THEIR HANDS ON OUR FACE

There aren’t any “rules”, really. There are not even any perverted rules, something to go by. All they care about is submission. Total submission of whoever stands before them…

“While we are talking here, right this minute, someone out there is being beaten”. This was one of the first things said by Nicodemus Maina Kinyua, one of the speakers in a recent panel discussion on the rise of neonazism in Greece.

Nicodemus is of African descent, but after 27 years in Greece has managed to get the Greek nationality. So he was not there as a “stranger” among Greeks, but as an Afro-Greek. He is also a member of NGO Asante, an organization that aims to support young people with immigrant backgrounds.

The discussion lasted quite a while. Those of us who listened to Nicodemus –absolutely all of us white and, with few exceptions, Greek– no doubt felt our chests tighten as he spoke.

That same night, a little after midnight, a young white man is walking in central Athens. He has a camera swung round his shoulder, but he is not taking pictures. As soon as he turns a corner into a narrow lane, two heavy-set men block his path. He tries to swerve, but it is too late.

“I’ll stick that camera up your ass”, says one of them.

He pretends not to hear and carries on.

They run after him. Another three guys join them. All young, none over 25, one of them wears a t-shirt that reads: “Golden Dawn”.

They did not stick the camera up his ass. He got off with ten stitches in his mouth.

This young man –a white Greek, as it happens– is a friend of mine. Why did they beat him?

Because that is what they believe in. There aren’t any “rules”, really. There are not even any perverted rules, something to go by. They do not care for Greekness or heterosexuality or the specter of Communism. All they care about is submission. Total submission of whoever stands before them.

Nicodemus warned us, but my mind just didn’t go there. Stereotypes affect us all. Nicodemus is Greek, but he was still an Other.

My friend can hardly speak to me through his swollen mouth. As we talk, he looks at his bruised face in the mirror.

“I can see their hands on my face. I feel sick. Do you understand?”

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