Cécile Kyenge, Congolese Italian lawmaker, shepherds anti-racist bill through EU Parliament
BY Thomas L Blair 1 April 2019 ©
Something exciting is happening for Black people in Europe. Who would have thought a Congolese miner’s daughter would put full citizenship of African descent on Europe’s law books? Well, Cécile Kashetu Kyenge, a Congolese Italian — once a penniless science student, now a legislator and medical professional – has managed to do it. Her vision could be called Black Europe Unchained from “the Links of Colonialism”
Her years of campaigning for Europe’s Black millions paid off in March. The European parliament decided to tackle the “structural racism” facing millions of Europeans of African descent. The unprecedented resolution was overwhelmingly approved by MEPs.
The European Union’s Declaration Fundamental Rights of People of African Descent is now enshrined… It urges the 28 member states to develop anti-racism strategies. Key targets include widespread discrimination in education, health, housing, policing, the justice system and politics.
Full EU citizenship for Black Europeans is a fundamental principle
In Kyenge’s informed view, “the question of full citizenship of Black Europeans should be included in this complex of topics” Not only to “understand their depth, but also to be able to remedy them”.
Italy’s first Black Minister of Integration applauds the EU stand against “structural racism”. She hopes it will redress the worst effects of racism in Europe. Thereby putting “the lives of Black people high on the civil and human rights agenda”. She knows how important it is and says “I suffered vile racist abuse. But this poison damages us all Racial discrimination is now “commonplace” across 12 European countries, and one in three people of African descent has experienced harassment in the past”.
Significantly, the declaration covers the key EU institutions. They are the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the Court of Justice.
Kyenge’s Italian Partico Democratico will monitor progress. So will colleagues in the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.
Migration, Human Rights and Fortress Europe
Far-right anti-immigration politicians will protest the declaration. They threaten to block Black Europe’s progress in every nation.
Britain has its Eurosceptics and virulent anti-immigrant supporters like Nigel Farage and UKIP. Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and white nationalist leaders in Italy, Austria and Belgium are gaining ground. They call for a “Fortress Europe against the pollution of Black and Muslim people”.
Declaration supporters expect that Europe’s surge of angry populists imperils minorities. Brexit Betrayal Marchers dragged effigies of London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, an ethnic minority Muslim, by the neck through the streets of London. “Skin heads” shouting racist obscenities attack Blacks in Budapest, Hungary and Eastern European cities.
The Way Forward
Cécile Kashetu Kyenge and her colleagues face an uphill battle to implement the declaration. The CRAN, an Afro-French Representative Council of Black (Noires) Associations, supports the “RESTITUTION, REDRESS AND RIGHTS OF AFRO-DESCENDANTS”. A radical view in a nation where “there is no right to say black or count the black population”. [By law and custom, it is illegal and taboo in France to count ethnic groups. You are either French or you are not.]
The Declaration is one step toward releasing “the native trapped in the tight links of colonialism”, to paraphrase Frantz Fanon, the French-Algerian thinker. In the Chronicleworld’s view, six pillars of affirmative action will support declaration advocates in the European Union and in each member state.
One, spark a public debate on the implementation of the declaration.
Two, urge the EU to establish a human rights watchdog to investigate suspected race discrimination against identifiable African groups.
Three, research and get the facts on Black populations to monitor the performance of EU member states.
Four, foster networking and the trans-European exchange of race relations good practice.
Five, take steps to empower and build capacity of marginalised and discriminated Black groups.
Six, advocate a human rights-based European approach to African migrants and asylum seekers.
MEP Kyenge speaks on Declaration of the Fundamental Rights of People of African Descent in Europe
Cécile Kashetu Kyenge, MEP for Italy, opened the EU Parliament debate with a monumental review of Black struggle in Europe. Well-researched and thought-through, she began: [Translation edited for clarity of expression in English].
| Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, today we are opening this debate on the situation of European citizens of African origin by taking the opportunity to turn the spotlight on the specific form of social exclusion they face.
In this presentation speech, it is my task to explain to the Presidency of our Assembly, to the members of the Commission, the addressee of the question, to the colleagues present and to the citizens all the sense of the question itself and the way in which we will have to insert the topic in our future parliamentary work…
“The official recognition of the specific history of the Afro-descendants, the possibility of instituting reparations, the question of the public apology, but also that of the return of the artistic assets to the African countries, once robbed by the European colonizing nations, as well as the question of the declassification of the Colonial archives deserve the establishment of a unit of the European Commission that deals specifically with these issues and the promotion of full citizenship of African descendants…
“The equal social integration of European citizens of African descent must, in my opinion, be framed in the need to respect fundamental human rights.
On the whole it is a question of guaranteeing the bearers of diversity, the integrity of human dignity of which they are indisputable owners. These statements, which start from the elementary levels of our political reflection, are motivated by the fact that in today’s Europe, despite centuries of theorising rationality and social evolution, there are still negative values, which undermine the life of the African descendants…
“Moreover, in several member countries, the daily news is often dominated by episodes of racism and xenophobia, which affect indifferently the African-descendent European citizens and tend to push them to the margins of society.
The extent of the phenomenon is such that no social sector can be considered immune. Housing rights, the possibility of access to decent work and the right to education appear to be particularly violated. In some European countries, we have even witnessed the attempted return of apartheid, with the discriminatory exclusion of Afro-descendant children from school canteens, as well as the attempt to establish separate classes for them…
“When I reported on the controversies…I mentioned the question of the historical relations between the European countries, today members of the Union, and the African countries…This historical relationship has seen, among other things, post-medieval explorations, the trafficking of black slaves, colonization, the total economic exploitation of Africa and the newly veiled forms of neocolonialism that exist in our times.
Often, within this Assembly, as well as within our societies, the migration issue, an essential component of globalization, has thrilled our discussions, even exacerbating our contrasts of views.
I believe that the question of full citizenship of black Europeans, Afro-descendants, should be included in this complex of topics, in order to understand their depth, but also to be able to remedy them.
“I have seen some of our colleagues be surprised to hear me say that there is racism in Europe, considering it an almost exclusively American phenomenon. And yet, in the cradle of humanist culture, racist and xenophobic acts are not only swarming, but in some contexts, they become part of a theory of government …”
REFERENCES on the Declaration include:
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