Many US leftists are promoting Europe as a place of racial harmony and joy, where people are not racists and everybody runs through the fields happily singing kumbaya. Well that is a big fat lie.
Whatever ancestral ties the US might have with Europe, and although we see ourselves as a cultural entity, the so-called “West,” these are two very different places, both politically and socially.
There is no apartheid in Europe. On a state level, all are equal in the eyes of the law, and no discrimination is tolerated, let alone legislated. However, Europe is composed of national states, and the borders of those states also draw lines between ethnic, cultural and religious factions.
European history has always been contentious, with those factions always fighting among themselves, over differences that would probably go unnoticed in a multicultural nation like the States, or other New World countries. However, almost insurmountable differences were created, with suspicion, prejudice or even outright hatred surviving to this day. Serbs still can’t stand Croats, Ireland’s Protestants and Catholics are never too far from fighting, and Catalans will be offended if you call them Spanish.
Moreover, Europe has always been predominantly white; with shades from Scandinavian blonde to Mediterranean. Those shades, are also an excuse for conflict and animosity from time to time.
In this context of closely consolidated ethnic states, where every nuance of religion, color and historical background is enclosed by its very own border, you can only imagine what happened with migration, moreso, migration from other continents.
With countries so homogeneously structured, it was all the more difficult for the newcomers to become integrated – with any and all differences even more pronounced. To be a national of this and that land came with certain preconditions. It was not enough to believe in the “German way” to consider yourself German. To be Greek, you must be an Orthodox Christian. The same to serve in the Greek Army, as recently as in 2006, you were required to be Orthodox. As such, foreigners would remain foreigners.
What this lead to, of course, was ghettoization, isolated minorities, substandard living conditions, mutual resentment, fear and prejudice. The same distrust that was once reserved for the neighboring clan, now targeted newcomers from Africa and Asia.
This was not true in the same extent across Europe. But in countries with strong national identity, appeared a peculiar phenomenon of antagonistic affinities growing within the same border. Immigrants left to their own devices were allowed to remain unintegrated, maintaining ways of life incompatible with the receiving countries’ and stirring up the locals’ nationalism and bigotry.
Elsewhere, in countries like Germany and Sweden, historical guilt makes states and nations go out of their way to appear tolerant and open. A prime example of that is the Syrian refugee crisis, where both countries accepted more than their fair share of asylum seekers. However, when such openness backfires, reverse tendencies are not too far from the surface. It is telling that the far right is on the rise in Germany, where it has long been a taboo.
One might think that the creation of the European Union would have amended some of those isolationist inclinations. And while it’s true that the Union tries to promote a unifying ideal, transcending all peoples of the continent, we’re nowhere near a United States of Europe. European identity still comes second to the national one, and some historical scars are just too recent to overlook. Some parts of Europe still have unresolved conflicts that often hinder common solutions.
Undoubtedly, the US has its own history of racism; a painful and bloody one no less. However, what it is now, Europe could only wish for. We are trying hard to reach what we consider the Western standard of inclusion and openness, not only coming together as one people, but also accepting and accommodating those who choose to make our countries their home. In comparison with the civic nationalism of the U.S. and an integration built on the “American way,” Europe has a long way to go.