Though many American liberals continue to regard Europe as a model of sophistication and humanism, and thus a great potential check on rampant U.S. “cowboyism,” Europe actually is a bit of a fever swamp. There’s nothing new about this — think of pre-World War II Europe. The re-emergence of European anti-semitism, though under-reported, is no secret either. In truth, though, Europe was essentially racist even during the golden age of the former Western Europe. And I’m talking about anti-black racism, not just anti-Semitism. In fact, the appointment of Condi Rice to replace Colin Powell made me recall a remark that a friend of mine who lived in Europe made more than 30 years ago. He said that it would be decades before the U.S. could appoint a black Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense because the Europeans wouldn’t take one seriously. Come to think of it, where is England’s Rice or France’s Powell?
Anyone who follows European soccer knows about European racism. By the mid-1960s viciously racist crowd behavior was basically a thing of the past in the U.S sporting scene. But it was just getting started in Europe. Black players were routinely abused by English fans for at least two more decades. Unfortunately, Everton fans were considered among the worst, although at least they could be won over by good play. In the famous 1966 World Cup match between North Korea and a Portuguese team full of African players, the Everton crowd cheered the players off the field.
Overt racism finally has mostly been vanquished from the English game. However, blacks on the English national team often are the targets of terrible abuse when England plays on the continent. Yesterday, England played in Spain, a nation that surely is in the upper echelon of Euro-taste and sophistication. The blacks who played for England — Ashley Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and sub Jermaine Jenas — faced a torrent of abuse throughout the match from the Madrid crowd, including chants of “monkey” and imitation monkey noises The same thing happened the day before when the England under 21 team played in Spain. One victim, Carlton Cole, complained that even little kids were joining in. Previously, the Spanish coach had made a racial slur about Thierry Henry, the French super-star who plays in England. And speaking of France, fans of the club St. Etienne physcially attacked opponent Bastia’s black players after a match this weekend. Accounts of these disgraceful events can be found here, here, here, and here.
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