Simone Hunter, 19, Minneapolis, photo: Widline Cadet for The New Yorker
Simone Hunter, 19, Minneapolis, photo: Widline Cadet for The New Yorker

A great day happened last week. A great day for a black female student at the Medical school of the University of Novi Sad. A great white doctor didn’t kneel on her neck. She didn’t even kick her. She only tried to chase her from the elevator of the Medical school, cursing her and calling her a black cow.

A great day for the black student, not only because the great white doctor did not beat her, but also because the student could have learned (if she felt like it) that there is this thing called the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, which has this beautiful little norm that forbids inciting racial hatred. That norm is beautiful and so generous, because it forbids other hatreds, as well, like those based on nation, religion, etc. Like all other decorative norms, this one does not receive much respect. Because, if it did, Serbia today would not have a pantocrator who once used his chauvinistic scales to weigh the value of one Serbian life as equal to one hundred Muslim ones.

The beautiful, and yet so disrespected, norm has already given wings to the great white doctor for her future defense if the legislative establishment decides to “attack” her. First, the recording of her shameful hatred is illegal, it was recorded without her consent. Second, the video is not complete, because before that, the great white doctor claims, the “black cow” insulted her. Forgetting, even though the defense was in writing, so there is an assumption that at least a little thought was given to it, that she could have responded to the alleged insults by calling the student just a cow, of no particular color. She is not a racist, says the great white doctor, it was just a “neighbors’” quarrel. How, exactly, are the two of them neighbors, if the incident happened in the elevator in the building of the Medical school? And how does the great white doctor quarrel with other neighbors? Does she call them white cows, if they dare to enter the protected area of a white elevator?

The white doctor has also learned something from our pantocrator. Yes, the recording was “taken out of context.” But no, just like with the pantocrator, there is no grounds for contextual defense: both recordings show both the context and the outburst; in just a few sentences.

It is a great day for the black student, because, in addition to the beautiful constitutional norm, there was an even more beautiful official statement from the Clinical center of Vojvodina, which condemns the white doctor who is their employee, despite the fact that the white elevator is not in the building of the Clinical center. But in the building of the Medical school. Which the great white doctor graduated from, and which the black student is studying at.

A great day, because the student could learn that there are people ready to publicly condemn the racist outburst of the white doctor. But also that there are those who defend the doctor, because “we live in the age of Corona,” and more than one person in an elevator is a danger. The great white doctor, however, did not wear a mask while pouring racist insults into the student’s face.

Thus, according to the doctor, and not only her, Corona becomes an excuse for racism.

This student is not the only one whose skin color was a “suitable” excuse at this time. John Sande, a medical student in Belgrade, died on April 29th. He was complaining of severe abdominal pain, but three health institutions refused to admit him because he didn’t have the Coronavirus. And he was black. This student died more than two months ago. Cause of death – still unknown.

The catastrophy caused by Corona has indeed proved useful – for the government, a state of emergency is easily declared, and just as easily abolished in the name of the sacred elections, which cannot be legally postponed, as the prime minister wisely taught us; for the professionals – it is a new virus, no one knows anything, whether a person died from the virus or a heart attack, who knows, just write down “heart attack”; for the racists – one black woman is forced out of the elevator for fear of Corona, the other one didn’t receive medical attention, because he didn’t have Corona.

It was a great day for the discriminated student, because numerous Belgrade tabloids reported about the incident. The same ones whose front pages scream discriminatory headlines against Albanians, Bosniaks, and Others of various colors, nations, religions. And who celebrate Trump as an ethnic white Serb. The same Trump who, after George Floyd was killed by the state, declared a posthumous great day for him, because the American constitution has similar beautiful norms on equality and non-discrimination.

There is no good defense for our white doctor from the Constitution of Serbia. The only defense is disrespect of that same Constitution. Unfortunately, this is common practice here, practised even by the Constitutional Court itself.

We’ve never had a lack of racism towards dark-skinned people. This time, however, it was filmed.

If the great white doctor defends herself from the Constitution, only the nausea of such an empty, yet beautiful norm will remain. A big yuck. To all of us.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 07.07.2020.

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Vesna Rakić Vodinelić
Vesna Rakić Vodinelić, beogradska pravnica, 1975-1998. predaje na državnom pravnom fakultetu u Beogradu, gde kao vanredna profesorka dobija otkaz posle donošenja restriktivnog Zakona o univerzitetu i dolaska Olivera Antića za dekana. Od 1987. članica Svetskog udruženja za procesno pravo. 1998-1999. pravna savetnica Alternativne akademske obrazovne mreže (AAOM). 1999-2001. rukovodi ekspertskom grupom za reformu pravosuđa Crne Gore. Od 2001. direktorka Instituta za uporedno pravo. Od 2002. redovna profesorka Pravnog fakulteta UNION, koji osniva sa nekoliko profesora izbačenih sa državnog fakulteta. Od 2007. članica Komisije Saveta Evrope za borbu protiv rasne diskriminacije i netolerancije. Aktivizam: ljudska prava, nezavisnost pravosuđa. Politički angažman: 1992-2004. Građanski savez Srbije (GSS), 2004-2007. frakcija GSS-a ’11 decembar’, od 2013. bila je predsednica Saveta Nove stranke, a ostavku na taj položaj podnela je u aprilu 2018, zbog neuspeha na beogradskim izborima. Dobitnica nagrade „Osvajanje slobode“ za 2020. godinu.
Vesna Rakić Vodinelić

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