By Papa Cheikh Jimbira-Sakho Writer and Journalist
Since the beginning of this 21st century, Europe has become seriously confronted with expanding racial discrimination and xenophobia following massive migration. Actually, these two phenomena were directly proportional to the growing momentum of international labor migration in Western European countries, which resulted from the end of the Cold War and the ensuing process of economic globalization. Yet, we know that with the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor countries (the latter being fettered by rapid population growth, environmental degradation, armed conflicts, etc.) that grievous process of globalization led many people from developing countries to assaulting the “European fortress” in search of better job opportunities and a haven of peace. Of course, this mass migration did not fail to cause deep feelings of insecurity among European populations traditionally agreed to racist and xenophobic ideas
Indeed, as globalization spreads out, so does the accompanying process of economic and social inequality and precariousness, which generates frustrations, xenophobic sentiments, and a proneness to a scapegoat attitude toward immigrants. A. Sivanandan, director of the Institute of Race Relations, referring to that coupling of globalization with racism, is quite right to speak of xeno-racism. According to him, “It is racism in substance but “xeno” in form. It is not just directed at those with darker skins from the former colonial territories but at the newer categories of the displaced, the dispossessed, and the uprooted, who are beating at Western Europe’s doors — the Europe that helped to displace them in the first place.” Now, before proceeding further, let us promptly shed some light on our key concepts: race, racism, and xenophobia.
Derived from the Latin word ratio (i.e. chronological order), the word race is initially a term specific to the universe of breeding, namely, that of horses.
Today, at the dawn of the 3rd millennium, a determining landmark has been laid in the evolution of modern biological science, with the fruition of the DNA cartography, and the publication of the sequencing of the human genome project, an attempt to discover all the genetic information in the human body in a book that contains some 9 billion letters. Such are the most recent data of science on the question, and many scholars have now agreed that race is but a social construct with potent social and political effects but without any basis in biological science. In summary we have no scientific evidence of a multi-human race. We have only one race and that is HUMAN but we have different Ethnic human groups: Since Racism is based on the construct that we have different human races and now we all know this does not exist, so consequently the term RACISM is wrong and should be replaced with Ethnicism period
this regard, we cannot evoke the recent controversy that burst at the last October Bristol Festival of ideas following the racist remarks of American DNA pioneer Dr. James Watson about the Negroes’ intelligence quotient (IQ). Actually, a lecture scheduled on October 24, 2007, at the Science Museum for the 1962 Nobel Prize winner was cancelled because he “has gone beyond the point of acceptable debate,” according to the spokesman of the museum.
Racism and Xenophobia
According to UN international conventions, the term “racial discrimination” means any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, or any other field of public life. Racism clearly appears in social progress theories that postulate the superiority of Europe’s civilization over the others. It evolved in tandem with the European colonialism and imperialism and was used as an ideology (backed by a “pseudoscientific racism”) to justify subjugation and exploitation of other peoples.
For the upholders of racism, the human race, just like the animal species, is divided into races, each equipped with a specific genetic inheritance that demonstrates special characters and particular and immutable aptitudes. In the hierarchy formulated by those groups of people that do not have other aim than to justify various inequalities and economic and social discriminations, the Whites lie at the top of the pyramid. They justify this by saying that the Whites are precisely equipped with a genome that tends to be the perfect prototype at the somatic, emotional, and psychological levels. In the last degree of this pyramid of racial values lie those who are black, genetically retarded, nearer to chimpanzees, incapable of initiatives, devoid of creative imagination, and, of course, good for slavery!
More recently — July 2007 — the Guardian informed about the removal of the title The Adventures of Tintin in the Congo from the children’s shelves in Borders bookstores following anti-racist protests by the Commission for Racial Equality. A customer, David Enright, informed the commission that he “was aghast to see page after page of representations of black African people as baboons or monkeys, bowing before a white teenager and speaking like retarded children.” Although a spokesman of Borders claimed that the book would be moved to the adult section, the commission saw that it is no longer acceptable for any shop to stock or sell the 1930s cartoon adventure because of its crude racial stereotypes. But xenophobia is a fear or contempt of foreign or strange people. It is a word of a Greek origin, where xenos means foreigner and phobos means fear. The term is typically used to describe fear or dislike of foreigners or in general of people different from oneself.
Racism in the UK
It is widely spread that racial and xenophobic violence against ethnic minorities — especially the Africans, Caribbeans, and Asians — is an old phenomenon in the UK. Not going back very far, we can easily remember the predicament of the 1950s and 1960s black migrant workers, when native politicians were whipping up racial animosity. Then, racial harassment — from racist remarks to physical aggressions — could be witnessed everywhere in public life: on the streets, at work, in playgrounds, classrooms, shops, etc.
During the previous decade, a British Crime Survey indicated that in 1991, at least 18 percent of all crimes against ethnic minorities were racially motivated. Then, in 1997, a Human Rights Watch report on racist violence in the UK noted that the UK has one of the highest levels of racially motivated violence and harassment in Western Europe and the problem is getting worse. Today, numerous judiciary reforms to remedy the situation are being initiated.
One of those reforms aims at issuing an antiracist legislation that complies with the European Convention on Human Rights with regard to confronting the discrimination in employment, housing, and social services. Yet, the racist and xenophobic acts are commonplace in Great Britain. The situation is getting worse, especially after the creation of a number of new “racially aggravated offenses” with the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Ironically, a report by the government’s Migration Impact Forum concluded that “migrants in the UK work harder than British workers, pay more tax, and contribute six billion pounds to the UK economy.”
By that time, the substantially populated African-Caribbean areas, where those violent uprisings took place, registered increasing harassments and physical attacks by white racists on black people. Actually, for the latter, things have changed for the worse. Nowadays, besides other numerous blatant discriminatory practices, a young black man is six times more likely than his white counterpart to be a victim of “stop-and-search” humiliation and to be caught up in the criminal justice system, according to a paper that was presented in theUniversity of Warwick, Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations.
Records of British Racism
According to a British Crime Survey, there were 280,000 racially motivated incidents in 1999, and 98,000 of these (i.e. 35 percent) were against black, Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi people (who comprise 7 percent of the population). Those at greatest risk to racial attack are Pakistanis and Bangladeshis (at 4.2 percent), Indians (at 3.6 percent), and Blacks (at 2.2 percent), all this compared with 0.3 percent for the white people.
In 2001, grievous uprisings in Bradford and Oldham derived from harassment by the police force or from racial crimes against Africans or Asians, which resulted in dozens of victims. Actually, between 2000 and 2001, the British police recorded 25,100 racially aggravated incidents, of which 12,455 were of racially aggravated harassment, 4,711 of racially aggravated common assault, and 3,176 of racially aggravated injuries in England and Wales.Yet, it must be noted that in this obnoxious social atmosphere, xenophobia stems from within all social groups. Lots of Whites fall victims of racist attacks, whether aggressive or retaliatory. According to a British Crime Survey, in 2004, 92,000 white people said they had also fallen victims of racially motivated crimes. The BBC also reported that the latest crime statistics show that race-hate crimes increased by almost 600 percent in London in the month after the July 7 bomb attacks, compared to the same period last year, with 269 more offenses allegedly “motivated by religious hatred” reported to the Metropolitan Police Service.
But, much more alarming are the racially motivated attacks committed daily in the UK. On the soaring number of attacks on ethnic minorities, we learn from the British government — namely, the British Ministry of Justice — that 41,000 such offenses were committed between 2005 and 2006, a rise of 12 percent over the previous year. The statistics confirm anecdotal evidence from immigrant groups that ethnic minorities have been increasingly targeted in recent years, with the Muslim community under particular pressure since the 9/11 attacks.
Although lacking a tradition of ethnic minority immigration due to historic poverty, Ireland started experiencing a rise in xenophobic and racist attitudes with the Celtic Tiger (a name for the period of rapid economic growth in Ireland, which began in the 1990s and slowed in 2001). These attitudes reduce to verbal and physical abuses against African and Asian immigrants. Among the most tragic cases of racial aggression is the murder of Zhao Liu Tao in January 2002. Aged 29, that Chinese student — beaten to death by a group of Irish youths — was the first race-hate victim in Ireland. The second victim, Leong Ly Min, is another Chinese who succumbed later that year in mid-August after being lynched by an Irish gang who had been racially abusing him.
As for Northern Ireland, an official report stated that racist attacks are at 16.4 percent per 1000 of the minority population, while in England and Wales, the figure is 12.6 percent. Furthermore, because of the severity of its racist and xenophobic acts (intimidation, assaults, general harassment, vandalism, house burning, etc.), North Ireland has been labeled by the Guardian the “race-hate capital of Europe.” Another BBC report stated in 2002 that one in four Scots admitted that they are strongly or slightly racist.
In the coming part, we will be moving on to racial discrimination in other European countries, namely, France, Greece, Finland, Denmark, and Germany. What do you think of the statistics of racially motivated incidents in the UK and Ireland? Have you been through a similar incident in these countries?
Racist Violence: Nowhere to Turn, Update, HUMNAN RIGHTS WATCH, July 1997 http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/update.html#uk
Alan Travis, “Migrants are a boon to UK economy, says study,” guardian, 17 Oct. 2007
Museum drops race row scientist, BBC, 7050020, 18 Oct. 2007http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/england/london/7050020.stm
Eric Morton, RACE AND RACISM IN THE WORKS OF DAVID HUME, African Philosophy, 1533-1067, 2002, http://www.africanphilosophy.com/vol1.1/morton.html
Papa Cheikh Jimbira-Sakho is a Senegalese journalist and writer who works as the director at the Editions « JP » Senegal. He holds bachelor’s degrees in both English literature and economics from the University of Dakar. He is also a former director and editor-in-chief of the Senegalese Muslim monthly newspaper; Le Musulman. He is the author of the titles Pour l’Islam, Bosnie-Herzégovine : l’histoire ravagée, and Esclavage, racisme et religion.