I’ve never read anything better, more lucid, on the difference between racism in America and Europe than this Gary Younge essay in the New York Review of Books. He’s particularly sharp on the reasons that the troubles of Black Americans get much more attention in Europe than the troubles of Black Europeans.
So much is quotable, but here are a couple of lines that hit.
From the vantage point of Europe, which both resents and covets American power, and is in no position to do anything about it, African-Americans represent to many a redemptive force: the living proof that the US is not all it claims to be and that it could be so much greater than it is.
Though Europe has a proven talent for antiracist solidarity with Black America, one that has once again come to the fore with the uprisings in the US, it also has a history of exporting racism around the world. Tocqueville was right to point out that “no African came in freedom to the shores of the New World,” but he neglected to make clear that it was primarily the Old World that brought those Africans there. Europe has every bit as vile a history of racism as the Americas—indeed, the histories are entwined. The most pertinent difference between Europe and the US in this regard is simply that Europe practiced its most egregious forms of antiblack racism—slavery, colonialism, segregation—outside its borders. The US internalized those things.
In a world where black writers and thinkers are being called on to push society forward, I think Gary is an undervalued leader. I was always in awe at the Guardian when he would be in the office or debating the issues of the day at morning conference.