Comment of the Day
Blogger Mike Bawden responds to my earlier post:
As an American doing business with people from all around the world (most of whom are located in Europe) and as a student of European history, let me say that racism is alive and well in all of Europe - not just France. The problem is that American culture tends to bring the associated violence and struggle to the surface (through the media) more often than it does in Europe. The cultural clashes in this country also tend to be more visibly obvious (i.e. "black" versus "white"; "latin" versus "anglo") than in parts of Europe.
While it has been easy for many Europeans to look at race problems and civil rights struggles in the USA with disdain, they have too often ignored the tribal differences in their own cultures that underly their own problems with ethnicity, culture and religion.
Second generation Arabs living in France, for example, are expected to consider themselves to be "French" first and to lose their national identity or face osterization. The concept of "African-Germans" or "Arab-French" is difficult if not impossible for many Europeans to handle. The problem, of course, is that even for those ethnic minorities who adopt their new mother country, they're often still treated as "lesser equals" by society at-large. Germans of Turkish ancestry, for example, may speak the mother tounge (German), spend their entire lives in-country and be educated in German schools, yet still not even have the right to vote in German elections because they are considered "Turkish."
I foresee these problems becoming increasingly difficult for Europeans as the EU continues to develop and bring more opportunities to a wide variety of European ethnicities. Conservative elements will become more radicalized - nationalistic, even. Liberals will become more frustrated with an inability to find consensus in the "European" fashion (i.e. from the top down) while ethnic minorities continue to try and find their voice in government, media and business.
It's an exciting time in Europe. And if Americans want to do more than stand on the sidelines, we would be smart to study the lessons we've learned from our on-going civil rights struggles and offer to help all parties involved.
Mike makes a point here that I forgot to mention but have heard of. Racism is alive and well in Europe and I've seen stories of Turkish Germans that have lived in Germany all their lives and are still not seen as Germans. With all our problems, the United States has tried to create a multi-ethinic society. It might be that Europe is much slower on that mark.