This week’s discussion was a particularly interesting one because it reflected hugely on the intersection of politics, race, religion, and nationality. Historically, Europe was not as homogeneous as popular narratives would have us believe. While predominantly white and Christian, there was also significant cohabitation and intermingling with other peoples, including Muslims. As Zach Beauchamp describes in this article, far right movements have equated Islam with backwards, oppressive ideas and actions, making it the universal enemy to democracy and liberalism. By doing so, they are able to continue to paint themselves are liberal, open-minded countries that promote progressive values while still being incredibly exclusive of and discriminatory towards other faiths and ethnicities.
This notion of European moral superiority is not a new one, and dates back long before their colonial efforts. Whether through religion or state, Europe has a longstanding habit of painting itself as the best, the most moral, the most progressive. In the case of immigrants and refugees, they attempt, and often succeed, at painting a picture of an incredibly moral, modern nation that must close its doors in order to maintain its own values.
This is an example of European nations ignoring their own racism. European countries don’t want immigrants, but instead of coming out and saying it, they hide behind excuses and placations. This notion of mass ignorance is seen in Gloria Wekker’s White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race. The Dutch people self-describe as an inherently anti-racist people with no negative intentions, despite a long colonial past and a present fixation on the character of Black Pete. Black Pete is not a case of white innocence, it is a case of white ignorance.