UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN EUROPE
(HELSINKI COMMISSION) HOLDS HEARING:
THE STATE OF (IN)VISIBLE BLACK EUROPE: RACE, RIGHTS & POLITICS
APRIL 29, 2008
REP. ALCEE L. HASTINGS, D-FLA., CHAIRMAN
REP. LOUISE M. SLAUGHTER, D-N.Y.
REP. MIKE MCINTYRE, D-N.C.
REP. HILDA L. SOLIS, D-CALIF.
REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD, D-N.C.
REP. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, R-N.J.
REP. ROBERT B. ADERHOLT, R-ALA.
REP. MIKE PENCE, R-IND.
REP. JOSEPH R. PITTS, R-PENN.
SEN. BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, D-MD., CO-CHAIRMAN
SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.
SEN. RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD, D-WIS.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.
SEN. JOHN F. KERRY, D-MASS.
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, R-KAN.
SEN. GORDON H. SMITH, R-ORE.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R-GA.
SEN. RICHARD BURR, R-N.C.
REP. BARBARA LEE, D-CALIF.
REP. DONALD PAYNE, D-N.J.
MR. DAVID KRAMER,
BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR,
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
MR. JOE FRANS,
UNITED NATIONS WORKING GROUP ON PEOPLE OF
AND FORMER SWEDISH PARLIAMENTARIAN
MR. GARY YOUNGE,
THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER
DR. ALLISON BLAKELY,
AUTHOR AND HISTORIAN,
DR. PHILOMENA ESSED,
EQUAL TREATMENT COMMISSION
DR. CLARENCE LUSANE,
INTERNATIONAL RACE POLITICS AUTHOR,
The hearing was held at 9:58 a.m. in Room B-318, Rayburn House
Office Building, Washington, D.C., Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman, moderating.
HASTINGS: Good morning. Let me call the hearing to order.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your answers in this morning hearing
focused on the experience of blacks in Europe.
For many years I've traveled through Europe as a tourist, member of Congress,
president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and now as chairman of the
Helsinki Commission. On those trips I'd also meet other black people living or
traveling in Europe, who were thrilled to meet another black person.
This was especially true when I was traveling in the former Soviet Union. Not
always so thrilling were the stories they would share with me of the racism
And worse, I, too, was the victim of racial profiling by authorities and
blatant discrimination, such as when I was refused service in several
establishments in different places in Europe. My memory serves me several
times at the Frankfurt Airport, in Madrid, and in other places that one would
not normally expect that to occur.
In this regard there are a number of similarities between my experiences as a
black American and those of black Europeans. So one central goal of this
hearing is to highlight and address the very real problems of racism and
discrimination faced by black Europeans.
Another goal is also to recall the contributions blacks have made to Europe and
the world by removing the cloak of invisibility that for so long has shown as a
Recognizing and de-mythologizing the roles of blacks in European history and
modern day society has become a necessity, given the rise of virulent
anti-immigrant campaigns that target non-whites in the aftermath of 9/11 and
the London bombings. Whether blacks were forced or chose to assist in Europe's
development, they did play a role that should be noted.
As globalization continues to bring the world closer together, how European
countries choose to define themselves and their peoples affects all of us and
will most certainly affect how I am viewed, as well as others, and treated
within Europe's borders.
The third goal of this hearing is to then develop partnerships with those
overseas committed to addressing these problems. Too often we highlight the
problems within countries without noting the efforts that are being made, be
they government, civil society or even the private sector.
The OSCE high commissioner on national minorities, as well as the EU
fundamental rights agency, has compiled reports on European countries' positive
initiatives, ranging from affirmative action to housing and education and
These are all efforts that have already been tried in the United States, and we
need to be asking ourselves how we can best extend a helping hand so that
Europeans don't repeat some of the mistakes we made here in developing and
implementing these programs.
The fourth point, which requires us to be honest with ourselves, is that there
a number of very real barriers to addressing inclusion goals for black
Europeans, ranging from the small size of some communities to a need for
differences in approach for recent migrant versus more established communities.
I'm glad to have such esteemed witnesses here today to present thoughts on all
these issues. And I'd like to introduce Mr. Frans from Sweden and Mr. Younge
joining us from the U.K. via New York to speak about their work.
Unfortunately, due to scheduling constraints around Mr. Kodjoe's schedule --
he's in the Broadway play, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" -- he's been unable to be
here today. He has, however, indicated his support for this and future
initiatives on blacks in Europe and asked that I enter his statement in the
record, which I will.
I would also at this time like to enter the statements of some of our European
friends, the Initiative of Black Germans, the Diaspora Afrique, and the Black
European Women's Congress.
We've been joined by assistant secretary of state, my colleague and
commissioner, David Kramer, who is the assistant secretary of state for
democracy, human rights and labor. And Commissioner Kramer, I give you the
KRAMER: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. It's good to be with you this
morning. Thank you very much for convening this hearing this morning on a very
important subject. And I very much look forward to hearing the witnesses. I
appreciate your opening comments, and I think without further ado, I turn it
over back to you.
HASTINGS: We will start, then, with Joe Frans, who is the vice chair of the
United Nations Working Group on People of African Descent and former Swedish
Mr. Frans, I didn't have much time this morning, but I imagine you know Goran
Lennmarker, who was my immediate successor in the Parliamentary Assembly. And
he will be followed by Gary Younge, who is a British columnist in the Guardian
Newspaper. And their resumes are on the table outside, so I won't go into all
of their curriculum vitae.
So, Mr. Frans, if I could start with you, please, sir? And then we will have
our second panel come up.
FRANS: Thank you, Chairman Hastings, Commissioner Kramer, ladies and
gentlemen. It is indeed a great pleasure and honor to be with you here today,
and I'm very, very pleased that you have chosen the topic of African diaspora
of blacks in Europe for this particular hearing.
It is timely intervention and a most relevant one. This is simply because
Europe is currently undergoing a soul searching experience of its own. And I
think this dialogue can contribute to that.
A few weeks ago a good friend of mine from Sweden, the mayor of Sodertalje, was
here to witness, and I'd like to say that I endorse every bit of what he said.
And also I am very thankful that the chair raised the issue on the floor of he
House, which I wish to thank you for.
I'd like to begin this brief presentation by paying tribute to the millions of
African people abducted and enslaved and to those who sacrificed their lives in
the fighting for national liberation in Africa and in the diaspora. They have
inspired us, and they have inspired our thinking and indeed generated our
current desire to contribute as a diaspora to the development of Africa and to
the people of humanity as a whole.
The African diaspora consists of people of African origin living outside the
continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality, and who are
willing to contribute to the development of the continent of Africa and the
building of Africans.
Today there are over 3.3 million people of African descent living in Europe.
This is according to the Eurostat, but we know that it is much more than that.
HASTINGS: Could you repeat the figure again for me? I'm sorry. I was
FRANS: This is the figure from the Eurostat. It states that 3.3 million
people of African descendant, out of which, I should say, over about a million
come from south Sahara in Africa.
In the post-World War II area, the need for cheap labor to rebuild Europe
resulted in the influx of Africans to Europe. The post-independence era
further generated an inflow of African students, and political conflicts in
Africa itself, the Cold War and the related global competition for economic
development have also generated an inflow of asylum seekers and refugees. And
in addition, there has been a steady stream of African-European families who
have chosen to settle in Europe as a matter of choice.
Today, besides the above reasons, the benefits of the trickle of migrants are
double-sided. On the one hand, the reserve of cheap labor, often described as
unwanted, is viewed by the regulator (ph) as being in the flow of migrants
across the Mediterranean in scranty (ph) boats and with life itself at stake
and literally swimming the last mile.
On the other hand, the question of whether attracting and sourcing highly
skilled migrants from Africa to Europe are needed to sustain gains for Africa
must be weighed. Basically, African countries are funding the education of
their nationals, only to see them contributing to other countries' growth and
development of other countries, with seemingly little or no return on their
And yet at closer look, Africans are contributing to the development of
Europe's identity and European identity and of the African continent itself.
Some estimate that the Africans working abroad send home some $45 billion a
year. That's bigger than the total development aid and also bigger than the
total current direct investment in Africa.
What we need to do is to galvanize this amount into something that one could
term as diaspora direct investment to make it more visible and to use it in the
development of Africa.
However, the challenges of integrating the new workforce in Europe itself
remain. After the concluding session of the European Congress at (inaudible)
in 2002, a political declaration was adopted by the ministers of the council of
Europe member states, and in that document the government concluded that the
continued and violent occurrence of racism is an issue of concern and that
challenges of integrating young people, immigrants and other groups remain,
especially in the labor market, where discrimination is present.
A report presented by the British Trade Union Congress had views that at every
level of working life, many black workers are being denied training
opportunities, despite often being better qualified than their counterparts.
Discriminatory practices at work are still preventing too many workers in
Europe with African descent from fulfilling their potential. However,
statistics in the public domain to support arguments of violence and
discrimination in the workplace in Europe are embarrassingly lacking. Without
official statistics, effective responses cannot be devised.
One of the most common indicators of labor market inequality is the rate of
unemployment of former immigrants and minorities. In 2005, it was reported
that the unemployment rates for such groups were all significantly higher than
for the majority population in many European countries.
It is quite clear that there are thousands of Africans, people of African
descent, living in miserable conditions in Europe. Those without legal
documents have no access to the welfare state, are exploited as cheap labor,
and have no human rights at all.
Quite clearly, then, racism and discrimination are relevant to understanding
the commonality of challenges of people of African descent in Europe.
The most important sectors, I believe, which we need to address in coming to
terms with the everyday racism, but also structured racism and discrimination,
still remain within the sectors of housing, of education, in the criminal
justice system and in the health sector.
Yet, Mr. Chairman, let me say that there are also positive stories to tell
about the integration of blacks in Europe. There are also success stories to
talk about. All countries have constitutional frameworks against
discrimination, and there are institutional organizations like the Ombudsmen
and other institutions in Europe that work and are working actively to combat
racism and discrimination.
And there are many successful legal stories in politics and policy dialogue in
business and education.
And yet I have chosen to focus my brief presentation on those issues that
demand our attention in framing policy -- those issues that need solutions,
those issues that need debate, and those issues that will define our future in
defending the integrity of the human creation as such.
Those issues are integration, migration, discrimination as such, and
development as a whole in shaping the new European identity. I think we cannot
but have to deal with these issues in those sectors that I have mentioned;
otherwise, we will come to a situation where the society will come into
conflict with itself.
Mr. Chairman, one policy idea that could benefit from your support is the
promotion of what I call the transatlantic dialogue on the experiences of
I think black Europe could benefit from that kind of dialogue on how our
brothers and sisters here in the United States have done and share the
experiences and together help to create and formulate new ideas and help
structure a new European identity.
I would welcome both your support and assistance in making this happen. Thank
HASTINGS: I'm very pleased to have been joined by my good friend and colleague
from California, Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Congresswoman Lee is not a member
of the Helsinki Commission, but she is a distinguished internationalist serving
on several committees, including the Foreign Affairs Committee, and has had
substantial involvement in the issue at hand.
If you have anything that you'd like to say at this time, Congresswoman Lee,
you're welcome to do so.
LEE: Well, Congressman Hastings, let me first thank you very much for your
leadership and your vision and your insight, which led to putting this forum
For me personally this is so important. I had the privilege to live in England
in 1964 and 1965. In fact, my oldest son was born in London. And it was
during that period that I met, of course, Africans in the diaspora, people from
the West Indies, from all over, the continent, and especially from Africa.
And it was glaring that we face many of the same problems as African Americans
here. And I often thought wouldn't it be powerful if people of African descent
came together to seek solutions to our common problems, to address what the
realities are, based on what our witnesses are talking about, and come together
to really turn the big issues that we're addressing into real opportunities?
And the power of that would be very awesome.
And so thank you very much. This is a moment to behold.
And I want to welcome our witnesses and thank all of you for being here. I
came back from California late last night so I could be here before and hour or
so before I move on, and I really appreciate that.
HASTINGS: I thank you so much. When we planned this hearing, we thought we
would be in session, and obviously members have to make adjustments
accordingly, and I appreciate you having done so.
LEE: This is so important.
HASTINGS: We have also been joined by Commissioner G.K. Butterfield, my good
friend from North Carolina.
And, G.K., we've just heard from one witness, but in light of the fact G.K. is
a Helsinki commissioner and also a well traveled individual that I've had the
good fortune of traveling with abroad on numerous occasions, if you have any
opening comments, we would welcome them.
BUTTERFIELD: I don't have very many, Mr. Chairman. Let me just thank you for
convening this hearing today. Like Congresswoman Barbara Lee, I came back this
morning as well for this hearing. I looked forward to this day all week. I
did not realize that we would not be in session today, but we made the effort,
and we are here, despite the fact that we had a United States senator in my
district last night.
HASTINGS: Who would that be?
BUTTERFIELD: And we were with him until about midnight. So thank you very
much for the hearing, and I look forward to the remaining witness.
HASTINGS: Thank you very much.
Congresswoman Lee, you spoke of my vision and insight. And you know me --
about people that work with us in these offices, actually I'd like to credit
just for the record Dr. Mischa Thompson, who really has been our brain trust in
this matter. And I did not know that one of our persons that works with us --
just recently in Vienna posted there -- is Winsome Packer. And I looked out
and just happened to see her out there. Winsome also has been helping Dr.
Thompson, as well as the entire Helsinki staff.
Dr. Younge? I haven't gotten away from you yet, so please, sir.
YOUNGE: Chairman Hastings, distinguished members of the commission, thank you
very much for inviting me and convening this meeting.
I want to start with a personal story, which is about my mother, who came from
London from Barbados in the early 60s with a British passport and two A levels
in European history and English literature. She could quote from "A Winter's
Tale," but you seek an hurricane.
And before she left the islands, she was given orientation classes to prepare
for her life in Britain. And they told her to wear flannelette pajamas and a
woolen hat, but they said nothing about people shouting abuse at her in the
My mother came of her own free will, but she also came because she was asked by
the British government, who paid her way. And she was asked to build one of
the nation's most cherished institutions, the National Health Service. Racism
and cold aside, two of the things that would strike her when she arrived were
that most British people seem to know very little about their own country and
even less about the nations their country had occupied.
In the words of Gilbert, a Jamaican immigrant in Andrea Levy's award-winning
novel "Small Island," "I had just one question. Let me ask the mother country
just this one simple question, 'How come England did not know me?'"
Well, these elements of my mother's stories are going to form the basis of my
testimony today, because they draw on some of the central threads of the black
European experience as it stands in difference and similarity to the American
Europe did have a civil rights movement, and it took place at roughly the same
time as the American civil rights movement, and around the same issues, by and
large -- the right to vote, opposition to segregation and a more equal share of
But it did not take place in Europe. For the most part, it primarily took
place abroad in Algeria, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Congo and so on. That's
left the local white indigenous population in Europe with little understanding
of a sense of historical responsibility to those whom it once colonized.
The screams of the oppressed tortured by colonialism were actually continents
away and neither heard nor heeded at home. So it's been little in the way of
moral reckoning with our past. And when it comes to domestic matters, there is
little in the way of historical literacy that would explain either European
power or the presence of non-white people in Europe.
In the words of the venerable director of the Institute of Race Relations in
Britain, Ambalavaner Sivanandan, "We are here because you were there. But if
you didn't know you were there, how could you understand why we are here?"
Ignorance can and has led to severe racial antagonism, which over the past 20
years has reinstalled itself as a permanent fixture in European political
culture. Fascism, or at least a xenophile-based racist and nationalist trait
that (inaudible) allow manifestation, has returned as a mainstream ideology in
Its advocates not only run in elections, but win them. They control local
councils and sit in parliament. In Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France and
Italy, hard right nationalist and anti-immigrant policies regularly receive
more than 10 percent of the vote. In Norway it's 22 percent; in Sweden, 29.
In Austria, the Ravenian (ph) government; in Switzerland, the anti-immigrant
Swiss People's Party, which is the largest party, is still in government, and
(inaudible) after recent elections, they're about to return to government
Now, a central point of these parties' platforms rests on the notion that each
European nation is its own mono-racial and mono-cultural unit into which
non-white people have only recent come and must on entry either conform or be
This, of course, is hinged on an entirely mythical notion of wide European
uniformity, historical illiteracy about the length of time that non-white
people have been in Europe, and a mistaken desire to defend Europeanness
against the uncivilized and the unwashed.
Conversely to this trend on a daily level of cultural interaction, it is
actually difficult to imagine a continent without non-white people. In
literature, music and sport particularly, we have become so inextricably
intertwined into the national fabric that to unpick us would make the whole
In Britain rates of racial intermarriage are high. One in two Caribbean men
and one in three Caribbean women have relationships with white people.
Political culture and popular culture are in dislocation and moving in
It's difficult to imagine Europe with non-white people, but that has not
stopped many from trying. Particularly since September 11th, the push to
assimilate some into a society that one has to educate, employ or respect them
has become particularly intense.
Like many, my mother, who took a low-paid, steady job, the industries that
non-white people came into depended largely on the countries they went to and
came from, but they took the jobs that the local people did not want. And the
industries and sectors our parents went into half for the most shrunk or been
decimated, leaving relatively little opportunities for their children.
In Europe there is no black middle class as such. There are black middle class
individuals, but not class. For their children, the dislocation between our
race and our color and our place where we are appears at times unshakable.
Those who have been in France or Germany for generations are still called
And on that note, Mr. Chairman, I will end with a conversation I had with an
older man in Edinburgh while I was at university about eight or nine years ago,
who asked me where I was from. "Stevenage," I said. "But where were you
born?" "Hitchen," I said, which is the town next door to Steven. "Well,
before that," he asked. "Well, there was no before I was born," I said.
"Well, where are your parents from?" "Barbados," I said. "Well, you're from
Barbados, then," he said. "No," I said, "I'm from Stevenage."
HASTINGS: Very poignant. Thank you very much.
Assistant Secretary Commissioner Kramer, I'll turn to you for any questions you
may pose to our witnesses.
KRAMER: Chairman, thank you.
And my sincere to both witnesses for very powerful presentations here this
If I may, let me ask you as you survey the situation in Europe, which country
do you see as or consider providing the most protection from the wave of
discriminatory movements that we read about, hear about, live with in Europe?
Which countries do you see as providing the greatest protections for non-white
communities in the European continent? Which ones could be viewed as models in
the European Union?
FRANS: Thank you, Commissioner Kramer.
The question -- trying to point out which country provides the greatest
protection is a difficult one to answer in the sense that on the face of it,
all countries of the European Union have adequate protection constitutionally,
institutionally and otherwise.
So it is a difficult one to answer, and the communities are also concentrated
in different places. But let me say this. Those countries that I see
acknowledging the graveness of the issue would certainly be Holland on the one
I see that there's a lot of discussion in the United Kingdom, where the black
community is a very strong one, and also showing that the Council for Racial
Equality was created and the Race Act was also enacted a long time ago.
But this is also where there are big concentrations of black people. Suddenly,
in the country in which I live and work -- Sweden -- I think there is also some
But the answer would be that there are bits and pieces here and there, but on
the whole, a lot needs to be done everywhere.
YOUNGE: I would largely agree with Mr. Frans in terms of the (inaudible)
protection is everywhere. And de facto there is a great deal of flux. Holland
has traditionally been one of the better places, and yet in the last, I would
say, four or five years there has been an alarming rise in the xenophobia.
And one of the particular aspects of the black experience in Europe is that
it's very difficult to remove it from the broader non-white immigrant
experience. So when Islamophobia is on the rise, there is going to be a
general rising of racism and xenophobia.
There are places where there are stronger black communities and where there are
more liberal -- Britain would be one of those, and Holland would be one of
those -- and then there are places where there is a more liberal mindset that
makes it easier. And most of Scandinavia I would camp in that.
But in the last four years or five years there has been such a huge degree of
flux -- Denmark being a good example, with the cartoons of Mohammed -- that it
has become a moving target.
In general what I would say in Europe is that we think we're at a stage where
it has generally been recognized by the constitution or institutionally and
politically that racism is bad. It has yet to be acknowledged that anti-racism
is good as the antidote. So moving from one state to the other is the moment
that we're in here.
KRAMER: If I could ask you, Mr. Frans, you're a former member of the Swedish
parliament. I'm curious about the level of political participation in the
black communities throughout Europe. How would you describe it? Active? Not
FRANS: Oh, very low. I think that there are individual islands of black
citizens here and there. But generally, political participation is very low.
And you'd find one or two people here and there, but the inclusion in the
mainstream politics of black people is something that is still in its very
embryonic status, I would say.
Those who say that recently, because of the triangular shift in policy from
some political parties, many political parties in Europe have shied away in
embracing popular participation, they are told, so as to attract a wider
But the number of blacks going into politics and being part of the political
and trying to shape the political agenda is growing. So you may want to
differentiate also from political participation in terms of voting, as opposed
to representing the whole and being part of the agenda creating.
And voting -- obviously, there is a trend. It is lower than the host
communities or the white communities in Europe. But it is actually very high
in some communities. But political participation is not only voting. It's
much more than that.
KRAMER: And one more, if I may, Mr. Chairman, to Mr. Younge, if I can,
particularly as a journalist -- the role of the media and how you'd describe
YOUNGE: It has generally been quite inflammatory. The best example, really,
is the Jyllands-Posten in Denmark. Now, some of the back-story, which is they
published these cartoons of Mohammed. What was not widely known is that the
year and a half before they had turned down a similar set of cartoons about
Jesus at Easter, because they say it would upset the Christian leadership.
And it can still sell papers. It had to be packaged in a certain way, but
asylum seekers in particular. And the framing of non-white people as
immigrants and criminals is still very common.
The underlying message from the media is that there is an immigrant problem,
but immigrant doesn't necessarily mean people who moved only recently.
Conversely, for almost every trend that you can say is getting worse, you will
find a kind of undercurrent, which is not as strong, but nonetheless
encouraging. It's been getting better.
Suddenly, in Britain, which is the journalistic culture I know best, there is
an increase in non-white journalists. There's been an increase in Muslim
journalists in particular.
I believe that is becoming true in other countries. And also, if you take the
wider media -- particularly if you take literature -- there has been a kind of
real renaissance of black writing in Europe, which is also encouraging in an
age where actually lots of people don't read newspapers.
LEE: Thank you very much.
Mr. Frans, good morning. Let me ask you about the United Nations Working Group
on People of African Descent. Could you talk a little bit about who's involved
on this working group, if there is African American participation? Oftentimes
and historically, some of us remember Malcolm X talking about African Americans
having a presence at the United Nations.
I believe -- and I'm not sure if this is still the case -- that the NAACP for a
while had a presence at the United Nations. And I've often thought that it
made a lot of sense for people of African descent in America to come together
at the United Nations with other people of African descent to work on our
common agenda to address the issues head-on from a global perspective, and I'd
like to find out a little bit more about that from your position a vice chair.
FRANS: Thank you, Ms. Lee.
The Working Group on People of African Descent is a working group that will
need much more support from people of African descent around the world. I
believe that there are some African American organizations that participate,
but the level of participation is absolutely too low. And we could do much
We need a lot of support. We've done quite a lot of working, looking at the
access to justice and making recommendations on how to come to terms with
housing policies to increase integration. We've done work on education, and so
we've done quite a lot and presented a lot of recommendations.
But at our working group meetings, which are open to the general public and to
all organizations, I find that the program is that because of the cost
involved, most civil society organizations oftentimes do not have the
possibility of participating. So what I have been proposing over the last year
is that maybe the working group should be traveling to and holding these
meetings in other places instead.
But, of course, that would depend upon invitations from the states. And this
is a situation where the working group cannot travel to countries by itself,
but needs to be invited. We have sent out a request to the states to be
invited, and we are waiting. The only country that has been forthcoming has
been Belgium. And we've visited Belgium and any other member states that
invite us we will be more than happy to travel and hold these in.
LEE: So you're actually housed now at the United Nations in New York?
FRANS: We're based in Geneva.
LEE: You're based in Geneva. OK, you're based then in Geneva actually. OK,
FRANS: And technically speaking, we need to be invited to a country, to a
member state, in order to be able to hold our meetings in that country.
Well, Mr. Chairman, maybe we could talk about this as a follow-up. I think it
would be very interesting.
HASTINGS: Would you yield just one moment on that point?
LEE: Yes, I will.
HASTINGS: What's your funding structure? And how much are we talking about?
FRANS: The funding structure is voluntary contributions to the office of the
high commissioner. And there are five experts of the working group, so
actually the cost of bringing together the working group itself is not so high.
It has been difficult for civil society organizations to travel to Geneva and
stay there for a couple of days, and that has been a problem.
There is no trust fund or other mechanisms of a trust fund where they can fund
civil societies' participation. We do not have that, and so that is the
LEE: It's very important work, and I look forward to working with you, Mr.
Chairman, on the follow-up to this.
May I ask Mr. Younge one question?
Again, good morning. Where are you living now? Where are you from?
YOUNGE: I live in New York now.
LEE: You do live in New York.
YOUNGE: I'm the New York correspondent.
LEE: OK, OK. I wanted to ask you -- in Europe, though, with regard to the
role of religion. And, of course, we're talking now in our own country with
regard to the Christian religion coming from the black experience, emanating,
of course, from slavery, oppression. All of the issues that African Americans
historically have addressed, of course, are manifested in the black church.
How is religion addressed, for instance, in England now in terms of African
descent? Is the Church of England, the Anglican Church, the main church where
black people attend? Or how do people bring forth their own experience through
their religious background?
YOUNGE: First of all, I would say that religion plays a different role in
Britain, so it's not as front and center as it can be in black American
politics. It doesn't draw so much of a political class from religion, because
paradoxically, given that we have an established church, religion in general
plays a much less kind of stock role in Britain.
In terms of the breakdown, I would say that most black Britons are some from of
Protestant, whether that's Anglican or not, so there's a large increase in
Pentecostal and those kinds of religions. That's particularly true among those
of African descent, as opposed to Afro-Caribbean descent.
If there's a development, then that's where it's coming from, the increase in
the kind of new churches -- Pentecostal churches -- which are on the rise. But
in general they play a far less significant role in our political lives than it
LEE: I see. So you wouldn't say that there is a black church movement or
there's a black church in England or anything in Europe?
YOUNGE: No. And there are individual black church leaders, who have played
significant political roles. I'm thinking of Reverend Wilfred Wood and Bishop
John Sentamu. Reverend Wood was the first black Anglican bishop. So there are
individuals who play significant roles, but not movements as such, as there are
FRANS: Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to add that it is true that people of
African descent in Europe generally now, of course, are organizing themselves
oftentimes around Pentecostal churches. And this paradoxically plays two
On the one hand, it plays the role of making integration harder in the sense
that people get together. But on the other hand, it plays the role of helping
move integration better, you get together, identify what you want to achieve,
see the issues you share in common and go on.
But it is increasing. In Germany, in Holland, in Sweden and also in England,
you have large congregations that are now beginning to build up. For example,
in Sweden now there is the Christian Council of Black Churches, which has been
organizing itself. There is one in Germany, and there is one in Holland.
So there is some sort of a movement, and I would say that I agree with Mr.
Younge that it is the Pentecostal churches that are taking the lead there.
Also, the bishop of Europe is from Uganda.
LEE: OK. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
HASTINGS: Thank you, Ms. Lee.
BUTTERFIELD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Again, thank both of you for coming today. It's been very informative, and I
must confess to you that I have not read all of the material, and so I am at
somewhat of a disadvantage. And so I just want to ask you some very basic
Tell me, if you will, what the black presence in Europe is. Could you quantify
it for me and give me an estimated number in all of Europe, East and West
Europe? Was that a good question to ask?
FRANS: No and yes. Yes, no. East and West Europe makes it complicated in the
sense that with West Europe, those countries of the European Union have some
degree of data collection, and so you have it in the Eurostat. And those
figures are generally two or three years old, so 3.3 million is the official
figure you'd receive, but we know that if you add now, then, East Europe and
then also add the number of people who we call the sans papier, people without
legal documents, then you'll be getting up to four or five million, even.
BUTTERFIELD: But under either approach, it's a small minority within Europe.
Would that be a correct statement?
FRANS: Well, it would be a correct statement. In England it would be
somewhere between two and four percent.
Two and four percent -- is that the significant figure?
YOUNGE: All right. For people of African descent, it's that point.
BUTTERFIELD: And would you make a comparison between East and West? Where is
FRANS: So the concentration of people of African descent, or blacks, in Europe
BUTTERFIELD: Eastern Europe.
FRANS: Eastern Europe -- I would say maybe Czechoslovakia, of course the
former Soviet republics used to have a lot of black people who were studying
there. Most of them have moved, but they remain focused, and there are still
students there also.
BUTTERFIELD: With respect to those who are active and participate politically,
who participate by voting, are there any legal or structural problems that you
can tell us about that prevent full participation in the political process?
FRANS: In Europe as a whole?
BUTTERFIELD: In Europe as a whole. Are there impediments to voting, as we saw
in this country 35 years ago?
FRANS: No, I mean constitutionally, I think...
BUTTERFIELD: I'm sure you know American history. You know about the literacy
tests that we had 40 years ago and all of that. Are there problems here?
FRANS: No, I think generally we have good frameworks. Now, we get into the
discussion of how you define impediments. In Denmark, for example, the
inspection of Danish tests to become a citizen -- would that be an impediment?
Yes, I would say, because if you don't pass the test, you may not be granted
And so, certainly, impediments from the fact that there is the unemployment,
the racial profiling, and all that impacts on people in a sense that it impacts
on them socially and psychologically in that they may decide not to take part.
But structurally, I don't think that there are impediments in that sense.
YOUNGE: I would just say one slightly different way of understanding the
concentration is in a smaller sense, because it's almost entirely urban. So
London, for example. One in four people in London are not white. Oxford -- I
would say about 16 percent, one in six, would be of African descent.
So if you go to the major cities -- Paris, London, Frankfurt, Hamburg -- it
would be almost impossible to avoid them. If you go to the countryside, then
you may not know that anything's changed over the last 30 or 40 years. But in
the major cities, it's a sizable, significant number.
BUTTERFIELD: And among those who actually participate and vote in the
electoral process, is there some degree of cohesion among those of African
descent? Or is their political viewpoint fractured and splintered?
YOUNGE: For the most part, they would lean towards the liberal left -- for the
most part. That said, in England not quite to the extent that African
Americans lean towards the Democratic Party in America, but that's probably
because in Europe there are more parties. But on the whole, to the liberal
BUTTERFIELD: Because one thing we've learned in this country is when you're in
the minority, cohesion becomes absolutely important politically.
FRANS: It's correct, because typically you have four or five parties, even
seven, in any given country. And therefore, you don't see that. And also the
concentration of black people in the cities makes it also quite obvious that in
those areas that they lead, they have some sort of influence on the agenda of
the political parties.
BUTTERFIELD: I think I'm about to run out of time. My final question to you
is are there significant outreach efforts from black organizations in Western
Europe with black populations in Eastern Europe among the organizations and the
people of Eastern Europe? Is there any outreach or any type of organized
FRANS: Organized -- I would say no.
FRANS: That would be the shortest answer. However, I would say that in the
discussions that are centered around the European network against racism, also
in the discussion that is centered around the African diaspora policy center,
there are discussions on that.
BUTTERFIELD: Let me encourage that to continue.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
HASTINGS: Thank you very much, Mr. Butterfield.
I'm going to forego questioning the two of you. I consider your testimony to
be most poignant and critical for the establishment of this record.
And, Dr. Frans, if nothing more, I have gathered from this, particularly in
light of Ms. Lee's question, the great need we have here at the Helsinki
Commission to work more with the working group. I believe that there are
opportunities. We are not necessarily any greater resourced, but at the same
time might be able to bring to bear some hearings.
One that comes to mind would be to have something similar to this in yet
another of the countries and to work with you in trying to get more of them to
ask us on board.
Showing continuing interest in the subject, of course, we've been joined by the
chairlady of the Congressional Black Caucus from Michigan, my dear friend and
colleague, Congresswoman Carolyn Kilpatrick.
And following her is the ranking member of the Helsinki Commission, just
joining us this moment, who has spent a considerable amount of his career
dealing in a tangential way with a similar subject. He deals specifically with
matters that are germane to those who are trafficked, particularly women and
children, which comes in this same aegis in yet another way. So you would find
him on record in patterns of migration in Europe and the things that do not
speak well for overall society. He has tracked that.
Additionally, a member who is not with us, but has an interest, is Hilda Solis,
who has the portfolio in the Parliamentary Assembly of dealing with migration.
But Chairman Kilpatrick and Commissioner Smith, if you would have anything you
would like to say before I call up the next panel, I'd appreciate it.
KILPATRICK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for your foresight and
your leadership -- Helsinki couldn't be better with your stay there; thank you
so much -- and for calling us together today. I had a meeting in my district
this morning before I could fly out, so I am happy to join you. Please forgive
I don't have a question at this time, sir. I just wanted to thank you and
thank the panelists. We are going to build a record -- the Congressional Black
Caucus specifically, but the Democratic caucus in general, as witnessed by the
committee. We have this jurisdiction, and I'm very interested in better
relationships and ties.
We believe that the world is global. Two clicks of the mouse, and you can be
anywhere. We no longer have to go from country to country. And we want to
build that, to build a better world, a safer world for God's children. Thank
you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SMITH: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you for holding
this hearing. I would ask unanimous consent that my statement be made a part
of the record.
And I welcome our witnesses. I apologize. I didn't get to hear your
testimonies, but I will look at them later on.
I do wanted to just note, and I appreciate you bringing up the fact, that there
are modern day slave routes going, especially from places like Nigeria into
Rome and into other areas in Europe.
I have been to a number of shelters in Rome itself, where Nigerian girls are
being sold like human chattel. It was outrageous. Thankfully, there were
people on the scene, both government police, as well as non-governmental
organizations, seeking to rescue these women.
I also was able to visit a number of shelters in Lagos and Abuja and was really
touched by how robust those efforts were, but also how inadequate the funding
and the resourcing was for those girls.
There were a number of Nigerian girls, and these were the lucky ones, who
actually made their way back from Europe, and to hear them tell their stories
was heartbreaking in the extreme. And so I think that is a part of the
degrading, and it's a form of racism, certainly. It certainly is a
misogynistic view when it comes to women.
But I want to thank you for what you're doing. And again, Mr. Chairman, this
commission has been, I think, walking point for years, starting in the
Parliamentary Assembly in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the late 1990s, on the
issue of human trafficking.
And hopefully, the lessons learned from chattel slavery in the United States,
as new forms of slavery manifest themselves, will be learned and combated with
extreme prejudice in the positive way -- fighting it.
HASTINGS: Thank you very much, Chris.
Gentlemen, thank you. Please stay, if you can.
We will call up our second panel now: Dr. Philomena Essed from Antioch
University, The Netherlands Equal Treatment Commission; and Dr. Allison
Blakely, author and historian from Boston University; and Dr. Clarence Lusane,
the International Race Politics author at American University.
I'm particularly pleased now that Dr. Blakely and Drs. Lusane and Essed are
here. And Dr. Blakely -- we had it up; I don't know; the map that's not there
-- but Dr. Blakely has done the immense studies on where the numbers are. And
so, G.K., I think he would be able to empiricize for you on many of those
But I'd like to start with Dr. Essed, and as I said with reference to the other
witnesses, their extraordinary curriculum vitae and biographies are on the
table outside, and I invite persons who are with us to pick them up, as they
Dr. Essed, if you would like to start, please, ma'am?
ESSED: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for inviting me to this hearing. I have in my
written statement made a list in alphabetical order, a list of contacts that
might be relevant and useful for understanding experiences and conditions of
people of African descent in Europe. So I'm sure you will have time at one
point to consult that.
Here, I will point out just a few of those items in the list and then wait for
further discussions and questions.
The first one I would like to point to is the "i" of identity. That is, it's
relevant to understand that even when one can formally categorize a three to
five million people in Europe as of Afro descent, not all identify as such.
Many identify not often even in terms of color or race, but in terms of the
country they came from or the country they migrated to. And that is a very
important difference to understand with African Americans.
It should be noted also that in Europe there are many African Americans, even
some as tourists, some as students, and that is the frequent visitors in
particular in the cosmopolitan cities.
It's also important to know that for many people of Afro descent, the
historical context of reference are colonialism and post-colonialism, rather
than slavery, even when they might be descendants of enslaved Africans, as
people from Caribbean are of American background.
Many came to the so-called motherlands in Europe with European passports -- for
instance, immigrants from Surinam and the Dutch entered into The Netherlands;
the French immigrants from Martinique, for instance, to France.
Colonialism, its economic, social and psychological implications and
consequences, are largely ignored in European (inaudible). Colonial relations,
however, continue to exist, including the inequalities involved. For instance,
the Dutch Antillean colonies are still colonies, and they are a popular tourist
attraction for mostly white Dutch.
For the local population, the reality is different. Extremely high
unemployment numbers in the Dutch Antilles, unrealistic ideas about rich lives
in the Netherlands, or the desire to reunite with family members already there
have caused high numbers to migrate to the Netherlands. And that was the same
situation with people from Surinam in the 1970s.
Insufficient care, social indifference, lack of schooling and job
opportunities, racial prejudice a sense of anonymity in the Netherlands
contribute to violence and criminality among Antillean young men.
In response, the state seems to entertain controversial and probably unlawful
ethnic databases on Antilleans, on the basis of which enhanced security and
preventive law enforcement interventions can take place.
Among Antillean women, teenage pregnancies are a problem, often a result of a
combination of factors, including physical or emotional abandonment at home,
racial discrimination and ignorance.
To conclude briefly on the issue of colonialism, the consequences of
colonialism have not been dealt with in Europe. This holds true for the
dependency mentality, (inaudible), and a sense of powerlessness among formerly
colonized. And this is a generalization; it's not true for all.
But neither has been addressed the remnants of European colonial mentality, the
paternalism and the creation of second-class citizens, which happens in the
U.K., which is happening in the Netherlands and in France.
This brings me to the issue of everyday racism. Racism is integrated in the
routine practices of everyday European cultures and institutions, resulting in
informally segregated neighborhoods, for instance, in the U.K., in France and
Informally sanctioned segregated schools -- the so-called black and white
schools -- in the Netherlands are an example. In neighborhoods there are many
cases of harassment of refugee families -- for instance, Spain or a recent case
in a Liberian family in the Netherlands, where all the local government was
completely involved, social workers, everybody were involved, but nobody was
doing anything, and so the family, desperate, had to leave the neighborhood.
There is police violence, for instance, in many cases. Austria is a case in
point, and so on.
Among the most damaging forms of everyday racism are those involving
individuals in positions of authority, whose decision making power has the
potential of making and breaking civic careers or professional opportunities.
Due to the public taboo, however, on mentioning racisms and emotional, if not
aggressive, response to accusations of racism from the side of white Europeans,
many Afro descendants are neither aware of racism, nor sufficiently equipped to
resist. And again, this is a generalization. I'm saying many; I'm not saying
all. It depends on how people are involved -- for instance, in community
Frequently, those exposed to racism experience a sense of powerlessness in the
face of the accusation that they are just over sensitive, and the measure of
denial of everyday racism cannot be under estimated in Europe.
We need to really address the impact of racism on the lives of black and brown
people in Europe. And that should be an issue for European policy and input.
The "f" of Fortress Europe -- increasingly tight borders since the signing of
the treaty are not preventing economic and war refugees from risking their
lives in search of a better future in Europe. Many die prematurely in the
passage between North Africa and southern Europe -- young men, women and
In the meantime, middlemen are making blood money. The construction of
illegality has different impacts on men and women. Little is known about the
particular conditions of illegal immigrants who try to survive as street
vendors, mostly male, mostly in southern Europe; as domestics, mostly women; or
in prostitution, mostly women but also including young Moroccan men.
Which brings me to gender. Race is not gender neutral. Perceptions of Afro
descendants -- men and women -- are shaped by many factors, including histories
of colonialism white male-native mistress experience, imagined (inaudible), the
idea about black women's female warm sensuality and active sexuality, recurrent
media images of African wars on poverty, highlighting male aggression, and
African American images through the media, sports and music. Again, what
happens in the U.S. is immediately also in the news in many European countries.
The sex trade and abuse of African women have been reported, among others, in
Belgium. In the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal, women are Afro
descent end up in the lowest paid and most risky sectors of sex work.
Beauty norms are another gender issue. Little is known in Europe about the
impact of white beauty norms on women of Afro descent. For instance, skin
bleaching has been found to be a problem on women of Ghanaian backgrounds in
Circumcision of girls occurs among refugees from Somalia. And policy-makers
have not bee successful in including the women of these communities, which is
so important, in endeavors to put an end to this practice.
Finally, in school Afro descendant girls of Caribbean origin families -- and
it's a point that it's not all bad news -- are outperforming male counterparts
in the Netherlands. And I think that is the case also in the U.K.
The percentage of highly educated women among Afro descendants from the
Caribbean is more or less equal to the highly educated Dutch women, so there's
hardly any difference. This does not, however, translate into equal
representation at higher levels on the labor market.
HASTINGS: Thank you so much, Dr. Blakely. I was going to come to you and ask
Dr. Lusane, since he's younger-looking...
BLAKELY: Thank you, sir, and good morning. Chairman Hastings, other
distinguished commissioners and members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen, I'd
like to first add my expression of gratitude for your showing recognition to
the seriousness and importance of this issue.
I've been researching this subject area now for some three decades, and so for
me this is almost like a mirage, a dream come true, just to have this degree of
attention from people such as yourselves.
As a historian and a comparative historian, my contribution to this discussion
is, I think, going to be the most general. I'm looking at Europe as a whole.
My doctorate is in Russian history, so I have a special interest in that part.
But in diaspora studies, I really am looking at Europe as a whole. The history
of blacks in modern Europe is converging with the present situation to find an
unprecedented level of black population in Europe proper. The size and
significance of this black presence are not yet widely recognized, neither by
scholars nor the general public.
I am the author of this map that you see coming and going up there at times.
Those who don't happen to have a paper copy, I'd be glad to discuss it with you
My findings are that there are over five million that can be documented closely
with census data. My belief that in fact there is probably something
approaching, if not over, one percent of the total European population, which
is usually bigger -- somewhere at 750 million or so.
More importantly, the black population is growing. If you don't believe that,
do a tour of urban public schools. You'll see the same phenomenon that you see
in our urban centers. You'll be startled in the case of Europe, because if
there's only a half percent, as some are saying, why do you find the majority
blacks in some of the elementary school classes?
And the answer is simple. If you look at the same phenomenon, the United
States is experiencing with recently our State of California recording less
than 50 percent population level for the traditional white population. Texas
is just on the horizon, and the numbers will grow.
There is declining population across Europe in terms of the traditional
population. And so, in a sense, the handwriting is on the wall. You'll have a
greater colored Europe of various cultural and colored complexions. It's just
a question of how the Europeans are going to cope with it.
My one driving concern, in terms of the implications of the kind of research
I've done, is that Europe may -- I hope they don't -- but they may resort to
that old tried and proven black identity as one way of establishing what would
be a cheap labor force in the future, even in a society where the black
population does increase to a point where no one will say that it's
I am also concerned, because recently the Islamic-western cultural clash has
tended to overshadow this other, more longstanding kind of cultural clash just
And literally, some of the individuals and groups in what would be the
traditionally defined black population may fall through the cracks because of
the lack of special interests because of this other admittedly extremely
important other kind of cultural clash that's taking place.
One thing that I have concluded is that finally the European black population
has reached a level where some comparisons might be made with the black
American experience. Ideally, I would hope that they may learn from some of
our mistakes and decide against repeating those.
For centuries millions of black African descent people were subjected to
domination in the leading European colonial empire, but technically in Europe
now is that in these European democracies, those former colonials are being
brought in and supposedly integrated into a situation where they should at
least have equal opportunity.
That kind of a transition is not easy in human affairs, where the lines were
clearly understood of hierarchy based on color and wealth and power in the
colonies, and now suddenly the Europeans in some cases, who have tended to
think that those colonials had nothing to do with them, now, because of labor
unions and so on, they're having to learn to live with the former colonial
people, who are subjects or citizens.
The kinds of comparisons that I'm alluding to with the black American
experience can be seen in the fact that if you look at the recent outbreak of
violence in France a couple of years ago, especially, the kinds of issues that
have been identified as explaining that kind of outbreak, they read just like
the Kerner Commission report or the Scarman report about similar violence in
the 1980s in England.
So there's no mystery here that some of the same elements, same dynamics are
potentially there. I would also point out that the American-style ghetto may
not be as visible in European society, but it definitely is there.
For four months at the end of last year, I was in Europe and deliberately
visiting predominantly black neighborhoods in Lisbon and London, France, the
Netherlands. And I even looked into the history in Hamburg, which is an
especially interesting case, but although they don't look the same, many of the
same kinds of problems are there. And their potential, if not already
manifest, need to be dealt with.
A major component in all of this is the legacy of negative stigmatization of a
black and the stereotypes that have come down to us from that that are still
very much with us. You only need to look a little bit below the surface in the
media and other aspects of European, as well as American, culture to see that.
What I am raising is the question of whether even now in the 21st century we
can get beyond those kinds of stereotypes. I'm really encouraged by the fact
that you have Lady Valerie Amos, who is the head of the House of Lords in
We know what we celebrate in this country in terms of visibility of blacks in
much higher places and so on. And yet in Europe you have multimillion-dollar
soccer players having to experience having bananas thrown at them on the field
and racial epithets. So just because there may be some progress on one level
doesn't mean that the problems have gone away.
I conclude that the main reason that the image and status of blacks continues
to suffer is economic. I don't think there's any kind of innate belief in
dominant society that blacks are inferior. I think that this kind of notion
has been reinforced over the centuries mainly for economic reasons.
First, justify the slave trade, the employment of slave labor. Now, because
these are the images that sell -- the media, advertising industry, sports --
that's what sells. That's what's profitable, and that's what keeps you going.
Otherwise, I think we could escape from some of this over a generation or two.
But as long as there is that economic motivation underpinning all of this, I
think we have a problem.
The many questions ongoing: Are those stereotypes of blacks still relevant?
Or am I just kind of a dinosaur, still talking about things that don't exist
anymore? Are people of black African descent in Europe considered European?
Or are they still considered primarily black?
How do black people -- people I'm calling black -- self-identify in Europe?
That's a very important consideration. The question of solidarity has been
raised. My sense is that there would be a tendency not to even want to seek
But I'm descended from sharecroppers in Green County, Alabama; before that,
slaves. My ancestors didn't define themselves as black either. That was
something that was imposed on them.
What I'm sensing about now is that the Europeans might have a chance to skip
that stage and move on into true integration without all the fuss, but because
of the way economic conditions are conspiring against that, I'm just not sure
that's going to happen.
I am encouraged by all the Europe-wide organizations, the national human rights
organizations, and so on. That may help. We did some of this.
But in my own area of specialization, for example -- Russia -- I've had to
cancel recent trips, because friends have warned me, "Just don't go." I can't
ride the metro. I can't go out by myself anymore.
I first visited Russia in '65, and I was safer under Soviet communism -- for
the wrong reason. They protected with the police state, and they wanted
foreign currency, and so they rigidly enforced protection of individuals.
Now there is no motivation anymore to protect black people -- either black or
friends from the tens of thousands of Africans who were there and have now
gone, or just by visitors, male or female.
And a more authoritarian regime there now, in some ways than in recent years,
has clamped down on the media, so there's not even active reporting anymore of
all the victimization that has taken place. Although the government recently
-- I think it was Hitler's birthday -- did provide the African students with
provisions so that they could stay off the streets for that period, because in
Germany and in Russia in particular, that's the way it is.
I'll conclude my formal presentation now. I'll be glad to engage in any
HASTINGS: Thank you, Dr. Blakely. And I note that you were going through your
prepared statement, and I'd invite you to, after your summarization, include
your full statement in the record.
And then I would say to our audience, as well as all of you, we will continue a
full report regarding this matter. I have the misfortune of having an
appointment at 11:30. And Dr. Lusane, I mean no offense. I'll leave during
the course of your presentation.
I also apologize to my fellow commissioners and our colleagues and ask them to
please stay. The ranking member has indicated, our friend Chris Smith, that he
will conclude the proceedings for us.
But I invite you to our Web site, those of you that are interested, and I can
say unequivocally, Dr. Frans, you will hear from us, and Gary Younge, as well
as all of you. We owe you a debt of gratitude.
I did not ask any questions. I would send to you, and ask for your follow-up
for our report, any question that I may have, if you would present it to us in
LUSANE: Thank you. Good morning, Chairman Hastings and honorable men and
women of the commission, as well as to our audience and to my colleagues.
I want to echo the sentiments that have been stated and also thank the
commission for providing this historic and what some would even say is
earth-shaking opportunity to discuss what is emerging as one of the most
important issues confronting the future of Europe: the status and means of
social inclusion of people of African descent.
For more than 20 years, I've worked with minority communities and NGOs in
Europe, including people of African descent, focused on issues of human rights,
immigration, racial equalities and intolerance.
Similar to Congresswoman Lee, I also had some wonderful opportunity to live in
England for a number of years, and that work included a number of years working
as assistant director of the 1990 trust of black human rights organizations
based in the U.K.
In that capacity I worked with governments, regional institutions, such as the
European Union and the Council of Europe, around these concerns. I also would
note that I wrote a book called Hitler's Black Victims, which looks at the
experiences of people of African descent under Nazism, which I will also submit
to the committee for the official record.
Although the oldest skull ever found in Europe belonged to an African, and even
though African Americans have been in England since at least the late 1800s,
for most people in Europe, a settled presence of black people is viewed as a
relatively new phenomenon.
In fact, there have been several waves of blacks in Europe since the end of
World War II. In England, France, the Netherlands and other countries, black
migration was critical to the rebuilding of Europe. Waves of blacks came to
Western Europe to drive the buses, to nurse the sick and to sweep the streets
of the great cities of that region.
In Eastern Europe communists states from Russia to Poland to the former
Yugoslavia welcomed African students, scholars, artists and other professionals
as part of an effort to aid liberation movements in newly independent states.
These new populations merged with older and smaller black communities.
However, in both Western and Eastern Europe, blacks and other minorities were
never fully integrated into the society. The evidence is overwhelming.
First, they have often been the targets of violent racist attacks. As my
colleague just mentioned, in Russia and a number of places, skinheads and
neo-fascist organizations in Russia, Austria, Germany and other states have
specifically targeted blacks, and a number of individuals have been murdered in
In fact, according to research by Searchlight magazine, a number of these
organizations also have direct links with racist and neo-fascist organizations
in the United States, including even the Ku Klux Klan.
Secondly, there remain persistent disparities in the social arena. In housing,
education, health care and other areas, blacks in Europe are at or near the
bottom. In the U.K., which is one of the few countries in Europe that actually
keeps statistics, black students are failed at two to three times the rate of
white European students.
Blacks have an unemployment rate that's 18 percent lower than the general
population. And blacks are 50 percent more likely to die of a stroke. As you
will note, these statistics are similar to the statistics facing many African
Americans in this country.
Third, racial issues are also acute in the realm of criminal justice. Police
violence, deaths in custody, and disproportionate incarcerations are major
concerns in England, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and a number of other states
in the region.
Again, in the U.K. black people are six times more likely to be stopped and
searched by the police and three times more likely to be arrested than whites.
In France police-black community tensions sparked the deadly riots that
occurred in 2005.
The racialization of crime and the criminalization of a race are both having
devastating impacts on black communities in Europe.
Fourth, blacks are also suffering from the harsh, unfair and discriminatory
immigrations policies that exist in the region. Anti-discrimination sentiments
are rampant and are not just restricted to the far right. In fact, not only
are conservative parties adopting these positions, but so are formerly social
There are a number ways outside of this to move beyond these conditions.
First, it is important that states begin to collect social and economic data on
the situations of racial and ethnic minorities in the region. Understandably,
the history of Nazism, fascism and ethnic cleansing has generated a reluctance
to gather racial data, but the lack of the empirical data continues to hamper
the development of concrete policies that can effectively address the social
exclusion of Europe's minorities.
This is also relevant to the issue of, as my colleague mentioned earlier,
identifying how do people of African descent in Europe actually see themselves.
And there are a number of different categories of people of African descent.
There are those who are citizens, for example, and those who have become
citizens in a number of different ways.
Some were born in Europe and became citizens. Some have become naturalized
citizens. You even have those who were adopted, for example, from Brazil and a
number of other places, who have dual citizenship. You have those who are
legal residents, who aren't citizens, who may be in the categories of asylum
seekers or refugees. And then you also have those who are undocumented.
So all of these are important statistics to gather so that there is a realistic
understanding and sense of what the demography of people of African descent
actually constitute, as well as there are ways to find out how people identify
Secondly, there's a need to strengthen the content and enforcement of
anti-discrimination laws and policies. The 2000 race directive from the
European Union provided a foundational framework for constructing policies that
can address discrimination. However, the legislation only covers EU member
states and is only focused on anti-racism.
Legislation must begin to address the issue of racial equity and means by which
progress can be made to close the disparities that currently exist and are
Third, along these lines it's critical to establish effective and empowered
government agencies that are focused on anti-discrimination and anti-racism.
These entities should be built in such a manner that they maintain independence
from political parties and narrow government interests.
The United Nations has outlined specific guidelines in creating these types of
independent government-related bodies.
Last, and perhaps most urgent, there is a need to include the voices of black
communities in development of anti-discrimination and anti-racism and equality
policies. A wide range of black and anti-racist NGOs have developed over
recent years, but have too often been excluded from the policy debates that are
critical to the communities that they seek to represent.
SMITH: Thank you very much for your testimonies and for being here.
This is an historic hearing. To the best of my knowledge, we have not had a
hearing that's so focused on the experience of Africans in Europe, so I think
your testimonies will become part, I think, of a record that will be read very
So thank you again for the contributions you are making to the knowledge of the
commission and hopefully towards mitigating and ending racism forever. And it
certainly is a dream that all of us have.
Let me ask, first, Dr. Blakely, I looked at your map, and again, I appreciate
your testimony. You note that in France there are some 2.5 million Africans in
And we ran into a real problem, on the whole issue of anti-Semitism in France
as well, in the collection of data. There was a reluctance almost like a wall,
and it seems to me if you want to combat a long evil, you need to collect data,
and you need to be as specific as possible.
We found that on the anti-Semitic issue that when swastikas appeared on
gravestones that had been overturned in Jewish cemeteries or are on places of
worship, it was just dismissed as hooliganism. So a lot of us pressed very
hard that you need to collect data to adequately combat a crime and to
categorize it as a hate crime for what it is.
And I'm wondering what your experience has been, if you could, on the whole
issue of France and this reluctance to collect that kind of data.
Let me ask Dr. Essed -- is that the way it's said?
In the Netherlands we have an ongoing argument with the Dutch government, since
they have legalized prostitution. Amsterdam certainly has large numbers of
women who are being degraded and exploited each and every day in their
There was one rapporteur who suggested that upwards of 80 percent of those
women are foreign born and also are there through coercion or deception. They
had not gone there voluntarily, even though if you talked to them in a way that
is not in a safe place, where they might be fearful of retaliation, they'll
say, "Oh, I'm here voluntarily," but that's not the case. So many of these
women are being exploited cruelly.
So my question would be what has been your experiencing in pushing back? It
seems to me that prostitution and the line of demarcation between that and
trafficking of women for sexploitation is very, very thin indeed, and that
there are many women who are right on that line, and they certainly are being
exploited, and that ought to be a cause of concern.
And finally, a question about what I consider to be an active racism that
happens all over the world. It happened in the United States. And it has in
large part its genesis in writings that began at the same time that the Germans
were beginning their eugenics movement and racial politics, the Aryan race and
all of the hate that came out of that.
Margaret Sanger is the founder of Planned Parenthood, and unbeknownst to large
numbers of people -- I've read many of her books; one of her books is called
The Pivot of Civilization -- in it she has a chapter that's called "The Cruelty
And she talks -- and I actually gave a floor speech on it recently -- about how
the new government program -- and then a lot of philanthropists were getting
involved with helping indigent women who were suffering from poverty, who were
pregnant, and people were trying to provide maternal care to them -- she saw
that as cruelty. And she said it without any ambiguity in her writing.
She said, "Such benevolence is not merely superficial and nearsighted. It
conceals a stupid cruelty. Aside from the question of the unfitness of many
women to become mothers, aside from the very definite deterioration in the
human stock that such programs would inevitably hasten, we may question its
value even to the normal through unfortunate mothers. For it is never the
intention of such philanthropy to give poor, overburdened and often
undernourished mother of the slum the opportunity to make a choice for
And it goes on, "The most serious challenge that can be brought against modern
benevolence is that it encourages the perpetuation of defectives, delinquents
In the United States a woman who is African American is three times more likely
to have an abortion -- 300 percent higher abortion rates than among Caucasians
or even Latinos. In my state of New Jersey, for every three pregnancies, two
are aborted of the African American, 40 percent for the Latinos, and about
one-third are Caucasian.
I see it as a massive loss of babies' lives, as well as an exploitation of
those women. But my question really goes to the heart of a bias that focuses
on these vulnerable people. When we should be surrounding these women with
love, compassion and outreached hands, they are being shown to an abortion
And I'm wondering if the African experience -- and before I ask, all of you
might want to answer this -- Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther
King, has had two abortions. Dr. King has spoken out very strongly that there
is a racial tinge to all of this and has said, and I quote her: "How can a
dream survive, if the children are murdered?"
So my question to you is is that something that is happening in Europe as well?
My deep concern is for the babies. Whatever their color, they need to be
protected. And it seems to me that there's a disproportionality and a focus on
African babies. And the question would be is that also happening in Europe?
BLAKELY: Commissioner Smith, thank you for your question.
I'll address the one concerning France and the ethnic and racial designations.
As a historian, this is very problematical, because, for example, if you go
into the library and you try to do research, using the standard means,
categories don't exist. You have to almost go in already knowing where what
you're looking for is.
I should also preface my remarks, I guess, by saying that I have a tremendous
amount of respect for France and its republican tradition, of which the French
are very proud. But I disagree strongly with their notion that if you don't
name something, it doesn't exist.
And part of the problem -- the practical problem -- with the attitude that we
don't have ethnic categories -- there's actually a law against having official
categories -- is when you have something like what occurred at the end of 2005,
you don't even have a vocabulary to talk about it. And that's very
I think France is not the only country in that category. But there are ways of
getting information -- local social work organizations, for example, and in the
communities themselves and their institutions. But I think it's unfortunate
that there isn't a greater acceptance of the necessity to at least acknowledge
the true-to-life experiences of the people in order to address the needs of
society as a whole.
LUSANE: Yes. I want to echo those comments, because it is a problem in
Germany. It's a problem in Spain. It's a problem in Italy. It's a problem
across the region. And it manifests itself at one level in just getting basic
So, for example, is there a disproportionate number of people of African
descent in the prisons? If you don't see that as a category, and you don't do
that kind of counting, then you don't address the issue.
In the U.K., where they do keep this kind of accounting, there's a massively
disproportionate number for black women, for example, who constitute probably
two to three percent of the population, constitute probably 20 percent or more
of the prison population. So that means that you can't just generally address
the issue, but you specifically need to look at what's going on.
And a similar case can be made in France, where independent researchers from
the University of France and Sorbonne and some other places, have gone into the
prisons and literally just counted people and found these kinds of
disproportionalities. But because the state itself doesn't collect this data,
it becomes very difficult to develop policies.
So it really is a regional problem, not just in France, and one that really is
critical to develop any kind of policies that can address the disparities and
discriminations that exist.
ESSED: I would briefly add that, for instance, in the Netherlands what one
registers is where the parents are born or where people are born, and that's an
indirect race of registering on race and ethnicity. And sometimes it's done
voluntarily, and sometimes not. The numbers are often unreliable, and there
are cases where people just went and counted -- face value, basically.
I would like to address the issue you mentioned about abortion. I'm not very
aware that there is a special focus on people of African descent in relation to
What happens is that none of the countries, as far as I know, has been out to
promoting abortions, but to making something possible as a last resort, because
I don't think there's any woman who likes to have an abortion in the sense of
looking forward to that.
So I think it's something -- an awful experience -- but sometimes people to do
that because they think an alternative would be even worse.
What has happened in the countries where abortion was legalized, as in the
Netherlands, is that the numbers dropped down, and it has been dropping for
decades. And it went high up again with a number of immigrants, in particular
from the Caribbean, from Morocco and Turkey, where you had young people who
often were not educated well enough.
And so that may increase the number, but the second generation already goes
down. So it's usually a question about sexuality and about sex behavior.
SMITH: Ms. Lee?
LEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I don't want to continue this abortion debate,
but I just want to say for the record some of us believe that a woman should
have a right to privacy, a woman should have a right to choose, and the
government should not interfere in decisions that are being made which should
be made between a woman, her family and her health care provider.
And I just wanted to say many of us believe that part of what we have to do is
provide comprehensive sex education at a very early age so that women and girls
know how to protect themselves from getting pregnant and from the transmission
of sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
Let me go to, I guess, Dr. Blakely and ask you with regard to the fact you
mentioned the cheap labor now that's taking place in Europe with people of
African descent. How does that factor in in terms of the brain drain from
especially Africa and the Caribbean?
It's my understanding that people working abroad, immigrants working abroad are
remitting back maybe $45 billion a year to their home countries. However, the
continent of Africa and, of course, the Caribbean still are underdeveloped.
And so what's the relationship between cheap labor and the brain drain on the
continent of Africa?
BLAKELY: Well, it's a very complicated question, as you know, Congresswoman
And my mind was racing as you were completing your question, because actually
now another issue has just arisen, which is seeing in some instances Eastern
Europe immigrants actually replacing blacks in Europe as the cheap labor of
choice, so to speak. And so that's another kind of factor that's beginning to
The other development is that the European countries have in recent years
started restricting immigration and trying precisely to only accept people with
real skills, with the kinds of skills that you might put under the category of
a brain drain.
And it's a very difficult -- at least at the moment -- and insoluble problem, I
think, for African countries, poor African countries, because things are in
turmoil at home. The opportunities for those people to realize their dreams
are not there at home. They prefer, I think, to stay in Africa. But as long
as there are those opportunities in Europe, that really doesn't seem to be
anything that's going to change.
LEE: Thank you very much. Let me follow up and just ask...
Oh, did you have a response, Dr. Lusane?
LUSANE: Yes, I just wanted to add to that that the big paradox in Europe is
that even as (inaudible) sentiments kind of arise, the reality is that Europe
needs labor. And studies from the United Nations and the international labor
organization studies done by the EU have shown that Europe will needs tens and
tens and tens of millions of workers over the next 50 years, and they will come
from the developing world.
There just are not going to be enough people coming from Eastern Europe, which
is actually not all that welcome either. But certainly, there will be a big
So some of the forward thinkers in Europe, particularly at the European Union
level, really are recognizing this, and so immigration policy really has to
start to prepare itself for dealing with the new demographics that are
necessary, given the aging population in Europe and the low birth rate among
LEE: Thank you.
And, Dr. Essed, yes, did you have a response?
ESSED: Just to briefly answer this, it also should be seen in relation to the
amount of money that immigrants send back home. And that is a form of
development for the countries they left also. So I think it's complex, and
there is some sort of balance.
South Africa is a different matter, but I'll not go into that, for the sake of
LEE: Thank you.
And just very quickly, what I'm hearing from all of you is because of the lack
of data collection and statistical gathering and the fact that the numbers
aren't quite there yet, we don't really know what the impact of racism and
discrimination is, other than by knowing.
And so here in America, of course, we have had affirmative action policies that
have helped in some ways to level the playing field, although now they're
actually being eroded and turned around, and people now are being shut out of
employment, contracting opportunities, opportunities for higher education.
In my state, for example, there was a proposition that totally eliminated
affirmative action, so we're back to ground one.
In Europe is affirmative action seen as a possibility? Does it make sense, if
in fact the numbers were ever there or the data was gathered to be able to
begin to develop policies to turn some of these recognizable conditions around
that we as African Americans feel and understand and live with every day here
ESSED: Can I reply? There has been some positive action, which is not exactly
the same as affirmative action, but what it boils down to is the idea that if
you have two applicants who are equally competent, then you take the applicant
of color, that is, or the woman.
That has been applied in the U.K. in the 1980s, I think, and in the Netherlands
in the 1980s as well. There has been research to look at the impact. The
result is that positive action did have some impact on the more open forms of
discrimination, but it certainly did not lead to any preference for black
BLAKELY: One development that is occurring as things progress is that there
are consciously black organizations taking shape. For example, in France there
is an organization -- well, the acronym is CRAN. It's the representative
council of black associations.
Its leader, Patrick Lozes, is a pharmacist, has political aspirations, but he
actually has carried out the first major survey a couple of years ago, both in
terms of trying to get a more accurate population count and in terms of the
kinds of issues that concern black people.
He's consciously modeled his organization after the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People. He claims to have 300 chapters.
LEE: I really want to thank you for coming. This is the beginning of a long,
historical journey that we must take to rebuild the world, and I appreciate
your study, your professionalism and all of that.
As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, I just want to give you a little
data on us. We have 43 members from 21 different states. We represent over 40
million Americans. Eighteen of our members represent less than 50 percent
African Americans. Five percent of our members represent less than 15 percent.
So we represent all of America.
We have millions more who are not represented by an African American, but who
come to us and work with us from all over the country. We represent Latinos,
Asians. We represent Europeans, Native Americans. The gamut is who we are as
members of the caucus, and we're proud to do that.
When Congressman Hastings talked about having this session and building a
commonality that we might come to, it was to (inaudible) and most instructive.
I always believed -- and I'm a grandmother and an educator by profession --
education is the equalizer in the world. It always has been and always will
Whenever you have good schools, and children and young people participate and
grow, then they have more options, and not only their family, their community
and the world is better. You all achieved that, and I'm sure that those you
work with have, too.
And seeing the countries -- we haven't really gotten into that now, but I hope
we will, as we move forward -- they, too, are the count to tens or others of
color who have gone on to become professionals and educated.
Economics, the other "e," is also in America -- education, economics -- and it
sounds like in other countries of the world, those are the two things that are
As chair of the caucus, I'm here today to hear from you, and I thank you very
much. And then I want to move the ball to how we go from here. What would you
recommend -- each of the three of you -- that today -- not only put on the
record, but as members of the caucus and the Democratic Congress, as well a the
entire House of Representatives, what one or two things would you say we work
ESSED: I would definitely say your active and proactive anti-discrimination
laws. Formally, things are in place, but the way it works out is not
Even when there is, for instance, at least in the Netherlands, the reversal of
the burden of proof, it remains very difficult to deal with cases where you
have the kind of subtle racist acts that build up from day to day and where
it's the whole process, and not one thing that you can...
The space you need to deal with that is more than just a small hearing. Very
often we are there at the Commission of Equal Treatment, because very often
other members of the judiciary have not really focused on issues of race. So
it's helpful to have a commission, but it's not sufficient.
LEE: How can we impact that? They're all independent states, independent
governments. They're the EU. They're the United Nations. They're the
Congress. How do we interact internationally so it will impact that?
ESSED: I think being forcefully on the case of what are countries doing to
promote diversity, especially in the workplace. It's education and work. If
you don't have jobs, you're damaging the future of generations. If you don't
have education, you don't get jobs because of the increasingly higher
requirements for getting jobs.
And in particular in the workplace, it is rampant in many of the European
countries. And it doesn't matter your level of education -- just you hit your
particular glass ceiling. And I think more cooperation, for instance, with the
experience of African Americans, who might not be in the ideal situation, from
what I hear, definitely not, but there is experience. We can learn from the
mistakes that have been made here. And we can learn from the gains that have
been made here. I think that is very important.
And a second thing. On official levels, keeping on the case of each and every
European country. How is the diversity in the workplace? What is the
government getting for an example? How many black people are employed by the
government? Very often not getting the best example.
So I would say that is really a first priority, next to particularly in East
Germany, the protection of people who are really (inaudible) every day.
BLAKELY: I think we do have to respect other nations' sovereignty, but on
issues such as censorship, for example, such as I mentioned with Russia, I
would think there is already acknowledgement that the new Russia may be leaning
in the wrong direction right now with respect to true democracy.
And if we could just keep that kind of issue on the table, encouraging our
Russian allies to remember that there's supposed to be substance behind those
kinds of ideals.
With respect to the question of encouraging more European countries to
acknowledge that there may be a problem to address with respect to some of
these issues -- France or Germany, for example -- there must be some polite way
to sort of keep constant pressure to try to, if nothing else, use our example.
Don't make the mistakes we did and don't be in denial about very real kinds of
societal problems until you have violent explosions. That's not the way to
deal with it.
LUSANE: Yes. I'm a very strong believer in people-to-people relations. And I
think probably most critical is that we really need to look for our
counterpart. I really want to thank you for your overview of the Congressional
And as you know and other members know, I believe it was probably little more
than a decade ago, the Congressional Black Caucus was very critical in the
launching of the Parliamentary Black Caucus in the U.K. Now, that experiment
failed for a number of reasons, but the impulse behind it was important.
And so there is a need for black elected officials in the U.S. to be in touch
with black elected officials and aspiring black elected officials in the U.K.
I tell my students all the time, they need to be in touch with students over
So we need that kind of ongoing exchange, that ongoing dialogue, so that we are
learning from each other's experiences.
Secondly, I think we raise that to a more strategic level when we look at a
number of issues. When I was in the U.K., one of the things I wanted to
organize, but never could, was an international conference on black voting
rights to look at how people around the world, but particularly in Western
Europe, the U.S. and Canada, are experiencing voting rights. What can we
learn? What can we share? What seems to work? What seems to not work?
So there are a number of concrete steps that we can take that bring African
Americans in direct connection with people who are doing similar efforts over
in Europe. And in that way we begin to institutionalize our relationships, and
we begin to have ongoing, long-term kinds of relationships that can turn into
projects and turn into concrete changes.
SMITH: We are joined by the distinguished chairman of the Africa Subcommittee,
the Africa Global Health Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Donald
Payne, my good friend from New Jersey.
PAYNE: It's really a pleasure to be here, and I really enjoyed the little bit
that I've heard. My plane was delayed coming down, and so I apologize.
Nice to see you again in the United States, Dr. Lusane. The last time I think
I saw you was in the Netherlands.
However, I've listened with interest, and I think that it's really appropriate
that we start to raise the issue of people of color in Europe. When you look
at the fact that colonization was a part of the European experience and the
exploitation that Europe did varied with different colonial powers and others
-- I guess Belgium was the worst -- but all of them were degrading in many
And as a result, we see many states that are still grappling in Africa, for
example, to have some governance. And it's the legacy, I think, of slavers.
As a matter of fact, we created and passed a bill to create a commission on the
bicentennial abolition of the slave trade, which occurred in the United States
in 1908, voted into law in 1807 and signed by President Jefferson, I think, in
1808, became law a year after Britain did it under the leadership of Mr.
And they had a year-long celebration in Britain, where they studied the impact
of transatlantic slavery. I think they had all kinds of foundations -- it
might have been as much as $100 million -- that went to schools, where they had
a total discussion of the impact of transatlantic slavery and what it had.
And I'm hoping that our commission will be able to do the same thing. We've
been unable to get funding, but we're going to still struggle to see if we can
at least match Great Britain -- just Britain now.
But I do believe that with the different phases of Europe, at one time African
Americans felt it was the place to go -- to France -- the entertainers, and
they saw less discrimination. I think maybe when numbers grow, though, then
perhaps things change, because that was back when Josephine Baker and Ray
Robinson, the boxer, and those people were going to France in particular.
But Europe tended to embrace people of color more so during the time of a lot
of discrimination in the United States. It appears, though, that things may be
changing. Of course, a lot of, I think, racism started at World War II when
white soldiers portrayed black soldiers as different and started stereotypes
during World War II.
And that was an area that I spent a lot of time studying. My uncle was in the
invasion of Normandy on D-Day, and so his experiences there were kind of
interesting to me as a young boy, hearing him talk about what happened there.
I do think that there is some affirmative action that is going on, of course,
in Northern Ireland -- not between races, but with the McBride principles that
say you have to hire a Catholic anytime you hire a Protestant, if they're doing
business with the U.S.
There are the new policing laws in Belfast in the north of Ireland, where you
have to have a 50 -- there's a quota. You can't hire a Protestant policeman
until you hire a Catholic policeman, because in Northern Ireland 98 percent of
the police department were Protestants, and 98 percent of the prisoners were
Catholics, and so they felt there might be a little something wrong with that
And so affirmative action is really in play in Northern Ireland, like I said,
on the religious front. So these are really some issues that may be brought
into Europe as we focus more on the question.
In Latin America there was a lot of attention in 2002. The Afro Latinos came
to the Congressional Black Caucus and started to tell us about the plight of
African descendants in the Americas. And we kind of created a working group.
And as a result, there have been a lot of activity and changes in Brazil.
They've moved forward with trying to have a strong affirmative action program.
In Colombia President Uribe has come to my office several times and has made
cabinet level positions and even in the government focusing on even in higher
education. In Peru they're looking at the whole question -- even in Mexico,
Mexicans of African descent.
And, of course, they have a long way to go, but there is now a realization that
there needs to be some kind of affirmative action on the part to discuss the
legacy of discrimination in their countries.
And I do recall when they had a Congressional Black Caucus in Britain. I
visited them in '95 and spoke in several cities with the president or chairman
of the Black Caucus. It was a mixture of Indian and blacks.
And at that time we were dealing with the British police's choke hold where in
prison there were a number of deaths by the manner in which the British police
would restrain -- and not even restrain, but just it was a practice -- and
there were a number of deaths, all of minorities, that died with the choke
hold. And we had discussions on that.
I guess my question is do you think that some similar kind of group as we have
in Latin America -- of course, I think that Latin America probably is very much
behind Europe; it definitely was the treatment of African descendants in Latin
America in general in the Americas, I believe was much worse than that in
Europe -- but do you think that some similar kind of attention or thrust would
be appropriate at this time?
LUSANE: Yes. I think that's an excellent idea. There are a number of groups
in Europe -- from the Black Germany Initiative, which is in Germany; ADEFRA,
which is a black German women's organization; Diaspora Afrique, which is based
in Paris; POMOSIA (ph), which is based in Austria; SOS Racism, which is based
in Spain and a couple of other countries.
There are a large number of organizations that would be happy and more than
willing to engage in the kind of dialogue that happened with the Afro Latino
experiences. I think if we can move along those lines, that would be a major
ESSED: Yes, I agree with that. I also agree that it would be very good to
combine, like they have in Brazil, a very forceful anti-discrimination law.
They have one of those most progressive anti-racism legislations that I have
So to always keep that on one side of the agenda, plus awards for institutions
who do not discriminate or who properly hire people of color.
BLAKELY: I do think there are a growing number of resources in Europe. In the
academic world, for example, there are more and more centers being established
that are dealing with these issues. So if there were such a group, they
wouldn't have to be starting from scratch in terms of trying to find out what's
PAYNE: Well, you know, that's a great idea. As a matter of fact, about five
years ago I was invited to speak at the NAACP branch in Germany. It was
interesting. It was founded by some American black that moved to Germany 25
years go, and they have an NAACP chapter, and I found it very interesting.
There will be a follow-up to the Durban conference on racism and xenophobia and
so forth. Of course, we may recall that the first conference became hijacked,
more or less, by an issue of whether the Palestinians and Israel -- and it
diverted the whole intent of the convention, which was to deal with racism in
And it was unfortunate that a group of radicals destroyed the opportunity,
really, for a legitimate discussion and debate on what the conference was
really supposed to primarily focus on -- on racism.
And I'm hoping that the follow-up to Durban could have the full participation
of all the countries, but somehow box that or eliminate the hijacking of this
very important convention, because I think the people of African descent all
around the world suffered because of some extremist anti-Israeli proponents
that hijacked this conference and made it about what it wasn't supposed to be
And so I am hoping that can be eliminated, so this whole question of racism
around the world -- because Durban is the only forum that's ever been created
for this, and unfortunately it was tarnished and actually not fully
participated in, especially by the U.S. and other countries.
So I don't know if any of you all are going to participate in the Durban II,
but that would be a forum, I think, that if it's done properly, could really be
a real sounding board. It's going to be scheduled for 2009, although
preparatory meetings are being held in Geneva, as we speak, as a matter of
LUSANE: I would agree with you. I think it was very unfortunate circumstances
that ultimately occurred.
At the regional level, things were much better. I was working in Europe at the
time and helped the work on the European regional preparatory conference for
Durban, and that was really an opportunity for bringing together groups who
were working on racism, immigration issues, anti-Semitism, kind of across the
And that process hopefully will be emerged around 2009 and particularly focused
on the national action plans that were agreed upon by most member states that
attended the conference.
There has been some follow-up, but it's wilted a little bit, and so the process
of heading towards 2009, hopefully, at least at the European level, will
re-ignite the energy around pushing some of the states, and particularly some
of the new states that have come into the EU, to follow up either on the
national action plans they agreed to, or something along those lines around
policy dealing with anti-discrimination and anti-racism.
PAYNE: Just a last question. I know that in the athletic realm with the
soccer or their football, I guess, as you call it there, that there have been
more and more stars of African descent. And from what I understand, there have
been sort of racial attacks by fans.
Of course, it seems -- I don't want to prejudge any group -- but seems like
kind of hooligans kind of follow those big games. And it seems that drinking
and all of that becomes as much a part of the game, and so before the game is
over, I don't even know if anyone's really watching the game or they're just
out fighting or brawling.
At one time one country barred another country from coming to the game. It's
just gotten out of control.
But as relates to black soccer stars and the name-calling that occurs, has that
been a problem more at the side, or was it an issue?
BLAKELY: It's still very much an issue. Within the last year, there have been
really horrible incidents reported in the press. For example, there was
incident in Germany where a Nigerian soccer star was taunted by fans, and
bananas were thrown, and he became so upset that he raised a Hitler salute.
And it turns out this against the law in Germany, so he was brought up on
charges. Nothing was done to the fans. And that sort of says where things
are, except there have recently been measures taken by a couple of countries to
crack down on that kind of violence.
But as you know, law enforcement doesn't necessarily change hearts. And it's
still a tradition in some countries. It's sort of been, in varying levels of
intensity -- they thought they'd gotten control of it by the 80s, but then
there was another upsurge again with the ultra-nationalists and the skinheads
So the jury is still out, whether or not that's going to be held completely in
LUSANE: What I would add to that, though, is that coming out of the 80s and
90s, there are actually some excellent policies that are in place in a couple
of countries, like the U.K., for example, working with the football teams,
working with local jurisdictions. They have put in some models of how to
address the issues.
And there are some organizations, like Keep Racism out of Football, that also
exist. What doesn't exist is at the European level and leadership from the EU
on this particular issue that would begin to propose a directive or something
that would give some strength to what are fairly good policies that exist in a
couple of countries. But in other countries, as Dr. Blakely said, there's
virtually nothing solved.
PAYNE: Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SMITH: Thank you.
Just very briefly, if you could tell us what countries do you think are the
best in Europe in terms of combating racism? And secondly, the European Court
of Human Rights -- has that been used with any effectiveness by people whose
rights have been infringed upon?
LUSANE: In terms of the first question...
SMITH: You might add what countries are the worst.
LUSANE: Oh, there are a lot of worst countries. But in terms of countries
that are doing best, in terms of overall framework, I would say the U.K. and
What they have put in place, particularly in the U.K. as a result of the Race
Relations Amendment Act in 2000, is that it not only addresses
anti-discrimination, but equality.
And, for example, all public bodies -- and there are over 40,000 in the U.K.,
from local councils to local health care centers -- are all required to do an
analysis of their policies to see how those policies impact on race relations.
So there are some advanced kinds of thinking that went on in public places
similarly in the Netherlands. But in a number of places, you simply have
nothing that approaches that at all.
The second question was...
SMITH: The European Court of Human Rights.
LUSANE: ... the European Court of Human Rights. The big problem with the
European Court of Human Rights is that under the European Convention, Article
14, which is the article that specifically deals with discrimination, is not a
stand-alone article. And it can only be invoked in association with another
violation under the Convention.
And there is a protocol that has been proposed, for now probably eight or nine
years, that would resolve the issue, but only a few states have signed on to
But the European Court of Human Rights can actually be a very positive
environment. And a number of rulings from the court have had a reverberating
impact across the region. And so it takes quite a while to get a case through,
but when the cases do go through, they impact on all the member states, because
all 43 countries larger than the EU are members of the Council of Europe.
So it can be an instrument, but right now the major problem is getting Article
14 to be a stand-alone and pushing for Protocol 12 to be passed.
ESSED: I want to qualify the measure of which country you take as an example.
I would say in the U.K. the combination of a thoroughly well organized and a
long time of community resistance has been very important. And the U.K. is
advanced in that.
As for the Netherlands, I would say policies are fairly in place, but the
Netherlands has the highest number of exclusions from the labor market, and
that is my measure. And then it would be low at the bottom.
And I continue to say it's very important to look at what actually takes place
and not be blinded by the policies or nice work, because the number of
exclusions in the labor market is really staggering in the Netherlands.
PAYNE: Would you yield?
PAYNE: Ireland has been the country that is the new engine of Europe -- the
EU, when they came in with their plan of upgrading the south of Europe to fix
bridges and roads and so forth, and somehow Ireland caught on fire. They were
maybe 10 millionaires 20 years ago, but now there are several hundred -- just
almost the highest per capita income.
However, I understand that it is more difficult in Ireland for a person of
African descent to even get an appointment at the Irish embassy that would
Have you or anyone looked at what's happening in Ireland and how strong the
racial discrimination, with all the battle between sectarianism and trying to
resolve Northern Ireland -- of course, that's another country -- but Catholics
and Protestants and knowing what all the problems were for Ireland?
And I've spoken to some of the Sinn Fein people, former IRA folks, who are very
disappointed. They're in the north of Ireland, very disappointed in what is
happening in Ireland.
They just can't believe that racial discrimination would happen, because they
went through so much religious discrimination in the north of Ireland, and
they're just so displeased with the government of Ireland. I mean, even today
we're going to have the Taoiseach who's going to address the Congress, I think,
But has anyone studied or know specifically about the Irish experience that's
going on right now?
BLAKELY: I have, in fact, been giving special attention to Ireland, in part
because the recent influx of African population has been so sudden -- about
30,000, seemingly, over less than a decade -- and apace with that,
unfortunately, has been the rise of discrimination.
There have been a couple of black elected officials, though, even along with
that. It's difficult to say exactly which way things are going right now,
because things are in flux. But they're at least aware in Ireland that there
is a problem, and I think they are trying to move to address it.
And that would also determine my ranking of how the other countries are doing.
I think those who acknowledge that there is a problem are way ahead of the
game. And that's why I do place England and the Netherlands on the top in that
The ones who are still denying that they want to deal with those kinds of
categories, I think, are not going to move toward any resolutions of the very
real problems. So I think that that's really the main factor. It's an
attitudinal question about are you going to address these issues or not.
One other country I would mention with respect to that, another country with a
sizable population, about half a million, is Italy, which actually looks pretty
bright, although there are problems there. But, again, attitudinally I think
there were was a conscious decision by the Italian authorities that they're
going to avoid some of these problems that are happening elsewhere.
There is also the historical tradition there and the proximity to Africa and
other kinds of factors that play a role in this.
PAYNE: Right. Just reclaiming for a second, I think you're absolutely right,
and I think that in Ethiopian and Italy there's been a long kind of
relationship -- many times adverse.
But the thing about Ireland is that it's so new. Ireland has been a country
that has had a net loss for 150 years. No one ever went to Ireland. They all
left Ireland, as you know, from the 1848 potato famine all through the years,
because the economics were so bleak.
And now has turned around, where you are starting to have a big net increase.
As a matter of fact, Irish Americans, come on home. You'll get a better deal
over here than you've got over there.
But I think that the newness of this immigration that they're confronted with
now, with the economics just off the charts, is something that I think might be
more than they can even come up to grips with.
So I hope that they take advantage of countries like Britain or others -- the
one that you say is the best -- to follow what they've done to try to avoid
really being caught up in something that's 20, 30 years ago that other
countries have dealt with.
SMITH: I want to thank you for your testimonies, for your incisive answers to
questions posed by the panel. And there may be some additional questions. If
you could get back in a timely fashion to us, that would be greatly
appreciated, so it could become part of the record.
But thank you again.
And the hearing is adjourned.
Whereupon the hearing ended at 12:21 p.m.