What people of African descent should know
(originally published May 2016)
by Lesley-Ann Brown
Did you know that we are in the second year of the International Decade for People of African descent?
“The International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2025), was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in a Resolution (68/237) adopted on December 23, 2013. The theme of the International Decade is “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development”. (Wiki)
Besides the fact that this decade -long initiative recognizes ALL people of African descent THE WORLD OVER, it contextualizes our common experiences of colonization (in the very least, as we understand that slavery is not the only way to recognize the difference ancestral experiences of us all) and it spells out the set of issues that we all face, no matter where we are in the globe- for we are all over.
What are these global disadvantages that I speak of? The continual disproportionate number of us who are imprisoned (think the U.S. which locks up the most amount of its citizens than any other country in the world, half of which are Black or the European version where many are locked up in refugee camps); restricted travel due to imbalanced visa systems and lack of resources; hate crimes that often go unreported and underreported; unemployment; lack of systems of education that equip us with the knowledge necessary for success and many more issues that continue to plague us. While the U.S. exports news and images of our family or community members being eliminated and destroyed, here in Europe the images can be more blurred, more challenging to decipher. There’s the mysterious death of anti-racism politician in Sweden Alexander Bengtsson or the constant debates where “political correctness” comes up against “freedom of expression” both terms which keep the snake, well, eating it’s tale.
Here is a list of some of other must-read documents available to the public that has to do with people of African descent, primarily in Europe. Familiarizing yourself with these documents will build a stronger, hopefully more knowledgeable community on which to continue the great progress our community has always experienced and strengthen our continual fight for human rights the world over.
- European Network Against Racism (ENAR) released it’s 2014-15 Shadow Report (http://www.enar-eu.org/IMG/pdf/shadowreport_afrophobia_final-2.pdf). This report reveals that, “Black people in Europe report widespread racism in anti-immigration context”. Although Denmark is not included in this report, the report definitely highlights some troubling trends.
- House Resolution # 421, (https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-resolution/421/text) “Recognizing people of African Descent and Black Europeans.” Submitted by Representative Hastings of Florida on April 29, 2008 in a hearing entitled, “The State of (In)visible Black Europe: Race, Rights and Politics”, the resolution not only recognizes our presence around the globe with a common history of colonization and/or slavery, it also has a series of resolves from the U.S. House of Representatives which include recognition of injustices, recommendations to address said wrongs on a State level etc. For example, in resolution 5D it states, “introducing national measures to counter stereotypical images of persons of African descent, by revising textbooks, increasing efforts to include Black Europeans in history and heritage institutions, and remembering victims of colonialism, slavery and other atrocities.” This is just one of many and the document is worth spending time with and I can tell you, there is not much happening over here in Europe to address these recommendations.
- On June 29th 2000, a Council Directive was released by The Official Journal of the European Communities (http://www.aec-cph.dk/2000_43_en-%20European_Antidiscimination_Directive.pdf) entitled, “Implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial and ethnic origin”. It’s a fascinating document, which includes, “The European Union rejects theories which attempt to determine the existence of separate races. The use of the term ‘racial origin’ in this Directive doe not imply an acceptance of such theories (6).” It is indeed beyond interesting that the continent that exported its belief system of racial superiority now rejects any recognition of race. It is interesting to note that the medical world, at least here in Denmark, still aggregates its medical information according to race, despite this EU declaration.
- There’s CERD’s General recommendation No. 34 (http://aec-denmark.dk/CERD%20Concluding%20observations.pdf) which cites the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (http://www.un.org/en/durbanreview2009/ddpa.shtml) and covers the identified issue of racism as it pertains to people of African descent and includes remedial measures. On the May 15th 2015, “Concluding observations on the twentieth and twenty-first periodic reports of Denmark” was published. In it is item #10 entitled “Racist discourse and incidents”: “On the eve of the incoming election to be held in September 2015 at the latest, the Committee notes with concern the increase of xenophobia and political propaganda targeting non-citizens.
- The last document worth studying is Demand Catalogue by People of African Descent & Black Europeans. “Drafted during the Network Meeting for People of African Descent in Berlin” from February 13-16, 2014, the Demand Catalogue “demands a recognition of the situation of people of African descent (PAD) and Black Europeans (BE) in accordance with CERD’s General Recommendation No 34 on People of African descent