As a foreigner, I think it is easy to forget that other countries struggle with similar issues as we do in the US. Being in Russia has opened my eyes to something that is not often discussed when going abroad – ethnicity and racism. We all know that we struggle with race relations in America. Although I think most of us realize that this is not unique to the United States, I think it is often forgotten that all countries struggle with it in different forms. Countries do not all have the same demographics, but there are always marginalized groups of people everywhere.
Just when walking around Moscow I could see the diverse population. Russia is a multinational state with around 185 different ethnic groups and nationalities. Most people live just fine side by side, but there were some instances where people voiced prejudgments against certain ethnic groups or where it was obvious that certain ethnic groups were excluded from society. For example, one Russian student made a comment about Uzbeks in Russia. Uzbeks is one of the most discriminated against minorities in Russia because of cultural and racial differences. The student made a remark about Uzbeks coming to Russia to take money and that the men would rape Russian women – generalizing a whole ethnic group into a preconceived idea of what Uzbeks are like. Meanwhile many Uzbeks in Russia struggle to find good employment and I saw multiple Uzbeks working on the street as street entertainers for tourists, dressing up in various costumes.
I also noticed many Romani people on the street, many of them homeless. As I am originally from Europe, I have seen this many times before and it is not unique to Russia. As with other marginalized minorities, Romani people face a lot of prejudice and can therefore struggle finding employment, often leading to a life on the streets and without homes. When walking through the underground tunnels at night, we would see several individuals sleeping on the ground and leaning against the wall – many of which were Romani.
This experience allowed me to explore multiple areas of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as various groups of people struggle with different aspects of life. However, I believe that goals number 10 of reducing inequalities can improve multiple areas for the people being marginalized. If we can reduce inequalities amongst different people, then the quality of life will improve as the barriers to finding a job or a home will minimize. The problem is that sometimes inequalities are not just systematic or institutionalized, but rather cultural and subconscious. This is an area where change is more difficult.