On last year's seminar
“Racial Exclusion in and at the Borders of Europe”
Organized 23rd of March 2017
Reflections by Philomena Essed

On March 23, 2017, the MDC organized a seminar on racial exclusions in and at the borders of Europe. To remind us of all important issues that were discussed during the seminar, we asked guest speaker Philomena Essed to share with us her reflections on the seminar.

"The conference theme of racialization at and within the European Borders, underscored critical concerns about tightly related political developments, including the following:
  • Over the past decade a move to the right and in many countries, rising nationalism and nativism as racism, but also as a response to the European Union bureaucracy, which feeds into anxiety about loss of identity, control and self-determination
  • Economic crises and the creation of a small mega rich class vs an increasing sense of deprivation among many
  • Normalization of Islamophobia as well as the return of open anti-black racism, sometimes called Afrophobia
  • Impact of social media and politics of moral erosion: ‘say-what-you-want-whenever-wherever- never-mind-who-gets-hurt’. This has contributed to what I have called entitlement racism, claiming the right to use racially humiliating language and images in the name of freedom of speech/opinion/expression (Essed, 2013).
The racialization of border politics is instrumental in reinforcing the political and ideological construction of a European identity. European identity draws from a sense of cultural superiority and democratic maturity, expressing the belief that Europe lives up to the ideal of a being a continent of equal rights and non-discrimination. European identity also thrives on the myth that Europe has been autonomous in its making, that the degree of material wealth is fully deserved and the result of European hard work, natural superiority, and strategic savviness. The denial or underestimation of the interconnectedness of histories across the globe reinforces the belief that refugees are the product of developments outside of Europe, the making of which has nothing to do with Europe.
In light of this, a critique and redefinition of how Europe relates to refugees outside of Europe requires a deeper sense of rethinking the role of Europe and the Western world in general in the production and reproduction of physical, economic, environmental and social violence and injustices across the world. As well as its responsibility in building a more just global future with justice for all, together with the rest of the world, which has the same responsibility. These are uncomfortable challenges, which may create fears and anxiety about the future. Those of us, across the world, who live in a bubble of material comfort, with the illusion that this material comfort if not obesity is self-made and well-deserved are denying the fact that economic freedom for some happens also at the expense of too many others. Under these circumstances the myth of racial superiority, continues to fulfill its role of legitimizing the dehumanization, exploitation and exclusion of populations, on the basis of a hierarchy of human worth: the image of white blond European stock at the top. Black African people and indigenous people across the globe pushed towards the very bottom.
This expresses the heart of my definition of racism as ‘the creation of hierarchies of inherent worthiness attached to groups of people. It is a historically anchored ideology, structure and process, where one group privileges its members, while disadvantaging other groups on the basis of (attributed) racial, or cultural (ethnic) factors. These factors are used to explain perceived superior and inferior ways of being and of being human’.
As scholars we should continue to challenge taken for granted illusions of European racial homogeneity, European racial innocence and moral superiority."

Philomena Essed
Essed, P. (2013). Entitlement racism: License to humiliate. European network against racism, recycling hatred: Racism (s) in Europe today.
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