• Sofia Eugeniou

Databases needed to effectively address racial injustice in the EU

More than ever, racial inequalities that plague social and economic systems are super visible. Protests against racial injustice - sparked by the recent killing of George Floyd by a white police officer - and the COVID-19 pandemic, have resulted in a new-found global consciousness to racism and racial polarities.


Black Lives Matter campaigning and social unrest have continued since late May, with protests taking place across European capitals including London, Dublin, Amsterdam and Berlin.


Worrying health disparities and other disproportionately felt impacts by black and minority ethnic populations to the COVID-19 pandemic have shocked the world. African Americans, for example, are dying at 2.4 times the rate of white people on a national average.


In the UK, data by the British government has revealed that black men and women are more than four times more likely to perish from the coronavirus than white people, even when age is taken into account. South Asians also face significantly heightened risks compared to their white counterparts.


Image credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Besides that of the US and the UK, very little data or discourse of a similar kind about the effects of the disease on racial and ethnic minorities exists in the rest of Europe. This silence and absence of care toward the very real struggles the BAME community faces every day speaks volumes about Europe's approach to racism.


A large proportion of EU member states do not utilise concepts of race or ethnic origin in data collection, in spite of policies like the European Racial Equality Directive and the Employment Equality Directive which prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnicity.


Without such data, it is near impossible to quantify and assess the extent of discrimination faced by racial and ethnic groups or the impacts of COVID-19 on their lives and livelihoods.


Evidence typically points to the persistent structural racism that drives differences in health and social determinants of health between BAME and white people. In both the US and the UK, minority populations are more likely to live in lower-income households (of which are generally lower quality structures with a lack of access to green spaces), have poorer transport links, have less access to quality healthcare, have less information on and access to healthy and nutritious food options, and are overrepresented in precarious and front-line employment.


These trends can be found across much of Europe and within the Nordic countries.


Without any official figures to go by, independent surveys by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and research by various anti-racism activists reveal experiences of widespread racial and ethnic discrimination in labour, education, health, housing, and criminal justice.


Some anti-racism activists and scholars, such as Benjamine Laini Lusalusa of the Belgian decolonisation collective KUMBUKA, have said it is pervasive and "calculated ignorance" which prevents Europeans from acknowledging or appropriately addressing structural racism.


Until European governments decide to collect racial and ethnic data meaningfully, systemic racism will never truly be acknowledged or addressed, and we will not live in a society that is inclusive or racially just.

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