I recently received a letter from the University of Tartu alerting me that the Regional Security Officer at the American Embassy in Tallinn would be in town to discuss an "event" that occurred involving an American student; an American student of African heritage.
Of course I didn't go and meet the officer. I had wood to load into the ahi and ice to remove from my windshield. I had a bad feeling though that another student of non-European descent had fallen prey to the skinheads of Tartu.
I have heard several second-hand stories of black or Asian students accosted late at night by purposefully bald-headed gentlemen who feel it is their personal duty to ward off such undesirable persons from their City of Good Thoughts. Usually, nobody gets hurt. The message, though, is clear. You may recall how the efforts of the purposefully bald allegedly caused the Dutch ambassador and his Cubano* male partner to leave Tallinn three years ago.
What to do? In these situations I pity law enforcement. You can't really arrest people for being purposefully bald or listening to message-driven heavy metal music or having tattoos. If you choose to decorate your living room with swastikas, that's your prerogative. The politsei have real business to attend to, like stopping crazy drivers on the Tartu-Tallinn road.
And besides, how do you know the purposefully bald gentleman in question might be a threat to society? He could just be a Hare Krishna. And if you try to track down a perpetrator, who has perhaps fled to the secret lair of the bald, how could you identify him? "What color eyes did he have?" "Blue." "What color hair?" "Skin."
But then students from outside Estonia come to visit the land of free wireless and online voting and they get harassed by some genuinely scary dudes. I once was held up for cash by a very intimidating purposefully bald man dressed in leather in Tallinn. He explained to me in Estonian, then Russian, then Finnish, and finally English (I was too amazed by the tattoo on his face to respond) that I should loan him some money. I obliged him; he seemed threatening, even though our ancestors both come from Europe.
Another time a pack of prematurely bald young men passed me on the street, one gave me the evil eye, to which I answered back a boisterous "tere päevast!" I secretly ponder what is the position of the baldheaded on persons of Mediterranean background. Did we spend too much time in the kiln of the creator or were we baked just right? In any case, we are probably low on the list: I mean, who has time for pestering paesans when there might be an unsuspecting Indian student on the next block?
I really have no idea what the solution is here, and I am not sure the Regional Security Officer at the American Embassy would know either. Without a crime, even a hate crime, there is no criminal. And even if you haul the perpetrator before the court, it's only one person, not an entire way of thought, that is on trial. As a resident of this city, I genuinely empathize for those people who are darker than blue. At the same time, I feel powerless when it comes to finding solutions.