JMintheUS Webinar: How and Why Europe (Mis)Understands Black America

Jean Monnet in the USA Webinar Series
Jean Monnet Center Distinguished Lecture - University of Pittsburgh

Gary Younge
Author, broadcaster, and editor-at-large for The Guardian based in London, England and Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester

How and Why Europe (Mis)Understands Black America
Thursday, October 7, 2021

Europe's views on Black America are informed by a range of contradictory tendencies: amnesia about its own colonial past, ambivalence about its racial present, a tradition of anti-racism and international solidarity and an often fraught geo-political relationship with the United States itself. Europe both resents and covets American power, and is in little position to do anything about it. So African Americans represent to many a redemptive force– living proof that that US is both not all that it claims to be and could be so much greater than it is. This sense of superiority is made possible, in no small part, by a woefully, willfully incomplete and toxically nostalgic understanding of Europe's own history which has left significant room for denial, distortion, ignorance and sophistry. The result, in the post-war era, has been moments of solidarity often impaired by exoticization or infantilization in which Europe has found it easier to export anti-racism across the Atlantic than to practice it at home or export it across the Channel, the Mediterranean and beyond.

Felix Germain
Department of Africana Studies, University of Pittsburgh

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