Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oppenheimer on Racial Equality in the European Union

Oppenheimer David Oppenheimer (Golden Gate), who is teaching a comparative equality class at the University of Paris X this summer, has an interesting op-ed piece on racial inequality in the European Union in the National Law Journal.

Here's a taste:

The European Union has declared 2007 the "European Year of Equal Opportunities for All." In January, the E.U. equality ministers met in Berlin for their first "Equality Summit" to call attention to their anti-discrimination efforts. And, while global warming wasn't on the agenda, by the end of the first day the discussions had generated enough heat to make the French delegates very uncomfortable . . . .

[W]hen Trevor Phillips, chairman of the British Commission for Equality and Human Rights, opened the afternoon session by arguing that "opinion is valuable, but facts are essential. And we can only deal with them if we collect data," the room started buzzing. And when Ursula von der Leyen, the German federal minister for family affairs, agreed, the French delegate made it clear he took it personally. Why? The French prohibit government collection of data about race, ethnicity or religion, because it is inconsistent with the French ideal of "citizenship" as the only legitimate form of identity. But in the absence of data, this "colorblindness" allows the French to be blind to the impact of color, even as it distorts the lives of French citizens with dark skin, and undermines the equally essential French ideal of equality.

David argues that collecting facts and data about ethnic groups is essential to overcoming the myth that we live in a color-blind world.  David concludes that, "Measuring the extent of racial inequality hasn't eliminated the problem in the United States, nor will it in Europe. But it does make it harder to ignore."


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