen). He says, well, why don’t you have your real passport? Uhhh, cause I’m going to the gym and the only thing that could happen is that I could lose the passport? They eventually write down my info and then let me go on my merry way. This has happened at least 4 times now.

These situations always pass quickly, but they definitely still always make me feel like shit. Like, what was it about me, that caused you to JUMP OFF your bike and run over to me and demand my papers? And in the hotel, what was it about my name that made y’all jump to action and come find me? You never know the answers to these questions for sure, but I think racism is a pretty decent bet.


So yea, in general, I don’t have much of a problem with the police here. But I have had some unpleasant encounters, and I think racism is at least partly at fault. The thing is, though, there really is a lot of racism in Spain.

I get off-hand comments all the time — allll the time — here about how I look like a terrorist, or I look like Osama, or I look like Saddam. A few weeks ago, I was in line to get into a disco, and I give the bouncer my ID. He looks at it, says to me, ¿Sabes que tú tienes el color de terrorista? // Do you know you look like a terrorist?”. Like, yea dude, sure, can I just go in the club now? In what type of place is it ok to just say these types of things to people?? I’ve done nothing wrong to you, and these things are very offensive.

In other instances, I’ve been denied entrance into Kapital, Madrid’s most well-known club, for reasons that I can only narrow down to racism. Once, they said I couldn’t go in because my shoes weren’t nice enough — despite the fact that I had actually worn those very shoes in this very club on previous occasions, and I saw multiple people go in after me wearing Nike sneakers. That night I even went home to change into my very nicest shoes, and I went back to the club and asked the bouncer, “Hey man, I’ve changed my shoes, are these better?”. All he says to me is, “Mentira! // Liar!”. I mean, no, man, clearly I’m not lying, these straight-up are different shoes; clearly, you’re just looking for an excuse to not let me in. The other night, we tried going to Kapital again: All my friends got in, but they told all of us I couldn’t go in “because of what happened last time.” Nothing happened last time! I’ve never been kicked out of a club! All just lies, all just excuses.

Madrid and Spain are both very diverse places, that much is certain

Madrid and Spain are both very diverse places, that much is certain

So I’ve seen racism here against me, yea, but it’s scary just how accepted racism in general is in this country. Especially for a country that is a worldwide leader in LGBTQ rights, their views on race seem pretty backwards. Maybe it’s just a different way of speaking a language, but to put it simply, Spaniards don’t mince words: They will say things to you that are bluntly racist, and they don’t see anything wrong about it. A few examples:

  • All over Spain there’s thousands of little convenience stores that sell the basic supplies: soda, alcohol, snacks, etc. I guess in America we’d call it a convenience store, or a bodega; think of a CVS or a Walgreens. In Spain, these shops are called “chinos” — because they are almost always run by Chinese people, and the word in Spanish for a Chinese person is “chino.” It’s like saying (excuse the language), “Oh, you need to buy some chips? Just go to the chinaman’s store, they’ll definitely have it.” In essence, they have completely defined these shops by the race of the people who own them.

And it’s just completely ok in the culture to call a chino, a chino, even to a Chinese person’s face. For example, in our bilingual schools we are 100% prohibited from speaking Spanish in the English classes. So when the teachers are translating instructions into English to the kids for a project, I’ve heard them multiple times say, “For buying cardboard, just go get it at the Chinese store.” We definitely would not translate “chino” to Chinese store (again, bodega), but here identifying people by race is just normal. It’s absurd, really.

A "chino," or alimentación, as they call it

A “chino,” or alimentación, as they call it

Or, I’ve asked a few of my kids about their favorite books that they’ve read this year in language class. One student mentioned a book about a man from China, but LITERALLY EVERY TIME she said the words, “Chinese man,” she would pull her eyes back to make them narrower. And I have seen countless Spanish adults, even teachers, doing the exact same thing! Then, there’s always this picture.

  • The other day, one of my auxiliar friends was telling me this story about how she was having an intercambio, and the Spanish girl just asked if racism exists still in the USA. My friend said, well yes, of course, but it’s nothing like it was 100 years ago, when racism was still legal in the laws. She told the Spanish girl that in America now it’s just like it is in Spain — there’s racism everywhere, it’s just how it is, but it’s illegal. The thing is, the Spanish girl was completely SHOCKED to hear that racism exists here, in her country! She said no, there is not racism here in Spain.
  • I’ve written in the past about how, as a brown-skinned American living in Europe, I have ran into many, many people who simply would not believe me when I said I was an American. I’ve written about how deeply scarring it is to be told that there is no possible way that you can possibly belong to the only country to which you swear allegiance, just based on the color of your skin. But that’s the thing about the racism here: Spanish people don’t mince words, they say what they want directly to your face. Whether it’s something offensive related to race, no importa, it doesn’t matter.

Maybe it’s something just related to the Spanish language — the Spanish language, after all, is much more direct than the American English style of using polite words and phrases just as a gesture. And I’m not trying to make any sweeping generalizations about the Spanish people. It’s just jarring to think of the irony in cultural differences.

Coming from America, most of us think of Europe as the liberal stronghold — all hippies, socialized medicine, communist economies, blah blah blah. Obviously that is nowhere near an accurate statement, as Europe is made up of many, very different countries, none of which uses an economic system anywhere close to communism. But we Americans do tend to think of Europeans as much more liberal, as a whole, than Americans — and on the LGBTQ front, that undoubtedly rings true. But with racism, the Spaniards have just as much of it as we do, and they don’t care to hide it — which kinda makes Spanish society seem even less tolerant than American society.


I try not to bring up discussions of racism too much, because it always just makes for an uncomfortable situation. But these are issues that we as communities must discuss, and these are uncomfortable situations that we must encounter. I’d be lying if I didn’t say one of my main reasons I had for leaving the southern U.S. was to escape the rampant racism that I’ve grown up with and that just, simply, exists in all parts of life over there. I was naive to think I’d encounter less racism here, when in fact racism obviously still exists all over the world. Just the fact that the amount of racism that I regularly encounter here — racist discrimination that actually affects my actions, that affects my day, as opposed to just mental prejudices — surprised me, it’s that surprise which has really disheartened me.

Of course, these are all anecdotal observations, and maybe I’m rambling. But you can’t fight what you see every day.

I love Spain, and I love my home back in the South. We have racism there, and we have racism here. Not to climb too high on my soapbox, but some of these things are not ok, and we need to talk about them.


El Oso, y el Tío, en la Puerta

El Oso, y el Tío, en la Puerta



  1. What happened to to is completely ridiculous! I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Honestly, I feel racism in Spain is worse than the us because it’s so generally accepted, where althought it absolutely exists, it’s not socially acceptable to define people by their race and go make broad offensive statements such as “you look like a terrorist”. Thanks for writing this, It was a very interesting read.

  2. Wow, thanks for writing this post and sharing your stories. It makes me feel awful to know you went through that, or that I’ve escaped similar experiences simply because my skin is white (I’m also an auxiliar here).

  3. Thanks for writing this. I think a lot of us Auxiliaries get over here and at first are shocked and uncomfortable about things like ‘chino’ stores or conguitos. Then we just get used to it and go with the flow. Its refreshing to read something candid calling out some of the overt racism here in Spain. When you try to talk to Spaniards about it, its like your speaking another language. Sorry about some of the stuff it sounds like has happened to you, man. Enjoyed reading your article! -Jordan

  4. 3.36 · · Reply

    A lot of that is just lack of political correctness. Spain, for all its diversity, does not have a cosmopolitan mentality. They eat, sleep and drink Spanish, they don’t grow up with foreign influences in their homes, it’s kind of mono-cultural to be a Spaniard. Don’t forget that in many ways it is still a young country and has only recently come out of the post dictatorship transitional period and lived through it’s first modern economic boom (…and bust). Actually, this is what most of the planet is like. There are very few truly cosmopolitan countries in the world. If you go to South America, people will refer to their black friends as “little blacky”, but they will also nick-name their over-weight friends as “fatty”. It’s actually a more extreme version of what we find in Spain as places like Colombia truly are totally mono-cultural (I mean to say that while they do have variety within their own cultures, all of their cultures are Colombian, the only outside influence they might ever have is just from Hollywood movies). We are talking about the old world, and by that I mean most of it. Racism is just a varying degree of ignorance. The deeper the ignorance, the more extreme the racism is.Spain is new to the world of foreigners (their biggest immigrant population is still the Brits) and the only foreigners they see are drunken tourists on the other side of the beach or an occasional African selling bracelets. People grow up here with same circle of friends their whole lives right from three years old, opening up your mind in that situation isn’t going to come naturally. Go back far enough in time and all countries were like this, innocently blabbering nonsense about their misconceptions of others whom they have never had any experience of before.

    1. Ariadna · · Reply

      I completely agree with what you’re saying. My mom is from Spain and I used to live there as well, I go back every summer and I can agree with both you and the author. I feel as though racism is a problem that Spain is struggling with primarily due to the fact that is is such a mono-cultural country. I’m half-asian myself, and my family in Spain doesn’t understand why I find it offensive when they make comments against “los chinos” or even when they refer to the “Pakis” (which is a term used for concession stores owned by South Asians). The language and culture is just as the author said, very direct. What is difficult for people to understand is although Spain has huge metropolitan cities such as Barcelona (where I’m from) people still have a small town mentality. I will say this, I live in Texas, and although Houston is a very diverse city, nothing Iv’e heard in Spain is any worse than what I’ve heard here.

  5. 3.36 · · Reply

    P.S, I’m certainly not denying you’ve had some genuinely full on racist experiences that go beyond lack of culture.

    P.P.S Talented writing! You shouldn’t apologise for rambling or speaking your mind!

  6. debzywebzy · · Reply

    I don’t think the bluntness of Spaniards should ever be an excuse for the kind of things you’ve described here. It’s disgusting. I’m from New Zealand and I’ve never seen as much racism as here. I teach two adopted Chinese girls here who refer to the convenience store the chino. I feel like they’ll grow up amd one day wake up to what they’d been conditioned to say and have to deal wiyh how they feel about having been a part of saying something like that relating to the country they themselves came from. And it surprises me that heir parents aren’t more sensitive to it seeing as their kids are Chinese! ! At first I called it that because we don’t have those stores where I’m from and I didn’t know what else to call it but I think convenience store is good so I’ve just taken that from American English.
    I get enough nonsense from people endlessly waffling on at me about Australia as if as a Kiwi it has something to do with me. I can’t imagine what it would be like for me here had I been Maori… geeze

  7. What a ridiculous, horrible set of experiences. You’re right that racism in Spain is a big problem, even if the people here don’t always see it as racism. I’m surprised people think it’s OK to say you look like a terrorist though, or that the police would arrest you for a common name. That’s pretty scary.

    I was unpleasantly surprised by one of my Spanish friends here the other day. A British girl of Indian descent tried talking to him in Spanish at a party. (She just got here, so her Spanish isn’t perfect, but it’s very good). He replied to her in English “I don’t speak Paki Spanish”. The next day, I tried explaining to him why it’s not OK to say those things in English, and he just laughed it off. This is a guy who is well-traveled and educated too.

    I saw the ‘Chinese eyes’ thing you mentioned every so often when I worked at a language school too. Hopefully, things will start getting talked about and changing, because it’s definitely one of the ugly parts of living in Spain.

  8. “El color de terrorista”? fuck man, that’s terrible.

  9. I use the word “chino” to refer to those convenience stores just because I pick and choose my battles and that is not one of them (after many a discussion that circles back to “why can’t you just say ‘chino’? why are you so sensitive?” sigh). It’s hard, trying to change little things like that that are so ingrained into their culture.
    Thank you so much for writing this up, really. I feel like people don’t discuss the racism in this country/city enough, and as soon as someone says that they haven’t experienced racism, it’s a free-for-all to invalidate everyone else’s experiences too.
    I want to say your situation was unbelievable, but it really wasn’t, given the number of people I know who have been taken in by police for “not having the right papers”. Similar to the stop-and-frisk law back in the states, the underlying racism is a huge deal in how they implement these procedures.

  10. I just read your article on racism in Spain and unfortunately it was all pretty familiar. I lived in Madrid a few years ago and experienced/observed lots of what you wrote. In addition, I had a handful of people who would not rent to me strictly because of race (they even told me!). So that wasn’t about political correctness…
    Honestly, I think language is only partly to blame. And I’m quite sick of the excuse that Spain is somehow “new & young” so just doesn’t know any better. Its letting young and educated people off the hook without any amount of personal responsibility. Spain has been around for a long time, and had immigrants/rule from the Romans, Greeks, Moors, various barbarian tribes, etc etc. Unlike some places on this earth which are truly isolated, even today. I have family from places which have a much more isolated history than Spain and they don’t behave anything like what I’ve seen of Spaniards, and I wouldn’t excuse it if they did. They’re individuals who can and should learn from the world around them. With older generations well… but folks in their 20’s, there’s no excuse.
    I think the biggest problem (as a couple people mentioned) is the fact that Spain is in such denial. I’ve had several conversations with Spaniards in which they denied that there existed in the entire country even 1 racist person… I’ve had Spanish friends (who are all well educated and travelled) insist that throwing bananas at black soccer players while making monkey chants and calling them niggers isn’t the slightest bit racist… With that mentality how can you even begin to address racism in Spain?

  11. By the way Amit, are you planning on returning to Spain? I have an opportunity to go back, but honestly despite the things I like about the place, I’m really unsure if I want to put up with that crap again. Just curious how you feel looking back on it.
    Oh and its not just the Spaniards I had a problem with. I’d say the complacency of so many Americans/Canadians/British that I met last time was almost as bad as the racism itself. People very quickly seemed to get so accustomed to the normalization of racism they don’t think twice about saying things they probably wouldn’t at home. I mean, I didn’t know any of the Americans I met in Spain before I moved there, so maybe they were just as racist at home. Perhaps I have just been extremely lucky in my life, but the VAST majority of people I’ve ever met in the US would NEVER say the kind of things I heard other Americans say while in Spain (probably because it was normal & acceptable there). The Americans I’ve known in the US stood up against racism. Its depressing to think that perhaps given the right situation they would devolve into making racist remarks, just like I’ve seen happen with many Americans in Madrid.

    1. Hi Dee! Thanks for reading the post and commenting, it’s somewhat comforting (but still horrible) to hear that others have noticed the same kind of treatments in España. I would love to return to Spain, as I really have a deep interest in the castellano language and other, non-racial parts of the Spanish culture. Alas, I don’t have any plans to return to Spain in the near future, as I’ve just returned to the US to get my career in my field going in full.

      I definitely will come back to Spain in the future though. I you have a chance to pursue a career in Spain, I think it’d be worth considering, personally. Every place has got its pros and cons, you know?

  12. […] stories from other people of color as well. One Auxiliar blogger, Amit Kumar, writes of how he was racially profiled, and taken to a police station when law enforcement mistook him for someone who was 20 years older. […]

  13. mona · · Reply

    Amit I am so sorry to hear about your experience but it doesnt surprise me. I live with an African and it has completely coloured my view of Spain if you will forgive the pun. I always knew they were racist having lived here for many years, but once I began to live with my partner, it became much clearer and more vivid. I have had a taxi that I hailed drive off once the driver saw that i was with a black man, the pólice whistle at him like a dog, for him to cross the road and speak to him, I have been stopped in my car but instead of asking for my papers and driver’s licence, they demanded those of my partner in the driving seat! Now we live in Andalucia where we have seen a man turn up his collar and hold his nose as he passes by. the whispering and staring in this part of the world every time we sit down to have a beer is unbearable, and makes Madrid a liberal paradise in comparison.
    I am sick and tired of it and despite so many years here I am planning on leaving, because as you say, it is young, educated people who are as racist as their elders. They say negrito is “cariñoso” you are a po-faced misery if you protest. Their whole attitude is so ignorant and so narrow minded , i can no longer put up with it. I know women whose families have disowned them for going out with an African.I could go on and on. But I will add simply that the excuse that they went through a dictatorship and are not used to immigrants etc. does not wash.
    today we have internet, you can access any culture you want, we have far more information about the world, why cant the Spanish get reallike the rest of the world? It is a question that constantly exercises me. Their education system is pretty inferior (hence so many private classes etc) with low standards and antiquated teaching methods, i wonder if this has something to do with it? the fact that they accept reams of facts and are not taught to question anything. They simply imbibe their parents’s opinions and aspire to turning into the same sort of people one day…. It is a dispiriting panorama,

  14. mona · · Reply

    sorry i wanted to correct something above. my partner was sitting in the passenger seat ( i said driving seat above ) while i was driving yet the pólice went straight to him for papers, incidentally followng this, they searched the car, and then accused me of stealing my own car!!! but that is another story

    1. Thanks for your comments, Mona. I agree with you, the prejudiced aspects of the Spanish culture are tough to deal with yet seem to be everywhere; and in today’s information age, there’s simply not an excuse for this kind of widespread behavior. I hope that by sharing stories like mine and like yours, we can achieve some real kind of change to the situation. I love Spain, and it’s just unfortunate that this racism thing, is a thing.

  15. go back home · · Reply

    If racism in Spain is so bad then go back home you cunt. We Europeans citizens are sick and tired of you third worlders being brought to our countries and then thinking that we give a shit about your views on racism

    If its so bad, then why are you here? Fuck off somewhere else, this is not your country.

  16. sdfsdf · · Reply

    There still too much ignorance in the hearts of Spanish people from Spain, they just don’t know any better.

  17. Hi– I’m doing the auxiliare program in Spain for a third year. I’m so tired of the way my students talk about race and literally don’t even understand what theyre doing wrong. It really breaks my heart that I try to explain why certain words are unacceptable and that they just look at each other and smile like, “there goes the crazy teacher again”…

    Anyway, I’m trying to organize a cultural awareness day this coming Monday (MLK Day). Are there any resources that you can think of? It’s a bit different than anything I grew up with, because we’re not just talking about racism, but defining it in a way that will convince them to see WHY it’s hurtful. Any help you can think of would be appreciated.

    1. I can’t think of any paper resources/handouts to help with cultural awareness, but I’ve heard from other auxiliares who have taught about MLK and the US Civil RIghts movement that it works to show the students some pictures from the US-segregation era that say “No Mexicans or Spanish” in addition to “No Colored” or “No Japanese” out West. It helps them connect with the injustice, to feel that they’re the ones being discriminated against, which helps them to understand the problems with the insensitive things they may say today.

      I wish I could be of more help, but that’s great that you’re organizing a cultural awareness day! ¡buena suerte con las actividades!

    2. Have you considered that you’re the one living in a different culture, and you’re trying to impose what your culture says is wrong to people who don’t see anything wrong in it because it’s not offensive in their culture?

      I mean, the way you pretend your point of view is somehow morally superior to the ones of your Spanish students, just because it’s the one that matches your culture, sounds really arrogant to me.

      I have also read Amit’s response and I find he doesn’t understand it either. He seems to believe it’s a problem of Spanish people being racists because we don’t know what it is like to be a victim of racism which is completely wrong. You just look at things that you have been taught are racist, but don’t have to be.

      Is it racist if I deny you some right or act against you because of your race? Definitely. And if you follow the Spanish politics you will have noticed that extremist right or neonazi parties don’t have any support at all, unlike other countries in the UE.

      Is it racist if I say you are “negro” or to call “chino” a kind of store run by a Chinese owner? Well it would certainly be if it was said as something offensive, but the truth is we don’t say it like that, and that’s what you fail to understand, and that’s why your students can’t understand you when you want to lecture them trying to impose your cultural point of view to them.

      I could find really unnatural the way you americans talk about “the F word”, or try to be politically correct at all times, and that you should just speak more freely as we do in Spain, but certainly I accept you have been educated in a culture different to mine, and I don’t pretend mine is better.

      And I would certainly not go to your country, try to tell you that your culture is wrong and go mad because you don’t do as I say.

  18. […] Some argue that one shouldn’t be offended by the term chino since offense is “not intended” (see accidental racism) while others say that in Spain racism is simply accepted. […]

  19. Globetrotter · · Reply

    Im a multi millionaire from New Delhi, India and I live six months a year outside India usually between Paris and London as well as spend a lot of time in the south of france. On my second visit to spain, I encountered severe police racism too….travelling on the train in first class from barcelona to london…they wanted to see my papers and i showed my original passport and visa …but my visa was issued by france and they didnt believe it was authentic. I had ten visas from france, uk, singapore all on my passport and hundreds of entry and exit stamps because i travel extensively but they were very supicious and treated me very badly. Once the tran crossed over into france they had arranged for ten french police officers to come in and check me out – the entire experience was extremely humiliating and made me even cry, not one spanish on the train came forward to intervene and explain to th police, i repeatedly told them i was a tourist on holiday and gad actually spent a few days in barcelona with my friend who had gone back to london while i was going to paris…but the police didnt care…i am not even dark skinned…i am very pale for an indian and the clearly saw my indian passport…..ive made complaint with the spanish and indian embassies but neither bothered to reply. Spanish are really horrible people…why would u want to live in their country and contribute to such a racist nation…let them collapse they cant treat rich well dressed wealthy toursits like me travelling in first class in such a manner. Ive take trains all over europe and this never happened anywhere else…this was the spanish border police not the train conductor. I was also attacked by the train conductor who physically punched me in the stomach and held me by my collar because i was complaining about the police behaviour – i hate spain and sopanish people….my french friends said that spain is considered the “shit” of europe…its the third world county of europe. I have never experieced this in france at all…and in uk if the police question you at least they are very polite and decent in the way they do it but spanish police were really scum….i wonder how they can get away its because our complaints are not heard. The author of this article should take his complaint to a higher level…they cant just arrest and fingerprint you because another person with your name committed a crime …this is ridiculous..and that way no one is safe in this country…if u had retaliated the arrest the could even kill you so why put up with them. Please report this to the indian embassy in spain and take it up very seriously…spain should be exposed for their police racism at least so toursits stop visitng and spending in such a country…how dare they treat anyone in such a way….please do not sit back and accept their racism…they were apologetic to you after they found out they made a mistake…were they nice from the beginning thinking the could be making a mistake? Spaish are insensitive and horrible people…its a rotten poor country that cant afford to survive …tourism and retirement homes are their only means of survival…good luck attracting tourist with such racist attitudes….indians should boycott spain completely…make a facebook page to get your message across and spread the awareness…this is ridiculous no spanish is treated badly in India…how dare they treat indins so badly in spain…shameless country.

  20. Globetrotter · · Reply

    Sorry for all the typos…i typed very fast on my ipad …my english isn’t horrible as it sounds there…i am very well educated with an MBA from a prestigious new york school and another Masters degree from europe. I belong to a well known educated family background….email me if u want…i can even show u what i look like…and u will understand why I was so upset in spain. I am not one of those typical nouveau riche indians with no education that travel around europe….I lived most of my life in new york and london (17 years)..and just returned to india for family / business reasons…now i travel a lot but feel that racist attitudes are getting bad all over the world.

  21. Globetrotter · · Reply

    Also i mentioned my financial status not to boast around but to clearly point out that I am no haggered looking badly dressed backpacker in Europe walking around like a lost fool….at the time i was questioned by spanish police I was dressed in an Armani suit with my Prada sunglasses on…my hand luggage was Gucci….usually the way I am dressed and carry myself I get a lot of respect most places in Europe…I have walked into the most luxurious of hotels alone and been treated well…in spain they have no sense of fashion or refinement at all…the language is also very low class and so are the people…they see a well dressed rich looking foreigner and get suspicious rather than happy to see someone like that…India has far more wealth than Spain and despite India’s problems racism isnt one of those problems…there is a lot of bad press about racism and rapes in India but its all seriously hyped up by western media..if India were that racist then we wouldnt have a muslim president or a sikh president or a female prime minister and the top most actors who are also muslims…every one has opportunity in India now and even in the past such a diverse ethnic and religious population lived alongside each other for centuries in India….look at europe now …just ten percent immigrants come in and they cant tolerate anyone.

  22. Found the article to be well written and informative. To be honest I doubt I would have delved into it had I not had repeated stop and searched and faced sparodic harassment from the Police Nazinole in Andalucia. I have been here for less then a month and been stopped and searched twice and submited through a full id check. I was like Amed walking along minding my own business doing everyday stuff such as walking back to my apartment , walking in a public park in broad daylight. Apart from the Police National I have found Spain a place I would have liked to have stayed long term as citizen of the EU i’m well within my rights to this. Not according to the Police Nazinaloe. Yesterday when they stopped me and asked me where I’m from I told him Britain, After giving him my name he said thats not a British name I mean what kind of Ashole does it take to be a cop in Spain obviosley a stupid one on the evedience of the twat I met yesterday. They ID checked me and after then at the end of the full shakedown bodysearch ,the whole third degree they told me to jog on in Spanish , and to show how dumb and dumber they were one said why are you wearing a tshirt when its so cold , hello ! you have just checked my id I’m British what do you expect even at this time of year in Spain its going to feel like an August day in Britain. Obviously I did not say that to his face for the record I’m always polite and complant with the thugs in uniform in the majorirty of cases they have been far from polite in fact provocative. They aparently have the right to ask me everything” why are you here” ? “where are you living ” ? do you carry a knife ” do you have a criminal record” I know nothing about Spanish law but on the prima faca of it appears that a man/women is guilty until proven guilty. If you have a darker skin tone take that as a given.
    Although for some reason I spent a month in the North of Spain once and was never once pulled by a cop. There was lots of casual racasim from people like Amit had described ” your not really from there where are you really from ” one women said to me you would be better of in the South as they have signs in Arabic. This after speaking to me and finding out I was as British as bacon for some reason she semmed to like me more when I was speaking Spanish and she thought I was a helpless new imigrant from the third world. However for the record the women was a new imigrant herself from Eastern Europe . So not reflective of a Catalan/Spanish person perhaps. It makes you think however where the gaull to say such rubish to me in 2015 stems from.
    I find a lot of these threads seems to lump the Spanish in one tight basket yet anyone with a smudgen of history knows that its one nation with a diverse history and has three regions Catalonia,
    , the Basque country and Galicia where a lot of people dont even consider themselves Spanish and want their own country. Like I stated only spent a month in Catalan but never had a spot id check I was in the Basque country for a week and again no spot check. I have been to Galicia for a few days this was trouble free. Perhaps I got lucky but I cant help feeling that these regions and their history and in the case of the Basques and Catalans fight against facists has some bearing on how they police today. I would be interested to know if anyone else found a difference region to region.
    In terms of the word Chino its news to me that this it is a racial slur. Until reading this post I thought it was the Spanish way of saying Chinese , a Chinese person. At my local convenience store(the chinese owner) a man asked me if I was an Indian I replied no I’m English (all in spanish )and then asked him Chino ? he did not seem offended or distasful of that word and replied yes I’m Chino. If I had asked a Englishman of Asain origin are you Packi ? I would have either got a swift bunch of fives or ended up in court being branded a racist. If a person of Chinese tells me this is dirogotry I would stop using the term like a shot but not just cause a bunch of Americans are using some PC guesswork as it seems to me.
    I think Spain is a backward insular country in many ways people always hang around in groups , resturant serve the same Spanish food you could go in bakery even if you are a local once they twig you are a foreign they will serve someone they know before you even if they see you waiting there before there pal comes in. Its acceptable for the guy at the local coffee bar to take your money and call you a bastard in Spanish thinking you dont understand and probally still expects you to come tomorow for your cafe solo and side order of abuse. When I went to see an estate agent he said “well your name is not very English is it ? In the UK I could have taken him to court , the comment might have been newsworthy and would certanly be taken as overt racisim.You walk past a resturant tout in Spain I have watched them work the only people they stop are white groups non white groups get ignored all together. Some of these people are Idiots. The NP officers seem to be idiots in uniform.
    and lets be honest most Police forces respect their nations soul the Police in the UK in 2015 are not doing random stop and searches in a city centre in broad daylight they would never be able to get away with it. There was a huge morale uproar in the late 70s , 80s riots and public enquiry which found the bigest force to be institutionaly racist.
    That was due to public outcry journalists and policans higlighting the situation.
    The Police in the UK are far from perfect but I have never been stoped and searched and out checked for just walking about minding my own business like in Spain.
    I think Spain is a rich country great food good weather nice buildings nice everyday people unlike the UK if it was not for the P;;”;’;’;ce I would be happy to live here long term.
    But thinking if I seetled down with a Spanish girl and was still going to be stopped and harrased is not the kind of thing that inspires someone to lay down roots , also as the OP has demonstrated making Spanish friends and going in a mixed group does not spare you from the treatment.
    I dont know how you stuck it out so long pal , I know personally I cant hope to strike back at the Police here if this kind of thing happens to darker skined Spanish citizens on daily basis it seems unlikely things will get better unless there is some kind of civil uprising about it , journalists started writring about it , Or people of colour boycott Spain and never go there as tourists.
    With the Indian Chinese and Brazilian economy bomming places like Spain would be ill advised to ignore a boycott like that. Of course that will never happen as we are all individuals these days.
    Dont get me wrong there are worst countries to go to in Europen like Germany and its police force
    but no one would be suprised at Germany behaving like this considring its bigoted history.
    In Spain some of the cops who have stoped have been almost as dark as me if they were in the uk there appearance would not look out of place working at a local kebab house and most would consider them non European. So bigotry has no logic. I have met black people in Britain who are just as racist as the worst white person and same with Indian people its not a European thing by any means.
    However like I said nothing I can do about Spain accept take my money and passport and hed back tto Britiain broken as it may be its still better then living in a country that uses policing methods like in llate 30s Germany before the rise of the Nazis. I regret how this will effect the small cafes and other business and local people who have not done anything to deserve this the Police will still be proped by the state regardless of the economy. If I do go back to Spain it wll be to Catalonia or the Basque country only unless I come across clear evidence that it is the same shame there. I have a feeling the problems described in the captial of Catalonia would go if it got independenc
    However its better to live like a freeman then `a rat in a sewer.
    I dont understand why people are prepared to settle here and put up with this hit them where it hurts deprive them of money work and live somewhere better if you value your civil rights.

  23. Trance · · Reply

    lack of tact and being offensive like the Spanish doorman was to you is a world apart from the deadly raasisim that has plagued the USA through out most of its history. I don’t know why it is Americans go around the world trying to make out they are the only engligtened ones who can put the world to right perhaps watching too many episodes of the original Star Trek where Kirk and his crew were the only englightened beings in the galaxy. Although Spain has pockets of racisim its nothing like the UK there is no UKIP in Spain There are no ethnic gangs , no preachers of hate and I have yet to read about a person being killed for the colour of their skin.
    I have been stopped and searched at random had Spanish cops stick there hands down my pocket pulled out everything and then move me on once they have checked me out. The first few times I was upset and angry but after talking to some Spanish friends I gather this random security checks are the norm in Spain even form people of lighter skin. I have dark skin and feelt singled out since I’m from the UK where this kind of thing does not go on. However it goes on in Greece , Germany and many other countries . so I dont think the Spanish police are unique in their aproach I cant say for sure it is random racial profiling since it could be down to age as well. If you think the cops are better organised here cicrling about all day riding in undentified cars in the UK we only have community support officers circling the streets who have limited powers. I see a lot more anti social behaviour on a day to day basis in the UK then I do in Spain.
    I have no problem with cops checking me out as long as they are polite I have to say in my experience they have not been sometimes. But Spain has a low crime rate it would be intresting to know if this policing had some effect on that. My Spanish friends tiel me they have had the same on a night out.
    I have met doorman who are bad but that was in the UK they were black as well and I have been refused entrence to night clubs in the UK , often they make some excuse like your drink when I was not , but a bigoted mentality does not go exculsivly with a white skin. It sounds like the doorman was making a politiclly incorrect joke. I think the same doorman in the UK or USA would say the same thing behind your back that might be the difference .
    I think it is a bit arogent for people outside Spain to start lecturing them about racasim they have lived through a civil war and have a quit tolerent society on things like same sex marriges more women in politics then the uk and USA here people can go and sell there wears in the middle of a resturant I’m guessing most of them are illigal immigrants in the UK they would not tolerate that and such people would be left to drown on the margins here at least there is a certain respect for letting people get on with things.

  24. About your detention, well I can’t seem to find racism in it since you were detained because your name, birth day and month matched the ones of someone who was being looked for by the police, not because of the color of your skin.

    Of course, it was a despicable detention. But then again, not a racist one in my humble opinion. And to be honest, I wouldn’t expect policemen to say they are sorry for their mistake and even drive you back to your hotel. I’ve had Spanish friends spending 48 hours in jail just for being in the wrong place (public demonstrations) with the policemen who detained them even knowing they were not guilty of anything, so I would say you were treated even better than any Spanish person could expect to be.

    And about saying “negro” and “chino” and etc. etc. Well, I know outside of Spain, specially in the US, there is a lot of political correctness with these kind of terms, but there is certainly not in Spain, and not because we’re racist, but because we don’t find offensive to call someone “chino” if he or she is from China, or “negro” if their skin is black. Just as we would call someone “blonde” or “slim”, or whatever. It’s a physical description as any other.

    It was even very surprising for us to find out that the whole world thought our basketball team was racist because they took a picture pulling their eyes to make them look like asian. We don’t consider that offensive at all and it does not have any offensive intention, definitely. I guess it’s hard for someone with a political correct culture to understand that.

    Maybe we’re just too new to multiculturalism and we still find amazing that someone from asia runs a store next to our house, so we call that the “chino”. Maybe we are somehow rustic in these terms, but definitely, not racist.

  25. Someone In Da Know · · Reply

    Spain isn’t that bad…. I grew up biracial in Spain during the 1990s and 2000s having a Black mother and Spanish father taking after my father looks wise. My mother was a United States Citizen and had come to be in Spain due to her military career. She had a dark complexion and was at first always stopped on the streets for no reason other than she might be an illegal African,but once she showed her American Passport,was permitted to go on about her business without issue. Or she might be walking alone pass a group of guys who catcalled to her like some cheap hooker using their raunchiest Spanish or Portuguese. Unnerving but mostly harmless. This ONLY occurred if she alone though. If she was with her obviously Spanish children or husband,there was absolutely no issue.
    Interestingly enough when I visited the United States with my mother was when I learned true racism which oddly cane from other Blacks. At first they couldn’t shut up that my mother had married a “White boy”,but when she told them his nationality and native tongue, they claimed people who spoke Spanish were nothing more than ” damn Mexicans”. I was glad to return to Barcelona after my mother’s death and remain in Spain till this very day! I don’t mind occasionally being called a moreno and would take that over American society any day.

  26. Amit · · Reply

    Hi Amit,

    My name is also Amit, I’m also of Indian origin but I was born here in Spain (in the Canaries).
    I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such horrible experience with the police. I can’t say I’ve had such tough ones in my life… having travelled throughout Spain and lived in Madrid for 5 years.
    As for racism, I agree with Dlizewski in that I think it is more of a way of expressing than racism itself (not saying that there is no racism in Span though!).
    Congrats on your blog!

  27. i DO NOT AGREE WITH DLIZEWSKI. Spain is a backward country, and it no longer has an excuse for being so.I am so sick of hearing how they “tell it like it is”, and that is just the way they are. they should change! no wonder the country is such an inefficient mess, they fail to move with the times. My partner is constantly subjected to racism, and it’s not just a question of terminology or “affectionate mockery”. he was told the other day having taken a 5 minute break during his 12 hour working day, that “blacks dont have the right to take breaks..” ho ho ho, just another joke, telling it like it is? let’s all laugh ourselves silly. no harm meant, it was said in fun, so hilarious etc. etc. am sooooo sick of hearing these excuses, why dont spaniards take note: Dlizewski in particular : if someone is offended , it is not because they come from a politically correct country , it means that the comment, remark , gesture , was OFFENSIVE . Spaniards need to get real and stop hiding behind their insecurity complexes.

    1. One of the problems of Spain is that ‘racist humour’ is part of the culture. If you see certain shows/movies in Spanish TV you would understand better what I mean. People watch that in TV and repeat it in real life, thinking there is nothing wrong about it.

  28. · · Reply

    Thanks so much for this post, it’s much needed!

  29. Kirsty MacCallum · · Reply

    Very glad to read that I’m not the only person that experienced racism in Spain. It actually really shocked me how blatant and entrenched and accepted it is. I’m Australian and I’m so glad we don’t have anything like the racism that I saw in Andalucia southern Spain. It often disgusted me and made me so mad. I full on shouted at people in the street for treating black people badly, simply because they were black. It made me crazy. Myself and two African guys were denied access to a club in Malaga and I had been previously allowed in the night before with two white Spanish girls. It sucks. It’s actually the main thing that puts me off going back to Spain.

  30. Lidia · · Reply

    Amit, hey I am a Canadian living in Barcelona (with a European passport thanks to Dad). May I also mention that I am multi-racial and do not really look like any race if you get my drift. Because I am a woman I feel like I have got it a tad better thaqwn you (women always get away with more unfortunately). However, because I am brown-skinned, I can relate to this post.

    How do you address a racism problem when the people are in denial that they have a problem? It is like confronting a functioning alcoholic and saying “alcohol is ruining your life,” and they come back at you “but I go to work everyday and do my job well…no idea what you are talking about!”

    Just go to FOROCOCHES, a Spanish forum primarily dominated by Spanish males. The plethora of racist comments on that forum (and topics), is disgusting. They love dropping the N word to describe blacks and also give their opinions about “doing” other races. There are even polls about what women are the hottest (race wise), and of course the non-Whites always rank the lowest…just a dumb poll to begin with!

    But of course the net is full of trolls, it is day to day life that really proves the racism that is going on here. I knew an American girl who was working here illegally. She got caught at the airport for violating her tourist visa (or whatever it is), and they just let her go. She even said “I am not brown, but I am a cute white girl. I can get away with it here.” Guaranteed you put a brown girl in her place and they would have not been so forgiving.

    Now with my own eyes I once went to a local mobile shop (to buy a new phone with contract), and I saw something alarming. There was a sign that basically said more or less “this type of ID, is not allowed to buy a phone or contract.” They did not use the word NIE, but basically it was a template that looked like a NIE. Anyone who is reading this post and is not living in Spain, a NIE is an identity card for foreigners including fellow EU Members. Spaniards have their own idenitity card called a DNI. So I called out the worker in this mobile shop and I said “so what you are saying is that if you do not have a DNI (you are not Spanish), you cannot purchase a mobile withcontract?” He said “what can you do?” I told him it was very racist and discriminatory, but he did not seem to care.

    I have had no problems getting phones with a contract from major providers like VODAFONE, ORANGE, and JAZZTEL. This guy (and the owner), were just discriminatory
    pricks. This happened in the Tetuan neighbourhood of Madrid (which has many Latinos and other ethnicities living there).

    So this is just flat out discrimination to any foreigner despite skin colour. But perhaps the most disturbing happened to me once when I was sitting in a park. I saw an abuelo (grandfather), spanking and being downright awful to his African (adopted), grandson. Now if you know anything about Spaniards, grandparents are so loving and doting with their kids, but this man looked like he was disgusted and ashamed to be with this little African boy in the playground. I observed him on many other occasions and his behaviour was consistent. I have never seen a grandparent treat their grandchild like this. This all played down to colour and racism.

    Recently I also watched a makeover show in which they made over a woman who had an African boyfriend. To make a long story short, they went around Madrid asking people what they think of her relationship, and the comments were overwhelmingly racist. One man said “I would kill my daughter if she ended up with a black.” The hostess of the show even commented “what kind of country do we live in?”

    So yeah anyone vehemently denying that racism exists here, just open your eyes. I am a teacher here and I always hear students doubting the authenticity of a brown-skinned English teacher from the UK. One jerk was describing his past teacher (a man born in England of Indian descent),
    as “English”using air quotations. He doubted that this man was a native English speaker. It is those times that I want to say:


  31. Hi all, I am Spanish and I am very upset reading these comments. I know there are racist people around the world, I do not think Spaniards are racists at all, in fact all generalizations are false. As for the Indian billionaire who says Spaniards are shit europe, greetings and recommend spending his millions on education ( it is a pity dont spend your money in a good cause) . I do not think the Spanish are more racist than any other people … Wherever we have gone we have mixed with the local population, such as in South America. That has not happened for example with the English; I’ve been twice in India and I have not seen just mixtures, after so many years of British colonization seems incredible that there has been intermarriage for instance …. that has not happened in any place where the Spaniards have arrived. .. Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela; Cuba, the Philippines … I just want to apologize if any of you felt bad in Spain for comments because of his race …. but do not think that’s a general problem in Spain. Regards

  32. There was a report way back about some Spanish people being called darkies and racially attacked in Russia, apparently in very white countries the Mediterranean looks of most Spanish people is not classed as white in some places (Russia being one) – The Spanish complained bitterly about that attack and reference to Spanish not being white – but here are the same Spanish people racially profiling others.

    The Spanish are a genetic mix of Europeans, Africans, gypsies, moor and whatever else. You will think they will be more understanding of other cultures and treat others with equality and dignity!

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