Black Lives Matter. In a resolution passed in the summer of 2020, the European Parliament denounced white supremacy, condemned the “appalling” death of George Floyd in the United States, and supported peaceful protests. The Parliament also urged concrete steps to address structural racism and discrimination. Will those calls be answered by action at the Member State level?
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Bart, who believes racism has actually decreased in his country (Belgium). His view seems at odds with reports from organisations such as the Fundamental Rights Agency and the Council of Europe, the latter of which has expressed alarm at the “increasing influence of ultra-nationalistic and xenophobic politics across Europe”.
To get a sense of the current state of racism across Europe (and whether it is growing worse), we spoke to Ojeaku Nwabuzo, Senior Research Officer at the European Network Against Racism. What would she say?
I wonder how he came to that conclusion. What was his comment based on, and which data sets has he seen? If you look at general hate crime figures, specifically for Belgium, officially I think they were around 1,568 recorded in 2019. In 2015, the number of hate crimes recorded officially was around 880. So, each year between 2015 and 2019 there has been an increase. Now, these are overall hate crime statistics but they predominantly include those with a racial bias, and so the most physical forms of racism (in the form of hate crimes) has definitely gone up in Belgium. I would say that this is a trend you would see in most countries. The annual figures can fluctuate a little bit, but the general overall trend is that those sorts of crimes are increasing; definitely in Belgium, and I think we can see the same in many other reports.
There was a recent report produced by the Council of Europe looking at racism, and they were very clear in saying that there’s a rising tide across Europe of racism, xenophobia, and intolerance – and not just in the form of hate crimes, but also other, more structural institutional forms of racism that you would see with the police and in the job market, for example. It affects migrants, and it affects black people, and it affects Muslims, Jewish people, and Roma across Europe. So this is the Council of Europe saying that there is a rise in racism and discrimination and xenophobia. However, we also have to acknowledge that it’s not so easy to track the more subtle forms of racism. Hate crimes are very easy to track, and in some cases you can test to see racism and discrimination in employment. But the more structural, systemic forms of racism are hard to track. It’s hard to know how that is either increasing or decreasing over the years. So, yes, I would say that’s my answer to that question. And I’m really interested to know where Bart’s assumptions came from.
For another perspective, we also put Bart’s comment to Dr. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, a German Green MEP. How would she respond?
I don’t think it’s easy to determine a trend across Europe. It’s difficult to confirm without curated data on discrimination for each country, which we don’t have. But, in any case, if you look at all the structural barriers to inclusion, I see it as a bit of a red herring to say that ‘racism has decreased’. That’s my opinion.
Moreover, in recent years we have, unfortunately, witnessed a number of suspicious deaths and aggravated violence against people from minorities at the hands of police. This was the case in Belgium, with the recent case of the young man Ibrahima B. who was stopped by the police and died during his arrest. In addition, we can see the rise of extremist politics and political rhetoric which contributes to racism.
My question would be, rather: How can we proceed in order to eliminate structural racism? How can we tackle the roots of the problem? I believe that European society is increasingly attentive to the problem of racism and this is already a good start.
Have Black Lives Matter protests had an impact in Europe? Are European countries doing enough to tackle structural racism? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!