Europe is watching the turmoil in the US with anger and horror. George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in police custody after Officer Derek Chauvin restrained him by pressing his knee against the handcuffed man’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death was just the latest in a long line of police killings of black men in America, but in this case the frustrations boiled over into protests.
The demonstrations have been mostly peaceful across the US, but there have been scenes of violence and even looting. The response from US President Donald Trump has been to “inspect” the White House bunker, threaten to deploy the military against US citizens, and tweet out statements so divisive and incendiary they earned a rare public rebuke from Twitter for “glorifying violence”.
However, Europe should not imagine racism is a uniquely American problem. If Europeans want to do something to affect positive change, they should turn to the situation in their own countries. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights reports that racism in the EU is “widespread and entrenched”. Research by Harvard University into implicit racial bias among over 288,000 white Europeans shows they were “slower to associate Blackness with positive words such as ‘Good’ or ‘Nice’ and faster to associate Blackness with negative concepts such as ‘Bad’ or ‘Evil””.
Is the problem of racism in Europe getting worse? And, if so, are racist politicians to blame for ‘normalising’ hate speech? In Italy, polling has found that racism became more acceptable during far-right politician Matteo Salvini’s time in government; for the first time in a decade, a majority of Italians did not condemn racism totally, and 45% felt racism was justified. There has been academic research suggesting our norms against racist speech have been eroding as it becomes more common.
Has racism become socially acceptable again? If so, who is responsible for this shift in language? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!