Race in America and Europe


Pat Buchanan says, of white people, “America was once their country. They sense they are losing it. And they are right.” I affiliate myself with what Adam Serwer has to say about this, but it also seems like a good jumping-off point for something I’ve been meaning to write about since I came home from Europe.

Ebony Statue

There’s often a kind of conventional idea on the left that the United States is an unusually racist society. And I think there’s also often a kind of image of Europe as a place where more of the progressive agenda has been achieved than in the USA. But I think that you’ll find if you look at Europe through the eyes of the liberal agenda that while the German left has certainly been more successful than the American left at securing universal health care, it’s been much less successful at promoting a tolerant, integrated, multicultural society. And allowing for the errors implicit in making any kind of sweeping generalization, I’d say that’s pretty generally the case across Europe. This Swiss People’s Party campaign poster would, I think, make Jesse Helms blush. And I’m not even sure which of the Northern League posters from Italy is the most egregious.

In the US, in other words, racial problems have been more salient for a long time since we’ve been a racially diverse society for a long time. But by the same token, for all the problems we have with us today, we’ve made enormous progress over the years. Racial and ethnic tensions are a common problem in the world, and the United States manages diversity pretty well in comparison with other places (not just in Europe) even if we fall short in some absolute terms. Just look at Barack Obama. I think we’ll be waiting a while yet before someone of non-European ancestry is elected head of government in a European country. Denmark has some great public policy ideas, but it’s also kind of made itself into the gated community of nations in a way I don’t find particularly appealing.

At any rate, in some sense it’s probably true that white America has “lost” “its” country, but that’s a good thing. It’s everyone’s country!