Mira is a student majoring in archaeology of Ancient Greece, and a writer. Born and raised in the Balkans, she changed several countries of residence without ever leaving Belgrade, her hometown. She is particularly interested in all the fields of anthropology, as it is the key to understanding human experience.
A patchwork of different nations and ethnic groups, Europe is more diverse than it might appear to the foreign (read: American) eyes. "Europe" doesn't equal "Western Europe", or "European Union". When it comes to identity, there's no other way to say it: European identity isn't about race. Being white is just taken for granted. It's not the fact that brings people together in any shape or form. Being white in Europe doesn't mean unity, or shared history, or common interests, because Europeans form their identities differently. It's not even about "being a European", but rather being a member of a specific ethnic group or a nation: French, Russian, English, Polish, or German.
While some Europeans might be proud of being European, or even white, their main identities still revolve around being a member of a particular nation and/or ethnic group. When an average European looks into the mirror, she doesn't see herself as white. One can argue it's the same for Americans: after all, they see themselves as raceless. But that doesn't deny the fact that white Americans, consciously or not, see themselves as members of one group, and they see other whites as "one of their own"—not so in Europe.
There's no such thing as a "white unity" in Europe. In fact, there's a very little unity of any kind. Despite the European Union, historical, cultural and political reasons keep people of various nations and ethnic groups apart. For example, it is a big deal whether you live in the Western Europe or in parts of Eastern Europe that are still not part of European Union. Eastern and Western Europeans don't see themselves as belonging to the same group, or having the same interests and goals. Some Westerners see Easterners as "not fully European"; some Easterners see Westerners as "way too Americanized". No unity here. Not to mention animosity and open conflicts between various European ethnic groups. Even the allied nations see themselves as different groups, with unique culture, history and heritage.
So...What about Racism?
None of this implies racism doesn't exist in Europe. It does, and it is alive and well. This might sound like a contradiction with the above statements. The fact whiteness is not the main identity factor doesn't mean white Europeans accept POC with all their hearts. It simply means that being white is not enough. Not enough to be fully accepted as "one of their own". If you happen to be of a different ethnic group or a country, nobody would think of you as a member of their own group.
This leads to complicated race relations. Nobody likes immigrants, be it black, brown or white. And if you happen to be a non-white citizen, yes, you will probably be discriminated because people would question your citizenship and wonder if you are fully French, Russian or German (often deciding that you're not and should go back wherever you came from). The thing is that it can happen to you even if you're white. Granted, you won't be discriminated based on your race, but you won't be accepted as “one of their own” either.
The key is to understand the race relations. In America, they are what make the system, so to say, “go ‘round”. They are the key to an "us vs. them" dichotomy: whether you are white (and belong to "our" group), or you're not, and you're “the other”. In that sense, being recognized as white is a big deal.
Not so in Europe. You can be white, but seen as a foreigner and discriminated as such. You're not French, Russian, English or German. End of story. The colour of your skin and texture of your hair can be as "Aryan" as it can get, but you are not seen as truly belonging to the country and its people. Your ethnic group, be it white or not, determines who you are.
Of course, there are some Europeans who do care about race. The most obvious examples are members of various “White Pride”/Neo-Nazi groups. But they are not your average Europeans, just like KKK supporters are not average Americans. That doesn't make average Americans free of racism, nor does it for Europeans. The point is…white pride and identifying yourself with your race is not a main concern for most Europeans.
As we can see, Europeans don't even see all Europeans as "one of their own", so why would they see white Americans as members of their own group? If you are an American, you are an American, and expect to be seen as such in Europe—regardless of your race.
White Americans need to understand that no white Europeans would see them as "one of their own". Not to mention many Europeans dislike America (if not Americans) and fail to see many positive things about it. So, if you are an American of any colour, expect to be treated as such in Europe…whatever “to be treated as an American” means to any particular European country or any particular European person.
Now, there are some people, usually those interested in race relations in America, who understand the power imbalance between whites and POC in the US. If these people happen to be the ones disliking American government, they might see non-white Americans in a positive light, understanding that they are not responsible for the wrongdoings of American government. This sort of thinking can be even racist in a way: those who don't see POC as fully American might be ready to accept them more freely feeling, again, that they are not those responsible for the American mess.
But your average European sees an American as American first, race second, and so any attempt of “claiming” unity based on white race alone will be fruitless.
Needless to say, this article was written by one person with her own point of view. Being an Eastern European, from the Balkans, I might see things differently from a Western European; it is okay. But the mere fact my part of the world is sometimes not even considered “fully European” proves my point.