To mark the 25th anniversary of the Council of Europe’s European youth Campaign against racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance “All Different-All Equal”, Gavan Titley has edited a series of essays including one of mine in which I reflect on my role as co-coordinator with Yael Ohana of the European Youth Trains.
As Sivanandan suggests in the opening epitaph, a focus on cultural identity as the primary vector for resisting racism diverts what should remain a political struggle into the realm of the individual. As he also said, “the personal is not the political, the political is personal”. A European anti-racist pedagogy, then, might well incorporate intercultural understanding based on mutual respect for differing standpoints, but it cannot proceed as though the different values accorded to these positions were not entirely shaped by the formations of European racialised power which underpins the political, social and economic reality we live with today. Put another way, an anti-racist project cannot take as its prototypical actor a white, middle class subject around whom those still thought of as “other” are arranged. However, neither must the intercultural project be replaced by the retreat to what are presented as the first positions of cultural authenticity. On the contrary, a European anti-racist project can be re-envisioned through a commitment to honesty about Europe’s racial-colonial past, to a project of (un)learning that eschews denial and the ahistorical universalisation of racism, and a focus on the specific material concerns of those most affected by ongoing racist practices. Today, these can be seen most acutely at the frontiers of the continent, in particular the Mediterranean, in the violence of policing and carceral systems, in the inequities of education, employment, health and housing, and in the rise in acceptability and popularity of a racist politics targeting Muslims, Black people, Jews, Roma, and migrants and asylum seekers.
Justice is a practice and not only an aspiration. Therefore, we may all be different, but in practice, we are not all equal. The goal is to move beyond aspiration to action.
Read the whole essay here.