Thursday, November 13, 2008

Europe Takes an Introspective Look After Obama Victory

Sources: Financial Times- A Futile European Contest for the Ear of Obama; New York Times- After U.S. Breakthrough, Europe Looks in Mirror; Washington Post- Racism Rears Its Head in European Remarks on Obama; Obama Give Germany the ‘Feel Good’ Factor

Following last Tuesday’s election of President-Elect Barack Obama, Europe is asking itself tough questions. Has the U.S. eclipsed Europe in racial integration? Would Obama have been elected in any European country?

Obama emerged the early European favorite after a tour with stops in Berlin, England, and France last July. Analysts compared his speech to one given by John F. Kennedy on his European tour once voted into office in 1961. Preliminary election polls showed that Obama would prevail 5 votes to 1 in Britain, with even greater margins in France and Germany. Last Tuesday the news featured election night parties across Europe, showing cheering Europeans who had renewed their hope that a more conciliatory approach was in store for American foreign policy. However, despite European support for Obama, many critics argue that institutional barriers, such as the hierarchical Parliamentary system in Britain, make it unlikely that a minority European leader will be elected anytime soon.

Britain has the largest percentage of minority represenation in government in Europe with 15 persons of color in the 646-member House of Commons, plus a few ministers below cabinet rank. The rest of Europe lags far behind. There is only 1 black member of the Italian Parliament, Jean-LĂ©onard Touadi, who was born in the Congo Republic. Germany has just 5 members of color on the 613-seat Bundestag, despite being home to 2.9 million Turkish immigrants. French President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed three women of color to his government, but only one black deputy was elected to the National Assembly.

The eye of the world has focused on the apparent U.S. stride on racial integration, but even U.S. statistics on minority representation in government leave much to be desired. Obama was the only African American in the previous Senate even though blacks make up 13% of the U.S. population. Now that he has ascended to the presidency, there will be no blacks in the Senate. The House of Representatives is about 9% African-American. Still, when combined with the monumental presidential election, these numbers demonstrate that the U.S. has surged past Europe in political representation of minorities.

Do statistics on minority representation in government accurately gauge racial integration? Despite your political affiliations, is the election of Obama good for American foreign policy and/or national security in light of the European reaction?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the funny thing is, now we have "black caucus", "hispanic caucus"
this caucus that caucus. all this integration and yet voluntary segregation. the idea of liberty is individual rights, the real minority.
this is forgotten no matter how many strides we make.