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What Black America Means for Europe

For Europeans, the image of Black America has had many meanings, many textures. Join us for a discussion right around Martin Luther King Day on the significance of the struggle for racial justice on both sides of the Atlantic.

Date & Time

Jan. 19, 2021
9:00am – 10:00am ET


More than a half century ago, Martin Luther King Jr. visited the divided Cold War city of Berlin, passing through the barbed-wire walls that separated Germany, Europe and the world to speak about the need to overcome humanity’s divisions.

King’s visit was emblematic of a European tradition of political identification with black America, particularly during times of political crisis and social upheaval. That tradition came to life again last year, when crowds gathered across Europe to express their solidarity with Americans protesting the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

For Europeans, the image of Black America has had many meanings, many textures. Does it show the gulf between American aspirations and American achievements? Does it fuel and empower European traditions of solidarity and anti-racism, or is it a diversion from Europe’s own colonial past, its racist present, and its own history of exporting racism around the world? These questions are growing in importance as the number of Europeans of color rises, as do levels of incarceration, deprivation and poverty, and as struggles for racial justice intertwine on both sides of the Atlantic.

Join us for a discussion of What Black America Means for Europe with our distinguished scholars. This event is co-sponsored by Black@Wilson.

Selected Quotes

Kehinde Andrews

“If you’re black in Britain, you are three times more likely to be killed by the police under suspicious circumstances. The difference is, the police don’t kill many people in the UK, they don’t carry guns. In many European countries the police aren’t armed.”

"One of the biggest damages that Trump will do to the discussion on racism because he’s so obviously racist and his policies are obviously terrible and you have people who stormed the Capitol, is [to think]: you have these racist people that need to either be removed or educated and then you solve it. That’s never been what racism has been about. Racism is deeply embedded in the structure of what the society is. This isn’t about individuals. This isn’t about teaching people to be nice. This is about a world which is built on the premise of white supremacy and if you want to address it you actually have to address the structural issues.”

Khary O. Polk

“Even as we attempt to define the meaning of Black America for black Europeans, we must foreground the unique struggles of people of African descent who also identify as European. Not only for the struggles of today, but to situate them historically within longer genealogies of political and cultural activism.”

“Just the idea of us being able to film the police, to have those images circulate within this broader social mediated sphere, has made me rethink some of my reservations, or frustrations, with our new social mediated age and to really think about the political value of the new screen world that we’re a part of. And so, I was shocked to see the mobilizations in cities across Europe, and just in Europe itself.”

“Connected to the question of migration has been the refugee movement. We sort of begin to think about the refugee movement — rather than a refugee problem — in different spaces especially in Germany, in Berlin, around 2015, 2016. You really began to see an intersectional approach to the experience of what it meant to be a refugee in ways that I found very hopeful. There’s more work I think that we can all do to try to connect these sometimes disparate movements together. "

Hosted By

Global Europe Program

The Global Europe Program addresses vital issues affecting the European continent, U.S.-European relations, and Europe’s ties with the rest of the world. It does this through scholars-in-residence, seminars, policy study groups, media commentary, international conferences and publications. Activities cover a wide range of topics, from the role of NATO, the European Union and the OSCE to European energy security, trade disputes, challenges to democracy, and counter-terrorism. The program investigates European approaches to policy issues of importance to the United States, including globalization, digital transformation, climate, migration, global governance, and relations with Russia and Eurasia, China and the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.  Read more

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