FRA, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has just released its Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey ‘Being Black in the EU’. It s part of the EU-MIDIS II8, which surveyed more than 25,000 persons with various ethnic minority and immigrant backgrounds in all 28 member states of the European Union. The report ‘Being Black in Europe’ analyses the responses of 5,803 immigrants born in a Sub-Saharan African country and for persons with at least one parent born in Sub-Saharan Africa in twelve member states: Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The covered respondents are at least 16 years old, reside in private households, and have lived in the country for at least 12 months. Although the authors clearly state that the survey cannot claim to cover the entire scale of the experiences of Black people in Europe, the scale of the research is notwithstanding impressive.
Racist harassment and violence
Generally, the report shows that a significant number of people of Sub-Saharan African descent experience racist harassment and racist violence in all the twelve countries surveyed. This also includes harassment and violence at the hands of the police, where only very few discriminated against report such incidents to an authority or political agency.
Almost a third of respondents (30 %) say they experienced racist harassment in the five years before the survey; one fifth (21 %) say they did so during the twelve months preceding the survey. Yet only 14 % of victims of racist harassment reported the most recent such incident to any authority. Experiences of racist harassment most commonly involve offensive non-verbal cues (22 %) or offensive or threatening comments (21 %), followed by threats of violence (8 %). An interesting observation is that the higher the education, the higher the rates of harassment. This might be either related to the more discrimination in life experiences in higher education and better jobs, where less people of color are represented or in the more critical awareness of racism due to more reflection.
The sample of respondents covers Blacks with different religious backgrounds. The average age is 39 and women constitute 51 % of the sample. While 63 % of respondents are citizens, 74 % of respondents were born outside the country. Regarding religion, a majority of 60 % of respondents identified themselves as Christian, 29 % as Muslim and 6 % having no religion.
But it is important – as the authors point out – that socio-demographic profiles including the religious background vary across the analyzed countries. In some countries, a majority of people of sub-Saharan African identify themselves as Muslim. Such is the case for instance in Denmark (92 %), Malta (86 %) and Sweden (57 %). In contrast, in other countries a majority identifies as Christian such as in Ireland (84 %), Portugal (81 %), Austria (78 %) and Germany (71 %). Hence, the results in various countries may reflect the experiences of certain groups in a specific country in general.
According to the ‘Forgotten Women: the impact of Islamophobia on Muslim women’-report launched by the European Network Against Racism in 2017, data show that Black Muslim women in some countries are especially affected by multiple discrimination, revealing the intersection of race, religion, and sex. But according to the recent FRA-report, there are little differences in racist harassment experienced by Muslim (24 %) vs. non-Muslim (20%) respondents. The authors interpret this as statistically non-significant differences between both groups.
At the same time, in the 12 months preceding the survey, around 27 % of Muslim women of African descent who indicate that they wear a headscarf or niqab outside of the house say that they experienced inappropriate staring or offensive gestures because they did so. This is much higher than the average percentage of Black women experiencing harassment, which is 20 % compared to Black men (23 %). The difference of seven percent suggests indeed that there is a significant difference that supports the general statement made in the ENAR report. Among Black Muslim women, 15 % experienced state they had experienced verbal insults or offensive comments, and 2 % state they were physically attacked.
The authors also suggest that there is a “slight difference” in the experience Black Muslims and Non-Muslims make with racist violence. According to the survey, seven percent of Black Muslims and four percent of Black Non-Muslims report the prevalence of racist violence, including physical assault by a police officer in the five years before the survey. This is nearly double the number for Black Muslims.
Although the authors argue that there is in general little difference between the violence and harassment experienced between Black people in Europe, even regarding religious clothes, they do point to a difference regarding the gender-specific dimension on experiences of racist violence. The authors notice a prevalence of racist crime among men of African descent who wear traditional or religious clothing in public. The amount here is more than twice as high as that for men who do not wear such clothing in public (12 % vs. 5 %). It is especially Muslim men of African descent who wear traditional or religious clothing in public in France, who reported that they were physically assaulted by a police officer due to their race.
This very important report conducted by the FRA reveals that there is great need to investigate further in the intersection of race, religion and gender and find meaningful ways to challenge racism that structures the lives of Black Europeans.