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RACISM IN EUROPE IN THE AGE OF OBAMA

 

By Lee Jasper

Tuesday, May 24, 2011.

I don’t think I will ever forget the election of President Obama. I was celebrating my birthday with friends at a special US election night party as the results came tumbling in demonstrating a huge landslide for President Barack Hussein Obama. I had never believed I would witness such an event in my lifetime. I felt moved by the poignancy of the movement representing it did as the culmination for many of one aspect of the dream of Dr Martin Luther King.

The incredibly high expectations of what just one black man, even in the office of President, could reasonably achieve was always going to lead to some level of disappointment. In looking at the President’s first term in office he remains I believe a force for good.

Having said that, I seriously disagree with some aspects of his foreign and domestic policies particularly on the unacceptable state racism of Israel and Australia, his failure to tackle the inner city economic apartheid faced by too many poor African Americans.

The President and the beautiful first Lady Michelle Obama begin their European tour with a visit to Ireland the birthplace of his great great-grandfather.

In Europe, the president enjoys spectacular high approval ratings in most cases higher rating than those enjoyed by European heads of state including our own David Cameron. President Obama is hugely popular in Europe.

So the scene is set for a tour that no doubt will be successful. As the President meets with our own Prime Minister no doubt the issues of Afghanistan and Libya, Syria and Israel and the global economy will loom large on the agenda.

I addition to these issues there are other issues that in my own humble opinion should be up for discussion.

First the frightening reality of relentless increase of racism across Europe. It has to be of concern to the President that outside of his own agenda Europe is witnessing a huge revival in extreme right wing and unashamedly and sometime viciously right wing and racist parties. France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Sweden among others are becoming increasingly antebellum in their attitudes towards black Europeans and Muslims.

Racist attacks and Islamophobia are on the rise right across Europe. Black people are being brutally murdered right across Europe by white racist mobs in ever increasing numbers. Islam as a religion in being driven scapegoated and driven underground by the banning of the building of mosques and the wearing of burkha's.

The President should be concerned that the rights of some estimated 25 Million people of African descent and millions of Muslims are being swept up in a fevered hysteria that passes for reasoned debate on multiculturalism in Europe. The President should condemn the rise of European racism and take on those European leaders who whilst championing human rights of those abroad continue to allow fundamental human rights abuses at home.

The President should reinforce and remind the European leaders that one the most important and progressive aspects of American society is the reality that regardless of wherever you come from you too can be an American.

Here in the UK, although Cameron and the nation speak the words and can articulate the theoretical conception of an inclusive one nation citizenship, in reality there remains a strong cultural perspective that designates black people and Muslims as people deeply problematic. Black people and Muslims are seen as being culturally at odds with largely mythical and ever changing notion of “British values”.

Black people in Britain are tolerated whilst in the US whatever else one may say all nationalities regardless of race are accepted as being part of the American family.

He ought to make mention of Cameron’s blindingly white Cabinet and the fact that our Civil Service remains essentially white Englishmen's private club. That Black unemployment in 2006 in the UK was 16% higher than that of whites. That figure today, in the wake of public sector cuts and the disproportionate impact upon black women is now pushing 20%. Black youth unemployment is I believe today is 60% on average and much higher in some inner city areas.

He should challenge Europe’s racist and hypocritical response to those thousands of African refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe from war, despotism and poverty. In particular, he should address the fact that Italy and France recently left a 61 Africans including two babies who were to starve to death on the high seas despite both nations being completely aware of their desperate plight. He should demand a humanitarian response from Europe and condemn the stinking and violent arrogance of European racism.

He should also point out that whilst not a solution to all of its problems America’s commitment to the principle of restorative justice expressed in the adoption of affirmative action legislation created the conditions where it became possible for an African American to get elected to the office of President. He should pressure Cameron to extend the affirmative action principles enshrined in the Northern Ireland Fair Employment Act to mainland Britain.

He could help by naming and shaming those US-based companies who operate in Europe who are fabulously diverse in the US but who leave their commitment to race equality in a briefcase at John F Kennedy airport. These companies revert to their all white default employment setting on arrival in Europe. He could announce that these firms must adopt serious diversity policies here in Europe.

No doubt the agenda of the Middle East and North Africa along with issues that effect the global economy will dominate discussions however the only thing more frightening than the rise of European racism is the American ignorance of problem.

Lee Jasper is a leading community activist and human rights campaigner. He blogs at http://leejasper.com

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