A lot of people would prefer that I blog about tech issues that I matter to them, or categorize for what they really need. Sorry, skip this post. It's a thing that matters when you go beyond the techno-utopian threads of the Valley, or go beyond being a tourist in the rest of the world.
The other night we were walking through the most public place in beautiful Old Town Tallinn, Estonia, and something reminded me how ugly this place can be. Some guy, presumably for his bachelor party, was dressed up as black man, face painted and wearing an afro wig. One of his friends was having him giving him a shoe shine.
I don't have pictures, for fear of smacking the ignorant son-of-a-bitch with my cell phone. Instead, I gave him the word. Many of the words were not nice, and the main one was racist. At risk, I freaked them out.
A friend of mine once told me that when she saw her first black man in Estonia, she thought he was made of chocolate. The problem is pure ignorance, not a superiority complex or more pure intolerance that you find in other countries.
Maybe my problem is that I come from the most vigilantly tolerant of cultures, that of the Bay Area (yes, America is actually made up of many regional and distinct cultures, you can't blame us all for Bush). It's not my problem, but I make it my own, because it really is. To be sure, this place is changing and it is more diverse than ever. In fact, it isn't even a racist culture, but it needs to change from where they are on the scale, damn quick. Ignorance is solvable.
Estonia has had a real issue with occupational Russian minority (30%, the rational-at-a-time source of legal barriers for inclusion), but it seems to easily forget that with the fall of the wall it sought inclusion from the rest of the world for more than security. Now their economic freedom is at risk, not just for the need of immigration reform, but cultural tolerance. Accession should be an uplifting process. The EU will see to that, as immigrants will come from all stripes. So be ready, little country, because you can.
UPDATE: Please read this thoughtful comment by Kalju Rüütli. Taken together, this conversation provides a more complete picture of the issue. Americans would also do well to consider his comments on our Administration.