Racism and ethnic discrimination remain prevalent in Europe and many aren’t aware of just how bad the problem is according to a recent study conducted by Young European Federalists (JEF) in three EU countries.
“What our study has shown is that we all have a lot to learn when it comes to discrimination. Many are not aware of the extent and scale of discrimination within Europe,” Alexandra Huber, project and financial officer at JEF Europe, told participants at a two-day seminar in Stockholm.
The workshop aimed to offer space for young people from different backgrounds to learn about discrimination based on ethnic origin and how to address it effectively while providing national Equality Bodies with the necessary resources.
It took place amid a global and ongoing discussion around race, discrimination, and privilege.
Majority observe racial discrimination in Europe
The workshop was built on the JEF study, which mapped regional attitudes on discrimination based on ethnic origin in Romania, Italy and Sweden. The study showed that “a clear majority in every country saw discrimination based on ethnic origin as a problem within Europe (75.2% in Italy, 71.7% in Sweden, 69.1% in Romania).”
Almost half of the respondents in Romania and Italy considered their society unaware of the problems caused by ethnic discrimination in their country.
The study also identified a substantial gap between institutions fighting discrimination and civil society. According to Huber, “young people often don’t know how to contact respective institutions, such as the Equality Bodies or the Ombudsman.”
Earlier studies conducted by EURACTIV have found similar results. “Many people are not aware that there are mechanisms in place to help individuals address cases of discrimination,” said Ian Teunissen van Manen, European projects executive at EURACTIV.
“What our research has shown is that journalists understand the basic information on non-discrimination, but they need to report more on the mechanisms available to victims, rather than only covering events or acts of discrimination as they happen.”
“Keeping these issues at the forefront takes effort, but journalists, citizens, activists and NGOs can play a significant role in reporting incidents. After all, what’s the point of having tools such as Equality Bodies if nobody knows that they are out there?”
The participants from all over Europe discussed questions such as “Do you feel like your country has dealt with their colonial past?” or “Why do people often get uncomfortable being confronted with their privileges and how should we react when we are being called out ourselves for discriminatory behaviour?”
More allies needed
Maakwe Cumanzala, one of the participants at the workshop, stressed that education about racism should reach society rather than be left to a few champions of the cause.
“I am tired of educating people about racism. That’s why we need more allies who educate their peers. It’s easier for them too because they don’t face discrimination every day.”
“We don’t talk about discrimination enough. It starts with having conversations at the dinner table and not waiting until racism is taking place. To be anti-racist is to actively commit in your daily life, do the work to ensure we’re creating an equitable future,” she concluded.
This article is part of the MINDSET project, co-financed by the European Commission (DG JUST) through the REC Programme. Find out more about MINDSET and our content on non-discrimination in Europe by checking out our website.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]