South Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings, D-71., capped a recent meeting with black European human rights leaders by introducing a resolution in Congress that turns the U.S. spotlight on the African Diaspora and a growing wave of racism in Europe.
The 11-page “Recognizing people of African Descent and Black Europeans,” which the veteran Democratic lawmaker submitted on Nov. 19, calls on Secretary of State John Kerry to name a senior advisor on “Afro-descent peoples” in the State Department and to establish a “Fund for the Inclusion of Racial and ethnic Minorities” similar to those for women and girls and the LGBT community.
Hastings also is calling for the adoption of a “Joint Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality and Inclusion” between the U.S. and the European Union.
The seven million to 10 million people of African descent who live in Europe, particularly in France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, have contributed greatly to European history and culture over the past several centuries and “form an influential part of the African Diaspora,” he said.
The resolution cites distinguished blacks who have made “significant contributions” to European history and culture: Juan Latino, a Spanish poet; Alessandro Medici, an Italian duke; Alexandre Dumas, a French novelist; Anthony William Amo, a German scholar; Le Chevalier de St. George, a French composer; Oladuah Equiano, a British abolitionist; and Abram Hannibal, a Russian general and governor.
“The story of black Europeans remains widely untold, rendering many of their past and present contributions to the political and social life of Europe invisible or forgotten,” Hastings said in a statement announcing the resolution.
“Furthermore,” he continued, “similar to the experiences of many African Americans, they have increasingly become the targets of discrimination, pernicious racial profiling, and violent hate crimes impacting equal access to housing, employment, education, and justice.”
Hastings acted after he met a 10-nation delegation in Washington, D.C., from the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
He also presided, as ranking Democratic member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, over a briefing whose topic was “Europeans of African Descent – Black Europeans: Race, Rights and Politics.”
“Building on past and current initiatives, the purpose of the delegation’s visit was to shed light on the experiences of black Europeans in the face of ongoing racism and discrimination, specifically with regard to their representation in leadership positions and political participation,” Hastings said.
“Their personal testimonies offered a raw and honest glimpse into the realities of many Blacks living in Europe,” he added. Such testimonies, the congressman said, provide an opportunity to address “issues of inequality, discrimination and inclusion” in the 57-nation OSCE.
The resolution is peppered with references to racial discrimination, racially motivated crime and victimization and notes the OSCE’s 2013 annual hate crimes report attributed more than 16 deaths to racist attacks and, the resolution adds, “persons of African descent are often targets of racist and anti-migrant violence, especially in eastern Europe.”
At the same time, it said, many countries do not provide legal assistance and financial support for victims of such attacks.
The current spate of violence, according to the resolution, is linked to changes in immigration and asylum laws and the rise of groups such as neo-Nazis and skinheads.
Hastings notes in his resolution that some efforts were made to tackle racism and inequality, resulting in the United Nations designating 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent. That year also, the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution titled “Strengthening Efforts to Combat Racism and Xenophobia and Foster Inclusion.”
In addition, black and minority lawmakers met in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and several forums were held to discuss the issue. The most recent major talks took place last October involving European parliamentarians and the European Network Against Racism. The discussions included a debate on “People of African descent and Black Europeans: Realities of Afrophobia.”
Despite such initiatives, racism and violence have continued against blacks in Europe, the resolution notes. Hastings is calling on European governments to do more to tackle the problem.
He also wants the U.S. House of Representatives to encourage “the recognition and celebration of the collective and achievements made by people of African descent” and to reaffirm “the importance of inclusion and the full and equal participation of people of African descent around the world in all aspects of political, economic, social and cultural life.”
“I believe that our government can do more to help advance human rights and inclusion, including more partnerships with black European communities and the public and private sectors; increased parliamentary activities such as legislation and policy, speaking out against racism and increasing the political participation of racial minorities; and working with the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),” Hastings said in his statement.