Race, Obama, World: After U.S. Breakthrough, Europe Looks in Mirror

In the general European euphoria over the election of Barack Obama, there is the beginning of self-reflection about Europe’s own troubles with racial integration. Many are asking if there could be a French, British, German or Italian Obama, and everyone knows the answer is no, not anytime soon.

By Steven Erlanger
The New York Times

It is risky to make racial comparisons between America and Europe, given all the historical and cultural differences. But race had long been one reason that Europeans, harking back to the days when famous American blacks like Josephine Baker and James Baldwin found solace in France, looked down on the United States, even as Europe developed postcolonial racial problems of its own.

“They always said, ‘You think race relations are bad here in France, check out the U.S.,’ ” said Mohamed Hamidi, former editor of the Bondy Blog, founded after the 2005 riots in the heavily immigrant suburbs of Paris.

“But that argument can no longer stand,” he said.

For many immigrants to Europe, Mr. Obama’s victory is “a small revolution” toward better overall treatment of minorities, said Nadia Azieze, 31, an Algerian-born nurse who grew up here. “It will never be the same,” she said, over a meal of rice and lamb in the racially mixed Paris neighborhood of Barbès-Rochechouart.

Her sister, Cherine, 29, is a computer engineer. Mr. Obama “really represents the dream of America — if you work, you can make it,” she said. “It’s a hope for the entire world.”

But the sisters are less optimistic about the realities of France, where minorities have a limited political role, with only one black deputy elected to the National Assembly from mainland France.

Has the Obama election caused any real self-reflection among the majority here? “It’s politically correct to say, ‘O.K., great! He’s black,’ and clap,” Nadia said. “But deep down, there’s no change. People say one thing and believe another.”

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/world/europe
/12europe.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

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2 Responses to “Race, Obama, World: After U.S. Breakthrough, Europe Looks in Mirror”

  1. purecommonsense Says:

    That’s the same thing that people said about the Bradley Effect, but that didn’t happen on election day. I think Obama, while I don’t agree with many of his policies, will be a great role model to inner city youngsters who have welfare mothers, imprisoned fathers and their only real role models are local drug dealers and bimbos on TV like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Barack Obama is quite an improvement over that.

  2. Marcia Says:

    The USA and Europe are both full of contradictions and difficulties in accepting diversity. Obama is a great symbol, but the reality is that it will take a long time for people to feel equal and included in our society.

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