Analyzing Black Europe

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Stephen Small: “The fundamental assumptions underlying the politics of race and immigration in Europe – with regard to Black people in particular and other people of color in general – are wrong”

Stephen Small, Associate Professor of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is currently finished a research project on Black Europe. The results will be published in the book series Decolonizing The Mind, titled 20 Questions and Answers on Black Europe. He describes the content of the book which is due to appear in December 2016.

What is Black Europe? Who is Black in Europe? What is the relationship of Blackness to class, gender and nationality? What are the experiences of Black men and women in Europe? What is the significance of social mobilization in Black Europe? What are Black people’s priorities in Europe? Who are the major Black organizations in Europe? What is the relationship of Black Europe to Africa and the African Diaspora? What are Black European studies? What is the future of Black Europe and Black European Studies? These are questions increasingly being asked by scholars, students, activists and politicians across the continent. This book begins to answer many of them.

The current hostility towards Black people in Europe – which is one element of the hostility towards Muslims and other immigrants in Europe – is one of the legacies of slavery and colonialism. This hostility makes sense only to the colonized mind. It is another example of the ways in which the colonized mind operates across Europe today.  European nations exploited the lands, labor and ideas of the rest of the world. Slavery and colonialism based on racism were the foundations of this exploitation. But since the rebellions during slavery, and the successes of anti-colonial struggles for national independence, colonizing the mind remains a central feature of western knowledge production and dissemination.

There has been no apology for slavery and colonialism from the nations of Europe; no attempt to beg for forgiveness; no attempt to offer financial reparations; and no attempt to repair the education systems and knowledge produced about slavery and colonialism. Instead there is insistence of the superiority of Europe over the rest of the world. There is insistence that European identity is white, Christian and under threat. There is an insistence that Black people do not belong in Europe. An insistence that Black people are here because they were invited here. An insistence that Black people are tolerated here because of Europe’s generosity. There is also an insistence that Black people should be grateful for this generosity.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

In this book an analysis and description of Black Europe is provided within a decolonizing the mind (DTM) framework.  This book has been written to provide a definition, description and analysis of Black Europe at the present time (2016), one that takes account of important issues in the history of Black Europe as well as their legacy today. This book has been written to introduce the decolonizing the mind (DTM) perspective on Black Europe – a perspective that challenges the many taken-for-granted assumptions of academic neutrality typically proclaimed by mainstream knowledge production on these issues.  this book has been written to insist that a focus on Black people and Black Europe is indispensable at a time when scholars, politicians, policy makers and the general non-Black public across Europe are less and less interested in Black people in Europe (especially Black citizens); are less and less interested in admitting and confronting the systemic racism that we face or in considering in any real way the legacies of slavery and colonialism across Europe today.  This book has been written to highlight why I believe Black Europe is and should remain an important region of focus in African Diaspora Studies. I have written this book to emphasize the distinctive features of Black Europe today – including how Black Europe came into existence historically; and consider some of the factors that will shape what Black Europe will become in future decades. And this book has been written anticipate the future of Black European studies.

This book argues that the fundamental assumptions underlying the politics of race and immigration in Europe – with regard to Black people in particular and other people of color in general – are wrong.  The dominant discourse highlights immigration, adaptation, tolerance (by non-Blacks) and gratitude (by Black people) as the essential foundations of discussion.  Instead this book argues that a far more accurate understanding can be developed from a discourse of citizenship, racism, equality and rights. This approach insists that there is no Europe without Black people, and that Black people are here in Europe only because Europeans were there in Africa and the Americas.

This book focuses on twelve nations in Western Europe – Belgium, France, Netherlands, Portugal and United Kingdom; Germany, Spain and Italy; and Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland. These nations at the heart of Black Europe.  They are the nations where more than 80% of Black people currently live; they are the nations that were the most deeply involved in the brutality, violence and exploitation of slavery, colonialism and imperialism; and that nations that benefited the most from this exploitation; these nations have the most entrenched and pervasive legacy of colonialism at the present time.  They are the richest and most populated nations in Europe; they have the most powerful political, economic and ideological influence on the rest of Europe, and the world. They are the nations where the future of Black Europe (and Black European Studies) will be most centered.  And they are the nations where Black people must be most active in political action, social mobilization, knowledge production and dissemination, if we are to prevent continued marginalization, to make sure that our priorities are addressed and to ensure that action is taken to achieve them.

I believe that DTM can make a major contribution to knowledge production about Black Europe. It does so by revealing the colonialist bias in the existing literature, and developing a more critical conceptual and theoretical framework.  Working from a DTM perspective I highlight and challenge the partiality of existing academic knowledge of Black Europe; I draw on non-academic sources of knowledge – by independent scholars, activists and community organizations; I highlight gender, intersectionality and the experiences of Black women; and I use new language and terminology.  In particular, I draw upon the voices (and visions) of Black people, and others that have produced knowledge, both inside and outside the academy.

This book is scheduled to be published in December, 2016.

Stephen Small, Ph.D.  is Associate Professor of African American Studies at the university of California, Berkeley.

Email: small@berkeley.edu