Racism gains in Europe

June 17, 1994|By Clarence Lusane

THERE is a specter haunting Europe -- it's racism.

Behind the recent, elaborate celebrations of D-Day lurks an ugly reality: Racist and even fascist movements are gaining ground. Italy has elected a right-wing president who has brought neo-fascists into the government for the first time since World War II.

Across Europe, countries are adopting restrictive immigration policies, and racial assaults are rising.

With the development of the European Union, the fall of the Eastern European socialist states, and the reunification of Germany, it appeared that Europe was on the verge of becoming one of the most democratic regions of the globe. Socially, culturally, politically and economically the region is seen as setting a standard for the 21st century.

But now the estimated 16 million people of color in the member states of the EU are visible targets of both state and nonstate harassment and attacks.

In a recent visit to England and France it was clear to me that, as one observer has noted, blacks in Europe wear their passports on their face. In the airports, only people of color were stopped and their belongings searched -- despite the official policy of harassment-free travel and movement between the 12-nation European Union.

On the streets of Paris, under the authority of new, hard-line immigration laws, gendarmes frequently stop blacks and ask for identification. The French government is pursuing a goal of "zero immigration," clearly a move to curb the influx of Algerian Arabs and North African blacks. France has also escalated its campaign of deportation of people of color, as have England, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Avowed racist and fascist candidates have won legislative seats in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Italy, where new rightist Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has included a wide range of fascists in his new coalition government. Even the Left has race problems: Darcia Valent, one of three black women members of the European Parliament and an outspoken opponent of Berlusconi, quit the Italian Communist Party, charging it with racism and discrimination.

In England, according to government figures, there were more than 130,000 racist incidents in the past year -- including 14 deaths. Racial incidents involving stabbings and beatings by youth gangs are weekly occurrences. Deportations of blacks are brutalizing and sometimes deadly affairs. Dorothy Nwokedi, a 31-year-old Nigerian, was put on a plane in shackles, her mouth sealed with tape, and both thumbs broken. In the most notorious case to date, Joy Gardner, a 40-year-old Jamaican, died at the hands of immigration and police officials while she was manacled and gagged.

Even the widely publicized and celebrated Channel Tunnel is being brought into the effort to contain Europe's blacks. A

compartment has been built on the train, complete with bars and shackle points, that will be used to transport "undesirable" migrants and refugees who are being deported.

This attitude is not confined to the Continent. When rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg came to perform in England, the London Daily Star ran a front-page headline that blared, "Send this Evil Bastard Back." Other black American rappers and black films from the United States have been attacked with similar vitriol.

The EU frequently holds itself up to the world as a model of human development. Unfortunately, the rising tide of racial discrimination and the resurgence of fascism makes the New European Order look more like Old World Racism. Apparently, for the governments of Europe, the theme of the century will be "No blacks need apply."

Clarence Lusane is a Washington-based writer and activist.

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