Afrophobia is a term used to describe the specificities of racism that targets people of African descent. Afrophobia seeks to dehumanise and deny the dignity of a large group of people. Afrophobia manifests itself through acts of racial discrimination – direct, indirect and structural – and violence, including hate speech, targeting Black people. It can take many different forms: dislike, personal antipathy, bias, bigotry, prejudice, oppression, racism, structural and institutional discrimination, racial and ethnic profiling, enslavement, xenophobia, societal marginalisation and exclusion, systematic violence, hate speech and hate crime.
Afrophobia is based on socially constructed ideas of ‘race’. This is associated with understandings of racism as a concept and correlates to historically repressive structures of colonialism. The categorisation of physical attributes (e.g. skin pigmentation) considered as symbols of an inferior and/or incompatible difference is deeply embedded in the collective European imagination and continues to impact the lives of people of African descent and Black Europeans.
The use of the term Afrophobia has itself been controversial within the anti-racism movement. ENAR recognises this disagreement and welcomes further debate. ENAR understands that using the suffix ‘phobia’, such as in Islamophobia or Homophobia, is not ideal as it could lead people to mistaking racism for an actual fear. ENAR has however preferred to focus on one term understood and defined as encapsulating the issue of racism and structural discrimination affecting people of African descent.
When it comes to employment, people of African descent and Black Europeans still face barriers to racial equality. Many factors determine the employability of individuals such as education, financial support, social networks and even gender.
According to reports across the 20 European countries, the education system at all levels is not only reinforcing stereotypes and racist attitudes but also carrying out discriminatory acts. Education is one area where institutional discrimination can take place on a large scale and have a long-lasting and far-reaching impact on the whole society.
Many Black public figures and in particular politicians experience racist, anti-migrant, verbal and online abuse. Moreover, in 2014-2015, several racist or derogatory remarks were made by people holding public positions, creating an atmosphere that enables racist abuse to be perpetuated in society.
ENAR’s members report poorer health for Black populations and point to several possible causes linked to socio-economic status, area deprivation, and the impact of racism and discrimination.
There is evidence of discrimination within housing, such as landlords refusing Black people and quoting higher rents to Black people.
Black people are disproportionally affected by ethnic profiling by the police. In addition, Black people are exposed to police violence by agents who use racist stereotypes in their work. Finally, several European countries report of disproportionately high numbers of Black people in prison.
Black people in Europe report low levels of trust in the police, resulting in low- or non-reporting of hate (or other) crimes. Visible minorities are at higher risk of experiencing violence and racist crimes that target Black people.
The current attention on migration into Europe by many political actors appears to be fanning the flames of anti-migrant, Islamophobic and racist movements. Black migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and Black Europeans are reportedly suffering an increase in violent hatred and discrimination across all areas of life.
There are a number of legal measures in Europe that tackle racism and anti-discrimination. EU Member States have been required now for over a decade to implement the Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC). Another key piece of EU legislation is the Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia (2008/913/JHA) which focuses on racist crime and speech. Article 21 (1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU prohibits discrimination based on any ground such as race or ethnic origin. However, EU anti-discrimination legislation is not always implemented and enforced. Few infringement proceedings have been launched and even fewer decisions by the Court of Justice of the European Union have been made.
There is no specific EU policy for people of African descent and Black Europeans. The EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS), for example, provides a policy framework to encourage Member States to address some inequalities, disadvantage and discrimination faced by Roma. Although the NRIS have been criticised for the lack of focus on racism and anti-Gypsyism, they still serve as an important mechanism to improve the situation for a minority group in Europe. ENAR is therefore calling for PAD/BE to benefit from similar strategies which will ensure their social inclusion and protection from discrimination for the benefit of the whole society. Without a specific focus on tackling racial inequalities for Black people at an EU level there may be little impetus for national governments to act accordingly.
Afrophobia is a pressing issue across Europe and therefore needs to be addressed and countered on a European level in a coherent way, with a targeted approach, to ensure an equal level of protection of people of African descent and Black Europeans. An EU Framework for national strategies would ensure a common ground to implement existing EU and international law, while ensuring that national situations and specificities are addressed.
A Framework would complement existing EU strategies such as the EU 2020 strategy. The Europe 2020 strategy is about delivering growth that is smart, sustainable and inclusive. To measure progress in meeting the Europe 2020 goals, five headline targets have been agreed on for the whole EU. No specific targets have been set for ethnic minorities despite the extent of discrimination in the EU.
Importantly, a Framework would assist in garnering solidarity between people of African descent, Roma, and others facing discrimination by increasing mutual acknowledgement and support across vulnerable and disenfranchised communities to implement and strengthen existing EU equality, anti-discrimination and inclusion legislation and initiatives, including the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. Adopting new initiatives for an increasingly diverse Europe would benefit both minority and majority communities, including possible economic benefits.
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ENAR’s Equal@work Platform brings together businesses, social partners, NGOs, public authorities and academics committed to diversity and inclusion, to find solutions for the participation of ethnic minorities in the labour market.