America, the Scapegoat [Youth Correspondent Tryout]

by Guest Contributor Sonita Moss

I’m back, America.

I have been home, on U.S. soil, for the past 3 weeks, and it has given me some time to reflect on being a black woman in U.S. vs. being a black American woman in France. Living in France for the second time was rather colder than the first but a bit more illuminating in terms of race. That can be attributed to the fact that while Aix-en-Provence, the first city that introduced me to the entrancing world of French culture, is an international student-city in the sunny south, Vannes is situated in Bretagne, in the rainy north-west of the country. Aside from the nonstop rain, Vannes was whiter than white. Not to say I didn’t see black people – indeed, I noticed black women on my daily bus route to work, but many public spaces, like the port, the library, and the grocery store were lacking in color. Admittedly, there were actually two black hair stores and a café Afrique that shut down while I was there, but that was about it.

Binta, the young Senegalese woman who did my hair, broke it down for me one day, “There’s no black people here because it’s too small because there are no jobs. But a lot of them marry French.” By “French”, she meant white men, and her sister, the owner of Ebene Cosmetique, was one such example. I noticed, with a certain amount of chagrin, that many Europeans of color refer to their privileged compatriots as the standard of that country, while they are specifically marked by their race. “English” are white, but English blacks are, well, black. The same goes for conversations I have had with German blacks. I suppose we hold the same standard in America, but because of our sordid misdealings with the social construction, although blacks may not be considered true “Americans” we do not refer to our white counterparts as simply “Americans”. Indeed, we are obsessed with race but rarely given the proper tools to talk about, much less acknowledge, our race problems. And white Europeans know it, effectively allowing them to ignore their own issues, I discovered.

When I first arrived in Vannes, I befriended a couple of local boys, and we often went out to bars since there is little else to do in the city. Amazed at the utter whiteness of the venue, one night I asked my friend, “Do you ever notice that there are essentially no black people here – why is that?” and he said, “There are some, just not many. But it’s very different in France, we are much less conscience of race in France than Americans.” He smoothly side-stepped my question and turned the focus to America’s racism. Because America is a popular topic in the media, the nightly French news frequently reported breaking American news. Thus, the world beyond our borders is informed of how race issues are part and parcel to American culture.

While visiting Budapest, Hungary, a completely inter-ethnic group of us twenty-somethings went to smoke hookah – an American, two Portuguese, an Indian, and a Hungarian native to be exact. The inevitable subject of Barack Obama was broached and the U.S.’s fixation on race quickly followed. I mentioned how racist America truly is in its practices – on institutional and structural levels, as well as individual, and Pedro said, “Well of course this is because of your history with slavery, but it is absurd because America is a nation of immigrants.” Once again, we were able to discuss America’s hot-button issue, illegal immigration, without a mention of colorism in India or the Neo-Nazi march in Hungary last year.

Although I am the first to extol Europe’s interracial dating practices, it is no less difficult to have real discussions about xenophobia, racism, or Islamophobia as it is here in the U.S. And Europeans seem to have the ultimate trump card: America is the first and the worst of them all.

During a brief visit to Bordeaux, a beauteous, sparkling gem in the south of France, I paid a visit to the Museum d’histoire naturelle, The Natural History of Museum. I was pleasantly surprised to see there was an extensive exhibition of Bordeaux’s slave history. To my dismay, French historians downplay and minimize slavery parallel to American history. I have been to many history museums in the U.S., but none to my memory have put such a heavy emphasis on tribes selling their own into slavery.

 

Slavery Explanation 

Transcript:

Like many other civilizations, African societies practiced slavery. European demand boosted this practice and, from Senegal to Angola as well as in East Africa, African rulers and dealers made substantial profits from the slave trade. Most of those who were enslaved were captured in battles or were kidnapped. Some were the children of slaves, or were sold by their parents during times of famine. As demand in Europe increased, the African dealers carried out raids further into the interior and many of the captives died before reaching the coast. In time the slave trade moved to new areas and after 1780, the dealers from Bordeaux started buying slaves in Mozambique and Zanzibar. The slave shops spent 3 to 6 months traveling to different parts of the coast buying their cargo. Mortality rates were highest amongst those who were embarked at the start of the voyage.

 

Second Exhibit Explanation 

Slavery has been practiced by all civilizations down the ages [first written record in Mesopotamia]. Often, as in ancient Rome, ‘slave’ was a synonym for ‘foreigner’, since most societies were repelled by the idea of enslaving people who belonged to their culture. Slavery was therefore sustained by wars and since captives had to be displaced or transported, the slave trade was developed. The African and Arab slave trades pre-date the arrival of Europeans. However, the European demand for the slave labour to exploit the resources of the New World saw this trade in human beings rise to the unprecedented levels over a short period. In the New World, slaves were considered to be property, no more than a raw work force.

Although it was probably futile, I attempted to re-read these descriptions from the perspective of someone who was unaware of slavery in Europe. These re-made versions of history would have us believe that slavery happened because it has been happening and Africans wanted to make money from it. Europeans merely wanted to take advantage of what was already going on. To my chagrin, beyond in-depth diagrams of slave ships and maps of the trans-Atlantic, there was no mention of the extant racism embedded in French culture. Like the new ban on veils, which reeks of Islamophobia but is also the status quo for Nicolas Sarkozy and his administration.

While I did receive a few stares, and the same questions about ethnicity over and over again, I never had overt experiences with racism: being followed around stores, out of pocket remarks or foreign hands touching my hair. As before, I strongly encourage all people of color to travel or live abroad, if it is feasible. Just know that the racial ‘baggage’ you take with you will be greeted with a brand-new, dare I say it, exotic version: racism exists abroad, you know, just not as bad as it is in America.

  • Freedmelanee

    What happened in Oslo.  An example.

  • nicthommi

    Actually, the story in the Netherlands and France is very different. Just because you see Muslims having an easy time in London does not mean that the same is true on the continent.  And London is VERY different from the rest of the UK.  Try being a Muslim in a small town.  Very different. I have a good friend whose family wound up as refugees in a small Southern England town.  When they were able to move, they did.  And in this family, while devout,  the women don’t cover their hair in any way; they just wear modest Western clothes. 

    And as for seeing American Muslims en mass in full burquas, chadors, etc, come to Dearborn, MI.  Or Detroit Metro Airport. Southeastnern MI has the largest Arab American and Arab population in the U.S., and is also home to many other Muslims who are not Arab (Albanian, Iranian, etc.)

    What occurs in one metro area is not indicative of what happens in every other metro area, and what happens in the UK is hardly proof that Muslims on the continent have an easy time.  They do not. 

    There is always a tipping point where perhaps a small number of immigrants are left alone and then when the numbers grow, people become uncomfortable.   They see it (irrationally) as a threat to their way of life.  See what happens when there are enough Muslims that they want to have call to prayers at the new Mosque.   And the European countries have VERY different relationships with other countries based on their own colonial histories.  The Dutch and the French colonized areas with much higher Muslim populations than the British.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting article and some interesting comments as well. After living in Europe for 30+ years, I understand your standpoint on some issues without necessarily agreeing. I hope you don’t mind that I linked to it and wrote my own response to some of the issues I see differently here: http://tinyurl.com/3p7zesz

    Thanks, too, for encouraging more black Americans to pick up their passports and hop on the plane!

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  • ms.g

    Ooooooh what a post! Thank you!
    I am a black woman born and bred in the caribbean but who also had the privilege of receiving all of my higher edication in the United States (a good 11 years in total), and recently moved to the Netherlands as my partner is dutch and for the moment this arrangement makes the most sense for us.  But wow! the Netherlands is quite a country. 
    I have experienced first hand in conversation with my in-laws and friends of my partner exactly what Sonita discusses in the article: “We’re not half as racist as in the the US” and while it’s true, even though I live in the East of Holland where black people are few and far between, I’ve rarely felt uncomfortable. In the beginning maybe, but now I think they’re getting used to seeing me at the C1000 or biking by on my way from work.  
    Three things stand out to me with the Dutch, in my opinion. Firstly, these people have to sense of the significant role they played in the slave trade. It is news to them that the slave trade multiplied exponentially while they were in control. My father-in-law in one conversation basically said to me: the Dutch were not really involved with slavery, all they  did was build ships. In my best Scooby Doo voice “Burrrr??!!” And why, because they don’t teach this stuff in school, but what they will teach is how the Dutch were so brave in WWII, how they hid Jews and fought Germans soldiers. Ya….ok, that’s nice.
    Secondly, I don’t know what is their problem with Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese people….Jeez! The racial stereotyping when it comes to those groups is so ridiculous. I confess, I still don’t know all the dynamics involved to make a strong argument, but what I see with my own eyes suggests to me that these groups are often unfairly marginalized.
    And finally, don’t even get me started on Zwarte Piet. Last Christmas I spent a good few weeks mortified and angered by white people in black face. I was unfortunate to be out and about on the day it was celebrated in my town and if one more little white child had stared at me again with that look, I was going to scream. Every Zwarte Piet got a stank look from me. Sorry but Im not interested in this Dutch tradition because it is VERY racist. What is even more angering is the general nonchalance over how Zwarte Piet is perceived. Its their tradition, they’re not harming anyone and they certainly are not making fun of dark people…….Burrrrr????!!! No way my kids will EVER participate in this rubbish.

    So I say all of that to say that while they may not think they’re as bad as America, I personally think its no better.  The US is damn racist but people get called on it, and it is talked about, certainly gnificantly more than here.

    Regarding the French account of slavery, it is such a gross exaggeration. In principle, I believe it is true that slavery has existed since rock of ages was a pebble and I also believe that it had to be natives that led Europeans to villages to capture slaves and they even participated in the capturing of their own kind, but to suggest that all Europeans did was make the “product” mainstram is ridiculous. They manipulated their “helpers” and took advantage of their weaknesses for their own benefit. Perfect example are the slave castles in Ghana. The Dutch won control of the largest by promising the natives to stop the trade if they helped them dethrone the Portuguese. The natives helped and the Dutch instead trippled the slave trade. Only built ships my a$$!

    I love Holland, and I love Europe, but Europe is in denial and as I have said to my partner, there will come a breaking point. The cup is almost full and there will come that drop that will cause the floodgates to open. Me personally, i’d prefer not to be here when that happens.

    Sorry for the long post.

  • Hkp228

    The UK is definitely stratified by class and race to same extent as America. There is a lot popular resentment towards immigrants, just like in the US, with white, European immigrants considered more favorably than immigrants from Pakistan or the Caribbean. Most places outside of major cities are homogeneously white, and in urban centers racial divisions are as obvious as they are anywhere else.
    Casual racism against the Welsh, Scots, and Irish is also ingrained in British culture and considered acceptable.

    • Anonymous

      I think you’ve broached a topic here that bears some consideration. In the States we speak of “whites” or “Caucasians”, but the Europeans don’t. That’s why – at first glance, at least – it seems strange when you also speak of “racism” against the Welsh, Scots and Irish. According to American standards, they – too – would be “white”, wouldn’t they?

      But because the European dichotomy isn’t as overly simplistic as “white vs. black” you do, indeed, have the Welsh et al historically considered “lesser than” the Anglo-Saxons in some quarters. The very same can be said of other – superficially – “white” ethnicities in Europe.

      • nicthommi

        Actually, the American definitions have not always been as simple as black and white either.  Various immigrant groups had to go through decades of assimilation and had to achieve political and economic power in order to be considered “white.” 

        When the Irish can to the U.S. en mass during the Great Potato Famine, they were not “white.”  When the Italians came in the late 19th century, they were not “white” either.  People still debate whether or not Jewish people are really “white.”

        You should read the book “How the Irish Became White” to understand just a TINY piece of the evolution of race in this country.
        And just because race is not discussed does not mean that racism does not exist.  As the numbers of visible minorities in Western Europe has grown, so has the popularity of right wing political groups who trumpet the protection of local “culture.”  Hate crimes against visible minority immigrants has been an increasing problem ALL OVER Europe.

        I do think that Europeans beg off having the discussions over race and think that it somehow absolves them of otherwise racist behavior towards immigrants and people of color. Race matters.  It is an elephant in any room whether you acknowledge it or not.

        Whether you discuss it or not, people who do not look  like the locals have a different experience from you. 

        One of the reasons we have been able to make any progress in this country is because we had watershed moments in which the white majority could not continue to stick their heads in the stand regarding the treatment of blacks in this country. 

        Emmett Till’s mother let his mutilated body be photographed and it appeared in papers all over the U.S.  Other journalists documented children protesting Jim Crow and segregation getting bitten by police dogs and sprayed with firehoses so powerful that they took the skin off.

        Until “native” Europeans acknowledge that people come in different colors, people will continue to be marginalized because they are “different.”  You can’t fix a problem that you refuse to admit exists.

        • Anonymous

          I don’t disagree, and am certainly very aware of the development of the idea of “race” as it pertains to the USA – and how it is in some ways similar – but in some ways quite different – in Europe.

          We forget, though, that this development in the US took two important things: time and critical mass.

          Most European countries were fairly homogeneous till very recently. That’s not to say that there weren’t scapegoats and “othering”. The diverse Pogroms automatically come to mind, but even the influx of Poles to the Ruhr area of Germany after WWII endured their fair share of discrimination.

          “Homegrown” Europeans also realize full well that people come in different colors. If nothing else, their history of colonialism taught them that. What they are wrestling with, however, is the notion that (and the question to what extent) those folks of different colors have a right to live in Europe on the same legal basis as local nationals.

          And this is a relatively new problem in Europe, only dating back to the ’50s in some cases (see = time). And unlike American blacks who (soon) had no other conscious history than the one they shared in America, this influx in Europe is very diverse (see = critical mass).

          This doesn’t mean I don’t take Europe or the Europeans to task for their racism, I’m just aware that they can’t do in 60-odd years what it’s taken the US more than 150 years to achieve.  

  • anonymous

    Possibly France is less racist against African-Americans but it is not less racist in general. If you were Roma or Arab or anAfrican asylum seeker your experience would certainly be different. I have been to America and I found it was racist obviously but it is a paradise compared with New Zealand and Australia. but that’s probably because Americans have mostly never met a Polynesian or Melanesian person so they don’t bother to hate us. An African might have the opposite experience in New Zealand and Australia where the indigenous peoople are demonised and Africans are mainly known from American music videos. You really can’t generalise from your experience on holiday The part about the slavery museum was interesting. France refuses to face up to its colonial history and is still exploiting Africa today. They astiil think they’re colonial overlords

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-28727-Woodside-Family-Examiner RCHOUDH

    Great essay and I loved alot of the comments left under it. Right now Western Europeans can remain in denial about the existence of racism in their countries because alot of these countries are still racially homogenous. But as more immigrants keep arriving to Europe that’s when racism will really rear its ugly head. We see it already starting with all the Islamophobic legislation everywhere and with one core aspect of the EU almost being dismantled (the visa free travel between countries).  France and Italy got into a big tiff about the visa free travel legislation because France refused to allow African refugees/migrants fleeing the unrest in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt from travelling freely to France from Italy. Unfortunately I think things will only get worse for immigrants to Europe because of the global economic crisis, population shrinkage of white Europeans, and inevitable change in the cultural/linguistic/religious  fabric of European society. 

  • http://octobersurpriserevolution.tumblr.com Nathaniel

    Your pictures of the museum signs really spoke to a pet peeve of mine: the attempt to make equivalent racialized and non-racialized slavery.  This is particularly apparent when people bring up the slave societies of Africa; that is to say, the societies where slaves were the key labour force, like Greece or Rome (the most popular Eurocentric examples).  There’s a wonderful Frederick Douglass quote about the difference of being a racialized slave in America and white Europeans living under various despotisms, but I can’t find it right now.

  • Britta Ingebretson

    Yeah, as someone with European friends and relatives who was raised in the US, it’s not that one place (to generalize across two whole continents) is better or worse when it comes to racism, but more that it is really different. (My family is from Northern Europe (Scandinavia) but we have lots of friends in France and Germany and I’ve spent time in those places and with people from there, and while there are differences there are also similarities in how race and ethnicity are viewed.) In some ways the European view is more problematic and in other ways the US view is. Being raised with both, I find it’s really hard to explain one to the other. (And certainly as a white person, I have lots of experiences of racist comments of the type white people might make to one another, but I don’t have any daily lived experience of being a POC in Europe or the US).

    Also someone who spends a fair amount of time around Europeans (and now Australians) and who is not obviously pegged as an American, the whole “America is racist” conversation is annoying and kind of disturbing, not because the US isn’t racist, but it seems so often a technique to avoid and deflect the need to look at one’s own history or current problems. I once had a roommate from the UK who had never studied British colonialism, but had studied US slavery, and not as a “this started in a British colony” sort of way, but in a “the US is such an evil country” sort of way. It actually kind of made me really angry. 

  • Misti

    I profoundly disagree with the concept that abroad racism is not as bad “as it is in America.” In fact, I would argue that the subversive racism that exists in Western Europe and the occasional, hard-right political and racial swing that exists in Eastern Europe damages society to a much greater extent than on this side of the pond.  You pointed out something-rightly-that Americans are obsessed with race.  This obsession enables us to have conversations about this issue, no matter the outcome of such conversations.  This isn’t something that European nations-on the whole-do.  And though interracial relationships in Europe far exceed those accepted/heralded in the US, I don’t thin that personal relationships are the barometer for racial politics.  As has been recently witnessed with Africans, Muslims, Jews, Gypsies, and any other group not Nordic Protestant/Catholic (European Latins grudgingly accepted), Europeans are hardly more tolerant, and in some cases, are far worse, especially when one considers the penchant to ignore intolerance entirely.

  • Onirique

    ‘The French in particular hide behind the idea that all one needs is to assimilate in order to be accepted into their society. ‘

    I agree 100%. The French are all about the assimilation borg. The other things that strange about the racism here in the South of France (which also has the highest FN membership), is that so many of the people here don’t even ‘look white’ – everyone’s very Mediterranean, hues of Brown from centuries of mixing. It makes no sense to me.

  • Onirique

    Interesting post. I’m a US Latina living in the South of France, and I get the impression that French people love Blacks in some exotifying way. Actually, I think the French excel in exotification. As for me, they’re not used to seeing my South American look, so I get a lot of stares. I’m also sometimes mistaken for Arab. I don’ t know how it is in Paris but down here, I find racism is pretty blatant, people make lots of ‘un-PC’ comments nonchalantly. 

    • Banji Lawal

      I think if you are an African or Arab from one of their former colonies the reaction will be very different than if you are from North or South America.  There is a lot of African literature and experience that shows people of colour are not really respected by lots of Caucasian Europeans.   Of course there are lots of wonderful people there who will try and treat everyone as a full human being.

      In that its no different than any other part of the world.

  • Mickey

    Please don’t mistake my comments to seem that Europe is a racial utopia. I am very aware that some of the racism in Europe is similar to institutional racism in America. It kills me how the French and other Europeans are quick to criticize America for its racism without looking at their own racism.  I also know that Europe does not have the history of the Civil Rights Movement like we have. But even though we have laws against discrimination, racism is still, by and large, a serious problem in America, even if we do have a man of color in the White House.

    • nicthommi

      Oh, we’re totally in agreement there.  But having gotten the opportunity to visit a LOT of countries in several continents, I can safely say that I’m glad that I’m a black woman in America, and not anywhere else.  I enjoy being abroad and have never been harmed, but I’ve been heckled, mocked, and harassed in ways that would not happen in this country.  (Or at least would only happen under the cover of night or in secret, and not in broad daylight as I walk down the street).
      I think that very little that I’ve done would have been possible in those supposedly “less racist” countries.
      Black Brazilians who have attempted to organize Civil Rights efforts are also hampered by the fact that many people don’t call themselves “black.”  Self-designation and the failure to politicize race (as in, no one was ever told by law where they could not sit or which bathrooms to use) was an inadvertenly BRILLIANT move in regards to hampering efforts to organize people to fight for their rights. 
      The people claiming that Obama’s presence in the White House is proof that we are post-racial are almost never black.  The people who claim that they only see people and not color, are also rarely black.  It is truly a sign of privilege to be able to claim that you don’t see race-largely because race never negatively affects you although many see the fact that they now compete with minorities to be reverse racism.

  • http://mclicious.wordpress.com/ McLicious

    While it’s always disappointing to find that people all over just don’t understand race, I think this is an excellent essay, and I agree that more American of color need to spend time living, studying, or traveling abroad. Maybe if more of us did it, we would stop having experiences where people ask, “Are you sure you’re a real American?” Also, it’s awesome, as you say, not to be followed around in stores.

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

    “Just know that the racial ‘baggage’ you take with you will be greeted
    with a brand-new, dare I say it, exotic version: racism exists abroad,
    you know, just not as bad as it is in America.”

    WRONG. Tell that to many Muslims in Europe (particularly France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK) who come from mostly North Africa and West Africa. Islamophobia in Europe is, in fact, even worse than Islamophobia in the United States.

    • TurtleAbdul

      So true.  The Netherlands could also be included in this list.  There are several laws being considered and debated at the present time regarding immigrants from North Africa.  MPs are trying to pass a ritual slaughter ban and definitions that make a third generation immigrant (allochtoon) non-native.   Home affairs minister Piet Hein Donner recently stated that a burka conflicts with good manners much like going nude.  I find that funny considering I live very near a nude beach in Holland.  

      The Netherlands also has the awful Zwarte Piet tradition.  If you have not heard of this, look it up.  Piet  is Santa’s Moorish “helper”.  A white Dutch man or woman wears blackface and jester costume.  There are candies, cookies, cakes, and other objects that bear this image.  If you ask a Dutch native about this, he or she will tell you that it is a tradition and not racist in any way.  

      It is tempting to treat Europe as a kind of utopia due to the more progressive social policies in some countries, but the reality is much more complicated.  There are over 40 countries in Europe.  Each one has a unique identity that may or may not include prejudice and discrimination toward certain groups.

      • nicthommi

        Oh, David Sedaris has an AWESOME essay (that he also has an audio version of) about Zwarte Piet…Americans (and I am one) so overly romanticize Europe as this racial and social utopia.  It’s not.  By a long shot.
        Doesn’t anyone remember Pim Fortuyn?  He’s been dead for nearly a decade but these new Dutch laws are exactly what he was championing for ages.
        And in Germany, you aren’t German unless you are “German,” so for example, while studying German I remember reading an article about a German born teenager (about 14) whose parents were Turkish immigrants;  the boy kept getting into trouble with the authorities and was deported to Turkey.  He spoke no Turkish, and only had distant relatives there.  But under German law, he was still a foreigner and therefore could be kicked out of the only country that he’d ever known for breaking the law. 

        • Anonymous

          One thing you are not mentioning with regard to the situation in Germany is that the young man – though born and raised in Germany – had never applied for German citizenship. Therefore by becoming a repeat offender, he was officially an “undesirable alien”. If he had done applied for citizenship, it would not have been possible to deport him.

          The discussion of whether or not and it is attractive for non-ethnic Germans to apply for German citizenship is another story.

          • nicthommi

            Yes, but in THIS country, children born here do not have to apply for amnesty or citizenship, and the children of legal aliens can be included in their parents process up until age 20 or so (I have friends who dropped out of college in other countries and started completely over to join their parents because of this).
            You do not give citizenship to “non-Germans” who are born on your soil.  We do.  We would not have deported a child born on in the U.S. as an “undesirable alien.”  He would have been a U.S. citizen and treated like any other juvenile delinquent. 

            And that is a HUGE difference that I think very much illustrates that way that Germans, French, and Dutch for example view who is  an “alien” and who is not.  A great deal of emphasis is placed on the false premise that one who assimilates culturally and linguistically will be socially acceptable, and that is simply not true.  Visible minorities remain noticeably marginalized in Europe and treated as “other” and “less than” everyone else.   Then they have a difficult situation where they have only loose ties to their ancestors’ home countries and are forever treated like foreigners in their own.  To claim otherwise is patently false.  I might have a different experience in this country because of the color of my skin, but at no point am I treated as a foreigner.

            And the very fact that I could sit in a German company and have to listen to a racist joke about Turkish people speaks volumes. Most racists in this country would not make racist jokes in front of people who are from that group (there of the people in the audience were Turkish or Turkish American). 

            I’m not sure if you used the term “attractive” because English is your second language, but again, speaking in those terms is rather unpalatable to my American ear.  i hope that we don’t find any people “unattractive” candidates for U.S. citizenship. 

          • Anonymous

            America is a country built on immigration; European countries traditionally were not.

            Maybe my age is showing, but it’s not been so very long since ago that this situation could have played out in an American company as well. Now there is legal recourse. That wasn’t always so.

            Btw: If you read my statement again you’ll see I wasn’t speaking about a person being un/attractive as a candidate for citizenship. I was referring to whether or not the person found exchanging their own citizenship for – in this case – German citizenship to be an attractive proposition for them. As an American citizen myself, I’ve never contemplated making the switch.

          • Anonymous

            P.S.: Sorry for the typos in the original post, but it was a very late night, and I was more tired than I thought I was when responding.

          • Heqit

            Are you implying that it was negligible of the kid not to have applied for German citizenship at the age of 14? 

            Could he even have done so in his own right at that age, even if there weren’t cultural and political obstacles that make the acquisition of citizenship an arduous process that requires much more than just “applying”?

            If 14-year-olds are considered legally independent and capable of filing identity documents in their own right in Germany I will stand corrected, but how is it his fault that he wasn’t a citizen?  How does his not filing paperwork he wasn’t allowed to file make his deportation less heinous?  Or am I missing something here?

          • Anonymous

            No, I’m not implying in any way that he was negligent. I’m just saying that if he had been a German national, he would have been treated differently. Full stop.

  • Staggerlee

    As an anti racist American I’ve lived in the UK for years and found it  far more willing to look at injustices than those countries on the continent.  They are  ‘out’  about  current issues as well everywhere apart from the proverbial small country towns. The UK,  particularly England and Wales are countries where countless Blacks and POC have ascended to the middle (rich) upper classes  (ultra rich) whether they’ve marry in or not. On the Continent that is very rare. I’m not surprised that in smaller towns one finds a lack of color as Europe is a white continent. Yet all poc and anti racist Americans should spend time in London (not France) which is one of the western world’s only real multi cultural cities. Blacks folks have pride, their children have high self esteem in their eyes unlike the US where Black children are always watching their backs. You have to see it and live it to believe it. The US is about two deacdes behind in race relations to London and the media in the UK.

    • Ladyguerita

       I went to England and then  when I was sixteen  and from my personal experience. England seems to a little more diversity.  When I went to France the majority were  White French with a small percent of people who were African and Middle eastern. While in England I was People of African, Asian( both eastern and South  western Asian)and I meet people of Jamaican descent.

  • Iggles

    Wow, this was a great post! It’s easy for them to rag on America, because then they don’t have to confront their own issues. In every place there’s racism, classism, sexism, etc…

  • http://twitter.com/RecessionistaDJ No Job

    It’s disappointing to see the attitudes in France are just a diluted version of the attitudes regarding slavery in America. 
    It seems as though Blacks in America, who have never been made whole after the atrocity of slavery and the theft of 200+ years of a people’s livelihoods, are not considered worthy of that reconciliation. 
    In Europe, Africans are held responsible for the exploitation of their own people by the French in an exhibit documenting the trade. 

    This is unparalleled in it’s level of scapegoating and privilege. 

  • Mickey

    I plan to visit France and other countries in the future. I have read the Graffiti Wall on Rick Steves.com and was both shocked (positively and negatively) and fascinated by the stories that were told on the Minority Travelers Forum. And I’ve spoken to other POC who have travelled or lived abroad and their stories pretty much said that, sure, there is racism in other countries, but America takes the cake.