Lockdown has pushed me into developing several new interests, some of them, very delicious, and others, seemingly pointless–or, so I thought, initially. Long story short, the Instagram accounts of the least interesting characters of Love Island have helped me to confirm my long-running theory:
White Europeans are blind to Europe’s massive racism problem.
OK? Now, let’s break down how we got here (prepare to pray for me in 3, 2, 1). Sans my Love Island fix, I’m following more former Islanders on Instagram; and because of that, my discover page shows posts from the ones who fell through the cracks. Does that mean something? It didn’t until I started noticing a peculiar pattern. Being? An absence of black squares. Meaning? Absolutely nothing to the untrained eye, and the untrained eye only–but, EYE, am a professional, luv.
After I identified my (aforementioned) hypothesis, I quickly differentiated between my control group, the Islanders who posted nothing, and, my experimental group, the Islanders who posted black squares. And while testing my hypothesis, like the damn good scientist et investigateur that I am, I observed something that unearthed it all: within several captions, the words, I stand with America, or some variation of the sort. WTF does that really tell us though? British people, like so many other Europeans, are failing to call out the racism that exists in their very backyard.
Years of visiting, vacationing, or working in cities like Milan, Paris, London, Amsterdam, all the way down to the island of Ibiza, have revealed to me Europeans’ genuine belief that racism isn’t nearly as bad in Europe as it is in the United States. Some Europeans have fallen so deep into the Kool Aid, that they even believe that racism is nearly non-existent in Europe. If you’re one of them, I need you to understand this;
When Black people hear you say, “Europe doesn’t really have the same race issues that exist in America,” we say the name Phillip Mbuji Johansen,
a Black, Danish man named in a piece published in the New York Times yesterday titled, “A Black Man Was Tortured and Killed in Denmark. The Police Insist It Wasn’t About Race.”
We say the name Shukri Abdi,
a 12 year-old Somalian girl who was murdered in Manchester, UK in 2017. Shukri was bullied by her classmates who were at the scene where she was found drowned. The police failed to investigate, and declared her death a “tragic accident.”
We say the name Adama Traoré,
a Black, French man murdered by Paris Metropolitan Police on his 24th birthday in 2016. It was reported that “Traoré was detained and pinned down by three police offers, reportedly telling them before he died that he couldn’t breathe.”
We think of the African immigrants shot by a Fascist in Macerata, Italy. We think of Black, European footballers like Italian-Ghanian pro, Mario Balotelli, saying things like, “the ‘really extreme’ racism I’ve witnessed in Italian football is worse than any I’ve seen in England or France.”
We think of the racist actions of the UK government that lead to The Grenfell Tower Fire. We think of reports that a dozen cops in Rouen, France, exchanging a series of white supremacist messages in a WhatsApp group in late 2019; and of the StreetPress’ exposé, “uncovering a private Facebook group of eight thousand, French, law enforcement members from across the country, in which police regularly exchanged racist commentary.”
We say the names Alberto Adriano, Sean Rigg, Kingsley Burrell, Stephen Lawrence, Zyed Benna, Bouna Traoré, and so many other Black and Brown Europeans who had their lives stolen from them. And before you call their deaths mere “exceptions to the rule,”
you should know that the history of racism across Europe is well-documented, although, significant erasure has taken place.
Most Europeans are unaware of the human zoos, or “ethnological exhibitions,” that displayed Black people in cities like Hamberg, Berlin, Paris, Riga, Bern, Bucharest, Warsaw, Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Milan, and more well into the 1960s.
"The World’s Fair, in 1889 was visited by 28 million people, who lined up to see 400 indigenous people as the major attraction. The 1900 World’s Fair followed suit, as did the Colonial Exhibitions in Marseilles (1906 and 1922) and in Paris (1907 and 1931) which displayed naked or semi-naked humans in cages. Paris saw 34 million people attend their exhibition in six months alone."
Most Europeans don’t know the name of Ota Benga who was put on display at The Bronx Zoo in 1904.
According to reports, “the card outside the exhibit read: Age, 23 years. Height, 4 feet 11 inches. Weight 103 pound. Brought from the Kasai River, Congo Free State, South Central Africa, By D. Samuel P Verner. Exhibited each afternoon during September.”
It isn’t well-known that Hitler sterilized as many African-German mixed race children without anesthetics. And:
"Black soldiers of the American, French, and British Armies were worked to death on construction projects or died as a result of mistreatment in concentration or prisoner-of-war camps. Others were never even incarcerated, but were instead immediately killed by the SS or Gestapo. Black prisoners received harsher treatment and less food than white POWs, and whilst most white POWs were imprisoned, many of the black soldiers either worked until they died or were executed."
Sweeping these atrocities ‘under the rug’ doesn’t make them any less real, heartbreaking, violent, and racist. So, white Europeans, I beg: