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"Obama Effect": increased diversity in global politics?

“Prejudice in Europe is more than skin deep”, writes Columbia University historian Mark Mazower in the Financial Times:
Europeans find it hard adjusting to a colour-blind world. Indeed their hesitancy is growing. In Austria, the extreme right carved out big gains in September’s general elections. Pope Benedict weighed in over the summer to warn against a possible resurgence of fascist values in Italy. Europe as a whole, according to recent polls, has become significantly more xenophobic over the past few years. Fears of Islamic terrorism and anxiety about globalisation have fed this trend. So has fervent anti-European Union sentiment, strongly correlated to populist anti-immigrant rhetoric. By contrast, Mr Obama’s story is that of the immigrant dream, a tale of upwardly-mobile success that cut decisively across race lines. Immigrant voters played a decisive electoral role in Mr Obama’s win, yet immigration – for all the prior public debate – figured little as a campaign issue.
It will be interesting to see if a black president in America will reverse the trend of rising xenophobia in Europe cited by Mazower.  Al Jazeera also poses an interesting question, "Will the 'Obama effect' encourage more diversity in global politics?"

See also from Atlantic Review:
* Five Reasons Obama Would not be Elected in Europe

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Kevin Sampson on :

As has been noted here before, the European infatuation with Obama cannot last, and when it ends it will likely be ugly (too many hurt feelings and dashed hopes on both sides). So my guess is; no, the ‘Obama Effect’ will not increase political diversity in Europe. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Kyle on :

If I understand your reference correctly, you are talking about Obamania as Europe's enfatuation with Obama the politician. However, the Obama effect is a different phenomenon as I understand it... not love for Obama the politician, but for Obama the black politician. The question I am wondering is not whether Europe's adoration for Obama will fade once they realize he is an American president with American interests, and he has no magic wand for saving the world. Instead, I wonder if the fact that a black man rose to the top of American society will lead Europeans to question their own political class, their own xenophobia, and the righteousness of their societies. This doesn't have to do with Obama the politician, but Obama the minority politician who demonstrated that America is once again far ahead of its European counterparts.

Zyme on :

"Instead, I wonder if the fact that a black man rose to the top of American society will lead Europeans to question their own political class, their own xenophobia, and the righteousness of their societies." Hardly - the fact that a black american rose to the top as you said it is considered to be normal due to the nature of the american population. Here in Europe a sentiment is strongening which makes the people feel that immigration may increase our numbers, but not our substance. Instead it is believed we can best defend ourselves against terrorism and failed integration by enforcing assimilation of immigrants. This cannot be achieved by putting one of them on the top. It can only be reached by keeping up traditional order. No other explanation is possible for the enduring demand among german conservatives for enforcing our 'Leitkultur' (literally meaning 'leading culture') for example. Individual progress should be possible to prevent frustrations - but it has to be clear who the host is. This is not too difficult as social progress is indeed open for immigrants. Political careers are probably as unpopular among immigrants as they are among the natives - so this plays by far a lesser role than it does in North America. When after a number of generations they cannot be distinguished anymore, they will certainly be free to pursue whatever career they would like to. Now you may argue this is a bit of a bleak outlook. Probably, but they are as free to leave as they were to come. Nobody is being held captive here.

David on :

The election over the weekend of Cem Ozdemir to head the Green Party in Germany is a small step in the right direction. On the other hand, Barack Obama's half-sister Auma lived in Germany for 20 years and made this comment to her brother about the Germans: "Germans always like to think that they have a very liberal attitude towards Africans. But when you scratch the surface you can see that they they still carry around the prejudices of their childhood."

Zyme on :

Well if it took the Green party (main supporters for uncontrolled immigration) more than 25 years to actually elect an immigrant as a co-leader, how long do you expect the other parties to do so?

David on :

A long time, Zyme. But I need to correct you: Cem Ozdemir is not an immigrant. He was born in Germany.

Zyme on :

"Cem Ozdemir is not an immigrant. He was born in Germany." I included him among the immigrants. Technically you may be right, but not from a cultural point of view. This dear David is the reason the label "Migrationshintergrund" was invented. Which underscores the main difference between anglo-saxon and continental cultural understanding. There it depends on a piece of paper proving citizenship. Here it depends on your ancestorship. And this is not restricted to Germany - no different it is for example in Austria.

David on :

Zyme, is it any wonder that "integration has failed" in Germany? That's what happens when you marginalize people based on "ancestorship". And don't get me started on Austria - still in mourning over the death of their beloved neo-fascist Joerg Haider. Last week Austria's "America expert" Klaus Emmerich had this to say about President-elect OBama on national television: “I do not want the western world being directed by a black man. And if you say this is a racist remark, I say you are damn right it is.”

Zyme on :

Our popular definition of citizenship is part of our culture. You can hardly expect the people to throw that away for the relief of international political correctness. Yes I heard about this remark of that Austrian journalist. And I have been to Austria a few weeks ago right after Haider's death. It was all over the radio shows - on every station. They broadcasted interviews with people who attended his funeral or watched the national tv transmission. He was called "Governor of the hearts" in imitation of Lady Di as the "Princess of the hearts". It was extremely fascinating, compared to the animosity our press had towards him most of the time. Ironically his death may be his biggest possible service he could do to the Austrian right parties: Only with him passing away the antagonized FPÖ and BZÖ may reunite under the new poster boy, Karl Heinz Strache. Publications about him taking part in wood camps with right-wing extremists during his late youth would have been the end if he pursued a political career in Germany - Austria is so much more relaxed in such issues. You will have to live with the fact that traditional sentiments are returning, and it appears they do a little faster in Austria, which is being barely in the historical spotlight and caring even less.

Thorsten on :

"You will have to live with the fact that traditional sentiments are returning, and it appears they do a little faster in Austria, which is being barely in the historical spotlight and caring even less." Where on earth do you see that "traditional sentiments are returning" in Germany? I have been living in Germany for four decades, I have lived in different parts of Western Germany. My experience here is that never before the attitude towards people with non-german ancestors has been as relaxed as today - at least in the western part of the country. This is not to say that immigrants are joyfully integrated in German society. But I think there is a general acceptance of the fact that immigrants are here to stay, and that immigration will continue. This used to be quite different only 15 years ago, not to speak of the 1970s or 80s. It is only after this general acknowledgement of immigration being a necessary part of German life that critical discussions like the debate about "parallel societies" could emerge. Twenty years ago we were talking about "repatriation", today we are talking about "integration". Right-wing movements and parties continue to be irrelevant in Germany - not because of "our past", but because the values they represent - social darwinism, authoritarianism, collectivism and provincialism - are not in line with the values of modern German society. The success of right-wing parties in Austria only mirrors the success of "Die Linke" in Germany. Both are essentially anti-globalisation and anti-establishment movements that decorate their agenda with some provocative political requisites. But FPÖ voters do not want the Nürnberger Rassengesetze back nor do Die-Linke voters want to live in a totalitarian communist system. So which traditional sentiments are returning?

Zyme on :

Actually I have very little experience with Western Germans - and in most cases they have indeed proven to be extremely tolerant towards minorities. Most people I have to do with are from either South or East Germany and from Austria. Now when I compare the anti-right-wing reflexes of the generation from an age of 40-60 to the stance of those from 20-40 have today, I can clearly see that the tolerance of parallel societies and foreign cultures in our homeland is waning. There is a simple reason for this: While the elder generation has been muted by the mere mentioning of German history, the younger do not accept this as an excuse. Only ten years ago being German was a stigma. Look at the youth today, being proud about their nationality. They no longer want to form Germany as the antithesis of Nazi Germany - they intend to form it as a place to feel good in and to leave offspring behind with a bright future. They no longer want our country to be sorry for our past but instead want it to pursue our interests. East Germans and Austrians are of course even less bound by historical background, as they have practically not been exposed to the guild cult. "Right-wing movements and parties continue to be irrelevant in Germany - not because of "our past", but because the values they represent" The are irrelevant firstly because the established parties have been implementing the most popular positions. Which is one of the main bases of support for the Bavarian CSU for example. Or think about the foreign policy change before and after Schroeder came to office - from extremely altuistical to comparatively aggressive national self interest. Compare the amount of integration our interiour politics demanded from immigrants 10 years ago and what they demand now. I clearly recall the anger among the supporters of immigration when such a petty issue as forcing immigrants to learn German ended in highly emotional debates. Who would question the need to adapt today? Oh and let's not forget that extremist parties are irrelevant because the state (as the lawyer of the established parties) intervenes and dissolves extremist parties "in time". Maybe you can show me another country in the Western World that employs more than a dozen interior secret services merely for "protecting the constitution". A country so full of political spies that the most famous extremist party cannot be forbidden because the constitutional court can no longer tell which actions are done by spies and which by real extremists! I would not know such a country. And let's then take a look at countries that closely ressemble ours from a cultural perspective - only they lack a comparable security apparatus. Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and Hungary - in each one you will witness a trend to increasing success stories of the right wing parties.

John in Michigan, USA on :

"A country so full of political spies that the most famous extremist party cannot be forbidden because the constitutional court can no longer tell which actions are done by spies and which by real extremists" Interesting. Where can I read more about these court cases?

Zyme on :

A good summary can be read here: http://articles.latimes.com/2003/mar/19/world/fg-right19 The funny thing is - the ban was rejected because much of the evidence was actually committed by secret service agents. So the judges declared they can only proceed if the government clearly discloses the identities of all its spies in the party. But as the various secret services are keen on keeping their sources of information, the state rejected this. So ironically the only reason why this political party can go on unrestrictedly is because the state does not want to give up his security grip. Comforting to know that our established parties have the power to decide when and where a potentially nasty rival party is to be put out of the game. It's a great thing to live in a free society, isn't it? :) The only amazing part is to find out how, even with the utmost effort the allies put into our constitution after war, the authoritarian trait of the ruling class creeps back into the system. It now has simply become too subtle for most to get noticed.

John in Michigan, USA on :

"With only about 6,500 members" Remarkable. Not exactly a threat, so far. In the 60's, the FBI and the NYC Police department together created a program called Cointelpro (meaning Counter-Intelligence Program). Cointelpro had some of the same problems investigating the revolutionary left movements of the time. The authorities had, one might say, become a victim of their own success. The biographies of agents from some of those programs talk about how they'd attend certain meetings and a majority of the attendants turned out to be agents of one police organization or another. Before that, there were of course authentic criminal revolutionaries, but they never attained critical mass. "Comforting to know that our established parties have the power to decide when and where a potentially nasty rival party is to be put out of the game. It's a great thing to live in a free society, isn't it? :)" That's the price one pays for having publicly financed campaigns, my friend. Why McCain was in favor of that, I'll never understand. It certainly didn't make the recent election any less nasty. I hope Marie-Claude is reading this. That is why we permit total freedom of speech, even with it is hateful and disruptive of harmony and social order. We are more concerned with the danger that the government will "contaminate" the political process by intervening. We prefer to permit these extremist parties operate openly (so long as they are not committing actual crimes) so that there is less need for domestic spying. I've written on other posts that authorities need to be able to do normal, public intelligence-gathering. I draw the line at going under cover, or posting on a forum under a made-up identity. For that, they need to get the permission of a court.

Thorsten on :

@ zyme I am a bit astonished about the zeal you invest to state your case - this seems to be still an emotional matter. I am astonished because I thought we had left behind this kind of discussion in the 1980s, in the heydays of "Vergangenheitsbewältigung", which had both indispensable and silly aspects. [i]"Now when I compare the anti-right-wing reflexes of the generation from an age of 40-60 to the stance of those from 20-40 have today, I can clearly see that the tolerance of parallel societies and foreign cultures in our homeland is waning. There is a simple reason for this: While the elder generation has been muted by the mere mentioning of German history, the younger do not accept this as an excuse."[/i] I suppose you are younger than me, one of "those from 20-40". At least you seem to have a quite one-sided view of those "from 40-60", possibly induced by your teachers. There has indeed never been such a thing as "tolerance of parallel societies" outside of the Green party, not in the 1980s, not in the 1970s. On the contrary: I remember very nasty racist jokes and the slogan "Throw them all out!" I feel that today German society as a whole is much more tolerant. [i]"Only ten years ago being German was a stigma"[/i] Did you really feel like that in 1998? Then you were part of a small minority. Part of a minority though with a long tradition in German history. A certain complex of national inferiority has been an element in German culture since the Middle Ages. The Nazi era was not the cause of this inferiority complex, but only a symptom. Generally however this feeling has neither been shared by the majority of the population nor has it influenced the ability of the German political class to define and pursue national interests. [i]"Or think about the foreign policy change before and after Schroeder came to office - from extremely altuistical to comparatively aggressive national self interest."[/i] You are not really saying that the Schröder government was the first post war government to pursue national interest, are you? All FRG governments from Adenauer to Kohl had one goal in common: To increase manoeuvering space for German politics in order to regain an international position that enables Germany to decide on her great national questions without foreign interference: unity or division, war or peace, form of government. Schröder acted exactly in that tradition. [i]"The are irrelevant firstly because the established parties have been implementing the most popular positions. Which is one of the main bases of support for the Bavarian CSU for example."[/i] I agree, this is an aspect. However, the most popular positions of right-wing parties are indeed their most moderate ones - those positions that are actually not "right-wing". No established party ever copied one of their core positions, e.g. the demand to stop immigration. The reason is simple: Right-wing core positions are not attractive to voters. [i]"let's not forget that extremist parties are irrelevant because the state (as the lawyer of the established parties) intervenes and dissolves extremist parties "in time" [/i] This is a myth. The only right-wing party ever dissolved was the Sozialistische Reichspartei. It was a declared successor organization to the NSDAP and as such banned in 1952. The only other party ever dissolved was the stalinist KPD, who advocated a violent revolution (1956). So your insinuation that in Germany the political establishment has a habit of dissolving rivaling parties seems absurd to me. The German tradition of national self-accusation has really left its mark on you, hasn't it? By the way, you are right: Why on earth do we need 17 separate agencies to protect the constitution?

Zyme on :

"I suppose you are younger than me, one of "those from 20-40". At least you seem to have a quite one-sided view of those "from 40-60", possibly induced by your teachers. There has indeed never been such a thing as "tolerance of parallel societies" outside of the Green party, not in the 1980s, not in the 1970s. On the contrary: I remember very nasty racist jokes and the slogan "Throw them all out!" I feel that today German society as a whole is much more tolerant." Well the point about the 1970s may be true, that was before my time. As being mid 20 now, I can asure you though that in the 1990s we were practically taught to not be proud of our heritage and nationality, instead always show an understanding for those poor victims of the last Reich and never say anything critical about them. It was exagerated so much that this "education" actually backfired and made most of us ignore those historical issues today. "Did you really feel like that in 1998? Then you were part of a small minority." I did not feel like that. At that time being a teenager I naturally was not sure about how to feel about that. I clearly remember all grown-ups in this regard though (certainly no minority) saying that Germans will never ever be proud about their nation anymore. They were so convinced about it that I, too, didn't really expect it anymore. National pride among the younger generation however changed drastically since the millenium. When during the World Cup in 2006 all those masses discovered how national pride can lead to collective ekstasy, this was the last major turning point I would assume. When I heard thousands of Germans shouting our nation's name at each other with increasing frenzy and loudness, when before the match against Poland I heard people say that "at 21:00 we will return fire" (in imitation of Hitler's famous quote) and people laughed instead of complaining, when after the redemptive 1:0 in the last minute of the match women cried in happiness as if their most beloved asked them about marriage - then I felt that our generation no longer has any problems with national pride and will get over historical issues. "You are not really saying that the Schröder government was the first post war government to pursue national interest, are you? All FRG governments from Adenauer to Kohl had one goal in common: To increase manoeuvering space for German politics in order to regain an international position that enables Germany to decide on her great national questions without foreign interference: unity or division, war or peace, form of government. Schröder acted exactly in that tradition." You are certainly right about Adenauer and Kiesinger, men cut out of the good old wood. But afterwards there was a big gap. Beginning with Brand falling on his knees in Warschau till Kohl ensuring European agreements with German payments. Schroeder was the first one who clearly demanded our rights and also put the whining Poles aside in favor of the Russians for example. He was the first to clearly make use of our re-gained unity. "This is a myth. The only right-wing party ever dissolved was the Sozialistische Reichspartei. It was a declared successor organization to the NSDAP and as such banned in 1952. The only other party ever dissolved was the stalinist KPD, who advocated a violent revolution (1956). So your insinuation that in Germany the political establishment has a habit of dissolving rivaling parties seems absurd to me." Why it would need a habit when the instrument of outlawing parties has been used and can be used again? Which intelligent person would put any effort into changing our system by founding a party that will be banned once it has any success? You clearly underestimate the choking effect this instrument has on any kind of unconventional political ideas. "The German tradition of national self-accusation has really left its mark on you, hasn't it?" Yes because a lot of foreign policy potential is thrown away when we are ridiculously busy with ourselves while we could concentrate on real issues. "By the way, you are right: Why on earth do we need 17 separate agencies to protect the constitution?" Two main reasons for their existence come into my mind. First even if there wasn't any need for them the various state governments are never willing to let go any of their power - and they want to keep this useful source of information - which explains the high number of services. Secondly it is a typical manifestation of both a very human and authoritarian trait. Once a ruling class (in our case the constellation of established parties) has become fortified, it is naturally eager to increase control and wants to make sure that it remains at the peak of power. And a very traditional instrument especially in German lands in every system for at least the last two centuries is the employment of political spies in this regard.

Thorsten on :

[i]"As being mid 20 now, I can asure you though that in the 1990s we were practically taught to not be proud of our heritage and nationality"[/i] I am a little bit shocked, for this clearly differs from my own school experience some 15 years earlier, though my teachers were genuine 68ers. But I am inclined to attribute this to the quality of individual teachers or schools rather than to an attitude representative for society as a whole - it is definitely not representative for the environments where I grew up, lived and worked. [i]"You are certainly right about Adenauer and Kiesinger, men cut out of the good old wood. But afterwards there was a big gap. Beginning with Brand falling on his knees in Warschau till Kohl ensuring European agreements with German payments."[/i] I do not think you are right here. The symbolism is misleading. Brandt on his knees indeed was a triumph of statesmanship. The "Ostverträge" normalized relationships between the Federal Republic and the important countries of the East Bloc including the Soviet Union. They thus opened a range of new political options. One desired effect was that the GDR lost influence within the East; another desired result was that the Federal Republic was no longer dependent on the US, France or Britain to pursue German interests in Eastern Europe. At last the Federal Republic had an own voice in East-West-relations, acting at eye level with France and Britain. This was an enormous step in overcoming the status of a protectorate. Schmidt successfully went on on this path. Together with France he initiated the institution which today is called the G8, thus ensuring an institutionalized German influence on political efforts to coordinate the world economy. He also was one of the fathers of Nato's 1979 Double-Track Decision that served to contain the last Soviet attempt to reach a military superiority in Central Europe. Kohl finally attained German unification, which was no little achievement, was it? The money he invested in the European project was the price to pay. I think there was little else he could have offered in exchange for unification. Please excuse me for this lengthy historical excursus.

Zyme on :

"I am a little bit shocked, for this clearly differs from my own school experience some 15 years earlier, though my teachers were genuine 68ers. But I am inclined to attribute this to the quality of individual teachers or schools rather than to an attitude representative for society as a whole - it is definitely not representative for the environments where I grew up, lived and worked." Well we have been confronted with such teachers very often. Going to minority restaurants in elementary school, I clearly recall being told in advance to shut up if we didn't like the meals. They also put a great deal of effort into politically correct terms regarding foreigners - generally an atmosphere of little choice coined by an ideological environment. Ironically this didn't prevent my first encounter with the Swastica - as a boy group symbol chosen by fellow classmates. "I do not think you are right here. The symbolism is misleading. Brandt on his knees indeed was a triumph of statesmanship. The "Ostverträge" normalized relationships between the Federal Republic and the important countries of the East Bloc including the Soviet Union. They thus opened a range of new political options. One desired effect was that the GDR lost influence within the East; another desired result was that the Federal Republic was no longer dependent on the US, France or Britain to pursue German interests in Eastern Europe. At last the Federal Republic had an own voice in East-West-relations, acting at eye level with France and Britain. This was an enormous step in overcoming the status of a protectorate." A good point I havn't thought of. It might indeed have played a decisive role in chosing this kind of symbolism, although I can hardly imagine that from the kind of Brand - but then again I havn't witnessed this era. Either way I would not consider such a gesture appropriate for a German statesman. Just think of Britain or Russia: You 'd have to search a long time to find a Russian politician willing to fall on his knees for the crimes of the Soviet Union or a British saying sorry for the Empire. "Kohl finally attained German unification, which was no little achievement, was it?" Well I always had the impression that unification rather fell into his hands than that it was his work. Who in the West would have expected reunification just 3 years before it happened? "The money he invested in the European project was the price to pay. I think there was little else he could have offered in exchange for unification." So you think that something had to be offered in exchange? In exchange for what - the rightous reunification of a country? In exchange for becoming possible threat to the others? "Please excuse me for this lengthy historical excursus." Oh no - since I havn't witnessed most of these issues it is always interesting to read a detailed elaboration on them. I also don't refrain from detailed writings, so I always hope other participants don't bother.

Thorsten on :

[i]"Going to minority restaurants in elementary school, I clearly recall being told in advance to shut up if we didn't like the meals."[/i] Incredible. [i]"So you think that something had to be offered in exchange? In exchange for what - the rightous reunification of a country? In exchange for becoming possible threat to the others?"[/i] The latter. I remember very well the discussions of 1989/1990 - in German and foreign media. One the one hand everybody seemed to be thrilled and enthusiastic about the fall of the wall. On the other hand there were sorrowful comments expecting a united Germany to surpass all other European states in terms of economic, political and military power. The rest was political bargaining: Britain and France were ready to accept a united Germany only on the condition that this new Gulliver was tied up in both NATO and the European Community. Ironically both countries did not like the idea of deeper European integration at all, but German unification motivated them to continue that process. I remember some French discussions prior to the Maastricht treaty the essence of which was: We hate to introduce the Euro, we hate to found that new European Union and give up part of our sovereignty, but we have to do it in order to integrate the Germans. So the result was an increased mutual control and dependency of all sides. And Germany's big financial contributions to that process gave her a substantial institutional influence behind the scenes.

Marie Claude on :

this was the big deal of the discussions between Mitterand and Kohl. Kohl wanted badly the reunification of the 2 Germany, but not lose the D Mark, Mitterand insisted on 2 Germany but forget about the D Mark. Both were great friends, a compromise was reached, the actual Germany !!!

John in Michigan, USA on :

I think I remember reading someplace that the symbolism on some of the Euro coins or notes was supposed to look vaguely German?

Joe Noory on :

Actually, the symbolism is rather Luxembourgish - which is to say that you know you're somewhere in Europe, but not really sure where exactly.

John in Michigan, USA on :

"Please excuse me for this lengthy historical excursus." This is an excellent discussion! No excuse needed. One of the great thinks about blogging is, you never run out of space.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Also, a little background on each person who is posting their personal experiences and impressions, is helpful. What approximate age are you, what part of Germany did you grow up in, that sort of thing. Unless of course you prefer to keep that private. Some, like Zyme, have already mentioned a few things about themselves. On the topic of official apologies, the most significant one I can remember in recent history was the Catholic Church apologizing for being too passive during the pre-War period. While we are listing possible apologies, I suppose we ought to include the United States for the treatment of the First People i.e. the native population of North America. I live about 5 miles from a small reservation, First People is the phrase that is currently taught, although you will still hear Native American particularly from the older generation. But when everyone relaxes and stops being correct, it is still Indian or just "the tribe". A difficult question is, how far back in history should we go? A mere 10 generations is about 300 years. I suspect there isn't a single nation on the planet that can go that far back without having something to apologize for. Oh, maybe Iceland can go that far back. They just won't shut up about their damn Althing!

Thorsten on :

"a little background on each person who is posting their personal experiences and impressions, is helpful." You are right - the validity of personal experiences is limited to a specific time and a specific place. I was born in the late 1960s and grew up near Cologne. I have since lived in other places of North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Bavaria. The people I have met (and still meet) are mostly middle class, with or without an academic background. "I suspect there isn't a single nation on the planet that can go that far back without having something to apologize for." Definitely. By the way, Iceland is now apologizing for the flaws of its banking system...

John in Michigan, USA on :

"But when you scratch the surface you can see that they they still carry around the prejudices of their childhood" I would agree with that, and not just in Germany. A pattern I've seen from time to time: A European will make a mildly racist comment or joke. If it is pointed out that some might find that offensive, the standard response is something like "Oh we were just kidding" or "they know we don't mean it" or even "Unlike America, we are not racist, so it is OK to joke about it." In this respect, European attitudes towards this sort of casual, "light" racism reminds me of the typical American attitude I remember from the 80s. Instead of saying "unlike America..." we would say "unlike Southerns/Republicans/"those people", we are not racist, so it is OK to joke about it". That attitude still exists, but is much less acceptable in polite company in America 20 years later. This is because a generation of college students have been taught (for better or worse...but that's another topic...) that even casual racism "perpetuates the stereotype". Which means some of them still do it, but they are much more willing to accept censure from others. However, even today you still see people declaring themselves to be "honorary members" of a different race or religion, when they want to make a joke. To be sure, when there is blatant, racially-motivated hate speech, the opposite is true. Europe seems to me more willing and able than the US to make hate speech illegal. This is because of different laws and customs regarding free speech. ==== Personally I believe racist jokes can, in the right context, have a positive role in the culture. They are necessary because certain questions and stereotypes simply cannot be acknowledged and confronted without humor. For example comedians Dave Chapelle or Jeff Foxworthy. It helps when using humor to explore questions of race if one is an equal opportunity offender.

Marie Claude on :

your are kidding, I have read the most hateful sentences against blacks (and or the frenchs) on american blogs, while in UK it's more pernicious and subtile, in France it's forbidden to attach anyone on his color race or gender, otherwise you can be pursued according to our laws, idem for printing a pic that is caution to an autorisation

Don S on :

It's called freedom of speech. It's not against the law unless accompanied by actions which hurt another. Rather than jail these people we make use of social pressures. But spewing out racist hate on a blog is not illegal.

Marie Claude on :

I know, I fight back :lol: generally the persons who do so are not very courageous

John in Michigan, USA on :

Marie-Claude, That is exactly my point. In America, because of the First Amendment and also the traditions and customs that go with it, anyone can say anything, no matter how vile, it is their right. That is why you see that stuff on the blogs, etc. However in polite conversation, casual racism is a bit less acceptable than in Europe. For better or worse, people have been taught that even simple statements like "you people" or "those people", even when used innocently, are danger areas and best avoided. But I am just talking about language. In life overall, it would be difficult to say which is more or less racist, US or Europe. You are more likely to find White-on-Black or anti-Hispanic racism in the US, but anti-Semitism, anti-Romany, or even anti-Central European ethnicities is more common in Europe.

Marie Claude on :

um, this freedom of speech is "killing" your democraty, we have a proverb, "the oral talks can flee away, the writings remain", this is how and why rumors and prejugés are so well shared and remnent in your country, this is an arm with double face, the conservatives are complaining of the mighty Dems propaganda tool, but it's not an "ideas" debate like in our county, dunno for Germany, UK has the fear of their communities, it's why they refrain a bit more than the US. We do not have the right to display racism or insults on anyone, you may be pursued, as far as racism it's certain, our communoties watch dogs are very vigilent. In talks, ok, discret and private or in cafés, in cafés you may also be pursued, but it rather finishes in a punching fight. As far as racism is concerned we are now facing an anti-white racism, mainly displayed by our Caraibeans, endoctrineds by Farrakan, and our surburbs youth was/is brainwashed by them. This happened due to a laxism of our autorities, the "victimisation" guiltiness made some irreparable dammages I think racism is not dead, it's actually revivified, and if we want to survive as western society, we have to watch it, even if it isn't fashoniable

John in Michigan, USA on :

'um, this freedom of speech is "killing" your democraty' Yes, our democracy is so 'dead', it will mean nothing when, in a few short months, we have a peaceful transition of power to an African-American. I am sure many in France would enjoy such a 'death'. They might even mistake it for le petit mort. How foolish of them. So much for Obama's promise that France would give the US a fresh start...let the record show that the fresh started ended after 17 DAYS (election day to today). US Democracy is dead...long live US Democracy!

Marie Claude on :

um, your paranoid, who's saying such thing, never heard that but fortunately the soldiers are wiser

Joe Noory on :

MC - It falls along the lines of the never ending complaints by the left that Bush "shredded the constitution" and some on the fringe alledging over and over that Bush would "suspend democracy" and "establish mashall law", etc. Accusations like that disappear when they are no longer useful. Things like the idea that voting machines can be manipulated, that there is too much money in politics, and that there is too much corporate money donated to campaigns... all of that evaporates when Democrats win elections. With some of the details changed, the same things are employed decade after decade.

Marie Claude on :

um, you take that from the MSM, they aren't the "true" people, plus they don't represent the majority, I can tell you the most part doesn't care of what you do, of what you think, of what you say, if they were so after how the big America caughts, then there would be no french way of being impertinent, and that's the spice of the people here, they don't polish shoes to anyone, but make things on their own way. Also, the left in the US is the biggest propagandist of the policies that were displayed over there. As most of the Frenchs don't understand english, they don't know who to trust in your country. I made this effort, and I have faced so many anti-french "rebuffades", Im not someone that insults or whatever deconstruct, in the contrary, I find it very funny to fight back I read from a philosopher (an american :lol:)that war is noble, cause it make the highest values of a nation, ie morality, in exacerbation

John in Michigan, USA on :

"never heard that" OK, fair point. France never promised a fresh start, Obama make that promise without consulting the allies. === The French position on race -- that being French is universal, and that there should be no racial identity within the French identity (I hope I've stated that correctly), is a promising approach. France should find its own solution to racism; to simply imitate other solutions such as affirmative action, which is the American approach also being tried by others (for example India), would be un-French. Sadly, I think there is a certain amount of complacency in France on this point. The French identity is taken for granted. Obvious racial inequalities are ignored, since by definition, they can't exist in France. France need not adopt American affirmative action programs (Sarko is wrong on this point); but France must make an additional effort at self-examination, and constantly ask if she is truly being neutral or universal. When she is not, there needs to be a correction.

Marie Claude on :

The French position on race -- that being French is universal, and that there should be no racial identity within the French identity (I hope I've stated that correctly), so far, we never had a better system to integrate the immigrants since France existed is a promising approach. France should find its own solution to racism; to simply imitate other solutions such as affirmative action, which is the American approach also being tried by others (for example India), would be un-French. It's on the ways since the babyboomers are going on retirement. Though you can't pretend to absorb a massive immigration in just a generation, America had 2 centuries, and it's only since 50 years that she let the Blacks get some equality rights but France must make an additional effort at self-examination, and constantly ask if she is truly being neutral or universal. When she is not, there needs to be a correction he, America has her policies, why shouldn't France has her own's ? sorry, if they are not all converging to America's ones

Yasmine on :

Your site is very very cool !! I love it :) Respect !,

Joe N. on :

Really? Provide an example.

Marie Claude on :

are you in "hunting" party ? no wild life left on Passaran ?

Joe N. on :

You don't make any sense, but if you think that a couple comments left on blogs here and there are a sign of widespread racism in the UNited States, then you are utterly mad. On the other hand, a [url=http://no-pasaran.blogspot.com/2005/05/frenchman-who-lectured-me-about.html]perfectly normal everyday thing[/url] to hear in the 15eme Arr., or [url=http://no-pasaran.blogspot.com/2006/01/danish-girl-who-knew-what-kind-of.html]any other corner[/url] for that matter can be casually ignored as an opinion, right?

Marie Claude on :

stop bringging your passaran references, I won't open them, guess why, they are "me...e in France"

Don S on :

"me...e" The french don't make "me...e"? I've been known to opine that my "me...e" don't smell too badly, but not doing it at all? Tell me - do the French explode at 50?

Maiie Claude on :

tell me what you understood cuz, I was quoting "sh...in France" sorry I don't follow you for the rest, he, may-be, your too clever for a french

Don S on :

Well if one eats and doesn't make "me...e" - one will explode sooner or later. No?

Joe N. on :

Those references were specific discussions to the sort of atmospheric racism you find daily among large numbers of people, the kind of thing that in the US would get people lecturing and chiding you openily. If you want to be evasive, you might want to note that the "Merde in France" blog has stopped 4 years ago, and the idea that you cvan make a sweeping statement about racism in America being universal and NOT think that THAT is slander, well... I leave it up to you to judge that your reaction to "being afraid to open up" the articles I posts.

Marie Claude on :

yawn!!!!!

Joe N. on :

And yet it's EVERY OTHER society that must "take a hard look at itself in the mirror", no doubt.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Joe, I enjoyed your series "[url=http://no-pasaran.blogspot.com/2005/05/everyday-meetings-with-common.html]Everyday Meetings with Common Europeans[/url]" very much. It seems difficult to argue against it, since it represents first-hand, personal observations. It also contributes original information, rather than just analysis, which is all too rare on blogs. Excellent!

Marie Claude on :

bizarre bizarre my posts got into the spam box, uh is it cause of the links, funny !!!!

Thorsten on :

We should not create new anti-European myths in this context. Though nobody can deny that most European countries have a problem with racism, we should not underestimate the ability of European societies to integrate immigrants. Indeed all European societies are the result of complex processes of immigration and acculturation. The ideology of the homogeneous nation state has refused to accept this fact for a long time, but a lot of progress has been made here. No, probably Europeans would not have elected a black head of state. But this is not really surprising nor does it necessarily testify to racism or xenophobia. People of African descent have been a sizable minority in the US for two centuries. In most of Europe, this has been the case for rather two decades, if at all. They are part of the latest wave of immigrants. Would Americans have elected Obama, if he were an Arab-speaking muslim born in Egypt? As far as older groups of immigrants are concerned, integration has often been so successful that the public is hardly aware when politicians have a migrant background. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the son of a WWII refugee from Hungary. Who cares? German President Horst Köhler is the son of ethnic Germans from Moldova; he was born in Poland; in 1945 his family fled to Germany. To anyone who remembers the contempt refugees from the East encountered after the war Köhler's career must seem like a miracle. It took sixty years or one generation until representatives or descendants of that immigrant group - wartime refugees - reached the political top positions. I think this is quite an achievement.

David on :

We should not forget that black GIs in postwar Germany were able to experience what it was like to live in a society (relatively) free of racial prejudice. Colin Powell has fond memories of his tour of duty in West Germany as a young officer. In his memoir he wrote that "for black soldiers, but especially for those out of the South, Germany we as a breath of freedom. They could go where they wanted, eat where they wanted, and date whom they wanted, just like other people." (quoted from My American Journey)

Joe N. on :

...which would absolutely contradict anything I've seen in Germany, but sounds awfully convenient if an American is trying to imply that every one of his fellow citizens, except for those they personally befriend who are magically different that the rest of the population, is somehow contemptable and beneath them. It really makes for very nice personal indulgence wallow around in - especially when one is trying to convince oneself that prejudice is political, or something other that a function of a flawed personal morality. It's not easily attributable to anything else in a country where no-one under the age of fourty-five hasn't had a lesson about civil rights repeated to them from shortly after birth and onward.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Joe, Are you talking about the WW II period? There was a great deal of inequality and mistreatment of Black GIs (and Blacks generally) during that period, and not just in the South. Even in Colin Powell's era (Vietnam) things were only just beginning to change. Mixed race military units were new, and VERY controversial. It is true since then that the lessons of civil rights are first taught at an early age and repeated many times since then. I imagine Germans must feel the same way about the lessons of anti-Semitism. At times, these lessons are perhaps over-taught, hence we get political correctness -- slogans, in-your-face piety, and knee jerk judgments subsituting for thoughtful reflection. But, if you were Black and grew up before or during the civil rights era, I can see how it might make sense to milk the current zeitgeist for all it is worth. Of course in the end, milking it like that isn't healthy for Blacks or anyone else, and there is the danger of blow-back, but it is understandable and very human to do so.

Joe N. on :

No, I'm certainly not talking about the 1940's, but David is generically implying something about the postwar era which you can infer to mean up to 1989, and suggesting that Germans are largely incapable of prejudice. Which is laughable. Racism is ugly, and a feature of moral character that you would have a hard time convinicing anyone can be impirically to one nation or culture. To suggest that Germans somehow did better with it in the postwar years ignores the fact that virtually everything that Europeans recite about american racism was learned through the prospect of looking at the history of the US civil rights movement from the mid 50's to the 70's. I'll let you do the math about how long ago that was. In the mean time, one can always find a rather medieval opinion about non-whites, Roma, Kurds, Turks, you name it, in nearly every Kneipe, social gathering, [url=http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=e56_1176745047]etal[/url]. So if you find non-Americans and even Americans abroad fixated with American race issues, it's because we actually deal with our issues openly and thoroughly. The same peoples' propensity to dwell on American ills as though they're [url=http://www.nowpublic.com/german_army_racism_scandal_pretend_youre_shooting_at_blacks]unique[/url] to humanity is a just an excuse to carry on with a little tantrum that makes them feel righteous.

John in Michigan, USA on :

"suggesting that Germans are largely incapable of prejudice" He may be saying that in other posts, but I do not get that from his post today. Not only in Germany but in the UK during preparations for D-day, Black soldiers experienced a similar freedom. And in France as well. Even before WW II, Josephine Baker, and so many other artists, found escape from the restrictive cabaret laws (equally a result of American Puritanism as of racism), and recognition and honor as artists, that they just couldn't find in America. I don't happen to know how many Black soldiers were involved in WW I but I imagine there were some. It sort of puts a additional, depressing spin on the famous song from WW I, "[url=http://books.google.com/books?id=PeT-iYPW5K8C&pg=RA2-PA241&lpg=RA2-PA241&dq=Down+on+the+farm+after+they've+seen+Paris&source=web&ots=-wxea5uKh-&sig=tlUSSPNUTKQ-TuOMTvGwlkDk0xY&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result]How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm, After They've Seen Paree[/url]" "it's because we actually deal with our issues openly and thoroughly" Well we try. But race is a complicated thing, and as much progress as we've made, there are still some taboo subjects (although David and I would probably disagree somewhat about what these taboo subjects are?). Happily, it seems we have achieved a critical mass in that there are many more people trying to fight racism than trying to perpetuate it. In my experience, that was true well before Obama became a national figure; his election serves to confirm that Presidential politics is no exception to the broader trend. On the other hand, racism will always be with us, as will lying, murder, etc. at least until we all get to that utopia they keep promising. "The same peoples' propensity to dwell on American ills as though they're unique to humanity is a just an excuse to carry on with a little tantrum that makes them feel righteous." Yes. Also a legacy of Communist Party and other propaganda in Europe during the Cold War. A legacy which unfortunately lives on and is at times exploited by proponents of the EU.

David on :

"suggesting that Germans are largely incapable of prejudice. " Did I suggest any such thing? The fact is, about 3 million black GIs were cycled through West Germany during the cold war era, and for many it was a positive experience. Many of the accounts I've read echo those of Colin Powell. The black American writer William Gardner Smith wrote about his time in Germany in the late 1940s: " I like this goddamn country, you know that? It is the first place I was ever treated like a goddamn man." For anyone interested in the German perspective on black GIs, I highly recommend Wolfgang Koeppen's "Tauben im Gras" - the greatest novel about the US occupation.

Marie Claude on :

you might be interested by this one too http://www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/metadata.epl?mode=synopsis&bookkey=26324 also"taken by force" from Robert Lilly, about rapes in UK, France and Germany comitted by GI it says that the blacks were "punished" while the whites were released http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,121793,00.html an Alain Corneau movie where he narres his life near Orleans during the American "occupation" in the sixties, he says that in the american campment there were two bars, one for the blacks, one for the whites http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=1:135095

Joe N. on :

I'd like to think that, David, but I'm loathe to compare a novel, which you'll recall refers generally to bodies fiction, to my first hand experience. Moreover, by exclusion of what is generally true about Americans - people whom you can make worry instantly by suggesting an act is prejudice - with an impression from a period far earlier is not something I'll accept. The world is not static. I refuse to countenance a statement about a time period half a century ago applied in a way that is obviously not true today. It might give some people a kick to use it as a hobby horse, but to refer to "an atmosphere" described that long ago and neglect to place it in the perspective of general anti-outsider mumblings found in nearly every European neighborhood and skinhead stupidity in the present day is just passively hatefulness of the sort that doesn't want a kinder society, but rather a desire to keep a wound open in perpetuity because it's politically useful. Take for example the "Jena 6" protests, where people had to cross the country to go there and see what racism was really like. Following the theory of those "socially aware" protesters, you would think that all they had to do was step out their door in the morning to find the racism that they accuse the rest of society of. On the other had, the main Synagogue in Berlin has to maintain a permanent police presence around it 24 hours a day. You cannot park on that block. A truck cannot stop in front to make a delivery. Can't THAT, and other things found in meat-space be permitted to describe "an atmosphere", or is there some need to selectively filter out some part of reality to make a point about what some what to believe is "what's real" ?

David on :

Get a grip, man. Germany has the fastest-growing Jewish community anywhere. Why would Jews choose to settle in a country that is as hateful and xenophobic as you say?

Zyme on :

Well David this drastic increase of the jewish population also has less obvious reasons. In the final days of the DDR its government seeked to glorify itself with the anti-fascistic brand by passing a law which allowed all jews from the Communist Block to become (then eastern-) German citizens without any further effort - knowing that those new eastern-Germans will soon be Germans in a united country out of their responsibility. It was kind of a late revenge on the soon to be unified country. After the unification the federal government had the choice to upkeep or not to upkeep this law for the united country. Make a guess what lobby prevailed. Now when you think about how easy it was for people of the Eastern Block to "prove" jewish identity, there may be a simply reason for why most of those new jews from Eastern Europe are totally unreligious - they havn't been jews before and have simply bribed the responsible registration offices of Communist states falling apart to start a new life here.

Pat Patterson on :

Still on a per capita basis the Jewish population of Germany appears to have declined in spite of a surge that peaked in 2005 of 200,000 vs. the current estimate of 120,000. While France with 25% less population has any where's from 2 1/2 to 5 times the per capita of Jewish citizens as Germany. Big percentage increases are easy to accomplish when one starts at a low number to begin with. If France shows an increase of Jewish migration of 5% the total number of immigrants might be twice the number of Germany if it claims 10%. Besides didn't we discuss this issue sometime last year when the figures linked to the new German immigration laws of 2005 drastically cut the number of qualified immigrants?

Zyme on :

I somewhat recall this discussion, but couldn't find the link for it!

Joe N. on :

The only way you get a story like this is tf there really is anyone out there who is shallow and empty-headed enough to believe that genetic diversity is the same as intellectual diversity. Apparently there are, but they really just miss the point. In a social context, when you hear people after ten to fifteen years of it "celebrating diversity" (something which simply just IS making the fact that people exist a hard thing to figure out how to celebrate), you usually have a kind of strange social complex where people just want to see that people who don't look like them agree with some ideological feature of the social context of the event/committee/organization/political fever swamp.

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