Ready for racial justice: Tackling structural racism in the EU

Racism is not simply individual acts of hate; racism is a structural issue, embedded in our political, social and economic system, and it’s time that the EU understands this, writes Alfiaz Vaiya.
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By Alfiaz Vaiya

Alfiaz Vaiya is a co-founder of Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice and former coordinator of the Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) in the European Parliament

18 Mar 2021

Tomorrow’s EU Anti-Racism Summit is a historic opportunity that leaders must use as the stepping stone to implement meaningful changes that tackle structural racism as outlined in our latest paper.

Racialised people are dying prematurely due to racist structures. From 23-year-old Ibrahima, a black man who died after filming the police conducting an ID check on him, to the over-exposure to COVID-19 or the unnecessary deaths on the border. It’s clear: we cannot wait any longer.

It’s time the EU realised that racism is not simply individual acts of hate. Racism is a structural issue, embedded in our political, social and economic system.

Racism is police violence against black and brown people. Racism is criminalising migration and seeking asylum.

Racism is naming a portfolio with colonial overtones - “Promoting Our European Way of Life.”

Racism is how poverty and the climate crisis disproportionately affect racialised people.

“Racism is how poverty and the climate crisis disproportionately affect racialised people. Racism is the EU, US and UK blocking patent-waivers so that the Global South is unable to access vaccines. Racism is a system of actions that the EU creates and perpetuates”

Racism is the EU, US and UK blocking patent-waivers so that the Global South is unable to access vaccines.

Racism is a system of actions that the EU creates and perpetuates.

But there is a way forward in dismantling structural racism. For that, the EU needs to fundamentally re-think its approach to racism policy to address structures.

In doing so, the EU must mainstream racial equality in all areas of EU policy - including economy, migration, security, foreign policy, counter-terrorism, climate and digital.

Instead of siloing racism into different types, EU legislation and policies must use an intersectional lens to address anti-racism.

By doing so, all racialised people would be included in the EU’s anti-racism framework, whilst appropriately addressing the multiple struggles that racialised women, people with disabilities, migrants, and LGBTIQ and other marginalised communities face.

“The EU must review its laws and policies, particularly in fields like law enforcement, migration control, counter terror, and security, to undo any perpetuation of racial inequality and violence”

To effectively implement the Anti-Racism Action Plan (ARAP) and truly tackle structural racism, key institutional reform is also needed.

The EU must review its laws and policies, particularly in fields like law enforcement, migration control, counter terror, and security, to undo any perpetuation of racial inequality and violence.

Policymaking must be informed by real expertise on racial inequality, ensuring that all policy is reviewed with a racial justice angle.

The EU needs a new, more collaborative and supportive relationship with civil society. Civil society have the ground knowledge, expertise and solutions to tackling structural racism in their own communities. The EU needs to include all civil society, not just a select few.

Lastly, institutions must show racialised communities that they are dedicated to combating structural racism through sustained political will.

This requires action such as condemning police violence and implementing legislation that provides accountability when agents of the state harm racialised people.

The engrained nature of structural racism necessitates uncompromising commitment from the highest level of EU leadership.

Due to the urgent nature of tackling structural racism, racial justice must be a high-level priority. This means ensuring that EU Member States develop and implement National Action Plans Against Racism.

The EU Anti-Racism Summit is a huge opportunity to build an equal and more just Europe.

We’re ready for racial justice.

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