EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy

Ever since the death of George Floyd, the United States of America have been experiencing massive protests condemning police brutality and racial discrimination following the death of George Floyd at the heads of a local police unit in Minneapolis. It worked as a massive spark following a pantheon of equally tragic and illegal killings, such as the one of Breonna Taylor less than two works earlier, Treyvon Martin, Alatiana Jefferson, and more. It acted as a catalyst for years of grievances and a documented history of oppression, pitting the wider public against the police and other state or media establishments with history of racial abuse and discrimination.

One can say that the current events in the US are a critical juncture in the history of the country, as country-wide protests of such proportions have most recently only been evidenced during the civil rights movements of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and similar high profile activists of the 1960s and 70s.

The clash between the established practices of American culture and modern thinking was long overdue, as even today minorities, such as the black community or Hispanics, suffer discrimination based on their ethnicity or race. Throughout the US’s history, the basic tenets of the so-called “American Dream” – opportunity, freedom, and prosperity – have been unequally distributed and largely reserved for white people through the exclusion and oppression of people of different colour. The deep racial and ethnic inequalities that exist nowadays are a result of structural racism embedded into the framework of the country’s society and culture.

White supremacy is therefore a result of an idea that the “rightful owners” of the land (or even people, if we go back to the times of slavery in the US), are white people, since they posit themselves as the ones who established the country. This is further evidenced in media, where the representation of people of colour is lower than of Caucasians, for example. Further evidence can be found in academia or the job market, where diversity quotas are common, which even if created to tackle racism, are in themselves inherently flawed, since token diversity is not the answer.

All in all, the combination of historical experience, media representation, low efforts on the part of the US government to curb racism and even distasteful handling of racial dyads and personal racism by the president himself – are valid reasons in themselves to tackle the divide in the country. If the US wants to present itself as a free and liberal country, even the ‘defender of the free world’, it needs to tackle its history of racial abuse.

However, the US is not alone in this. In several places around the world, similar protests, but protests of solidarity took place, most of them in Europe, which itself has a horrific history of xenophobia and racism. Even today, there are countries that are members of the EU, which have large percentages of their population with negative views towards people of different skin colour.

Perhaps the solidarity protests, instead of ‘merely’ being interpreted as highlighting a US issue, could instead serve as beacons to highlight and tackle domestic racism across the globe, because a cultural reckoning in the vein of the one in the US is much needed, be it in Europe or elsewhere. It’s not only about showing solidarity, but about accepting the fact that racism is everywhere, be it as base xenophobia or latent structural racism, and that confronting it is long overdue. The EU has already committed itself to fight racial discrimination and police brutality within its Member States, which began by issuing a resolution that was voted in by the majority of the MEPs within the European Parliament. Maybe just a small step for the EU, but a big leap against fighting xenophobia and racism worldwide.

Márk Szabó

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