"European Identity", a Guest Post

About the Writer: 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.

Americans

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.

Comments

  1. For those of you wondering why I would post Mira's article here, she and I had to deal with some commenters who went onto a post of Abagond's and made it all about their "white pride". One even went so far to say he had special Celtic DNA marker, so there was no way he was descended from Africans.

    As you can see from the comments, he is no geneticist.

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  2. Mira-
    Great article.

    Thnx Moi.

    Had more, but keyboard on lock. My niece had minor accident w/juice.

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  3. Great post Mira!

    When I went to Spain, I noticed that people mentioned country (or region) of origin way more than I was used to in the US. It seemed like every time someone spoke about someone else, there's be the inevitable, "yea, she's from Galicia" or "he's from France", and it was added on like it was supposed to be significant. Maybe that's an example of how cognizant people are of geographical divisions?

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  4. ...being white is not enough. Not enough to be fully accepted as "one of their own".

    This stuck out to me for obvious reasons. In America, being white is - 99.9999999% of the time - all you need.

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  5. I think this article makes a lot of important points, and highlights just what whiteness is in America - one side of a dichotomy created to sustain a power dynamic. Whiteness in America only exists to "other" those who do not qualify. Like Moi said with that long ass percentage thing, heh.

    But I have a few issues with some of the points made. Not to excuse what may merely be European racism, but this here:

    "This sort of thinking can be even racist in a way: those who don't see POC as fully American..."

    I do not see as racist, but a FACT, because American-ness and whiteness are inexorable. POCs are NOT fully American, and while I have argued that the alternative to racial identity is national identity, it is a flawed solution. Most - if not all - of the reasons that Europeans probably look down upon us are the results of decisions made from a whiteness platform.

    If people of color had more say, were better represented in American politics, then we would probably look better to the rest of the world. So I take no issue at all with a European divorcing me from the American identity, because I would just as soon cast it off.

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  6. "But your average European sees an American as American first, race second..."

    I don't believe this for a minute. And I think it actually contradicts the point about how POCs are viewed as not-quite-American.

    I do not believe that with all of the racism running rampant in say, the UK, against Afro-Brits, that a similar predisposed white Brit (i.e. racist) would look upon me with color-blind eyes, rather than associating me with the black Brits he/she has such a problem with...

    I'm not at all arguing with your thesis that "whiteness" is not as significant, and even that "American-ness" for WHITE Americans takes precedence over their whiteness. As you say, whiteness isn't important to Europeans. But blackness and brown-ness and yellow-ness and red-ness - for their sheer visibility, surely mean something. One more point forthcoming...

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  7. Finally, I think that this separation between race/ethnicity and nationality ONLY holds true where the people involved are "white", such that their race is unimportant.

    The Turks are an aggrieved group in Germany, and surely the racism towards them doesn't wait for them to speak or to otherwise indicate their country of origin. To whatever extent they "look Turkish", they are immediately discriminated against by those who would do so.

    To them that "look" (and that's all race is, really) equates to their different nationality.

    A similar situation can be found in Japan, where they try to pass off their blatant racism under the pretext of "nationalism". Yeah, well, in a NATION that is 90+% ethnically homogenous, discriminating against another nationality equates to racial/ethnic discrimination in many cases.

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  8. Wow, Godheval...great points!!!!

    About the second point: Mira states "place of origin" is important to Europeans above all (A person is Russian first, white second, etc.) So a POC from America gets that American "label" first; even if they're not seen fully as American, that's still their "place of origin". It ties directly into the second aspect: if you are American, are you white or a POC? If you're a white American, brace yourself and/or run. If you're a POC, you've almost earned a free pass.

    And as American POC, we have that free pass so long as we continue to object and critique and - as you would say - "divorce" ourselves from white American sociopolitical thinking.

    I co-sign the rest.

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  9. Hm, I can see how it doesn't have to be a contradiction in that case, but I still don't buy that "American" takes precedence over race/ethnicity, since a European - presumably - can't just LOOK at me and say "Oh, he's an American".

    But for whom it matters, they can look at me and say "black". Now maybe "blackness", if it does matter, can be further cut by nationality after I speak or otherwise indicate my "American-ness".

    Maybe an African-American is viewed differently by the British than the Afro-Brit, who for the white racist Brit is more of a threat.

    I somehow doubt that, though, since whatever threat matrix they perceive is pure delusion and mere retroactive justification for race-based hatred.

    I'm using the UK a lot in my examples, but I don't mean to imply that British thinking is in any way indicative of [Western] European thought as a whole.

    My point, I guess put simply, is that nationality cannot precede race/ethnicity for POCs because of visibility.

    The "neutrality" of whiteness deflects the visibility factor and allows nationality to take precedence.

    And as I said in my third point, race/appearance are going to be associated with nationality. So if there are ANY people who "look like me" that are not from European country X, I'll probably be placed in that group subconsciously - and abstractly - until my actual nationality is verified.

    And at that point - at the point where I'm deemed "American", I then have to further prove myself by showing dissent from what they characterize as "wrong" about Americans? If I manage to prove that, does that really "redeem" my blackness, where blackness was an issue?

    I find that impossible to believe.

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  10. I've been accused of over-emphasizing the white-color dichotomy as it applies to the world stage - with people saying that it's not as relevant elsewhere as it is in the U.S.

    But then I hear/witness things like:

    1. Blackface in Australia, Japan, Korea, Ireland

    2. The word for black Africans in Chinese (not sure if its Mandarin or Cantonese) being the same or sharing an etymology with "dirty"

    3. Palestinian Arabs, in spite of their downtrodden status, still being able to view black Africans as less than human (any of you see Kola Boof's one post over at WM? Fucked up my whole day.)

    Things like these make it clear to me that not only does the white-color dichotomy apply all over the place, but that it goes further into specifically anti-black (not even requiring the white part) sentiments worldwide.

    Not that any of this is about black people, but for these reasons you'll have to forgive my skepticism over Europeans seeing my nationality before my ethnicity.

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  11. Great article and great discourse. And like Moi, I co-sign too. No point in being redundant.

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  12. I was going to comment, but it would appear that Godheval has already addressed the topics I found to be the most, shall we say, troubling, for lack of a better word.

    Also, not to in any way discredit Mira as she has far more lived experience in the region than I do, but it would be interesting to hear what a POC from Eastern or Western Europe has to say about all of this. Sometimes, as I'm sure Mira knows since she's studying anthro., different groups understand situations and cultural contexts a bit differently based on their lived experience and the spaces they occupy in a society.

    For instance, for all its talk of multi"ethnic"ness and colour blindness, there are Afro-Brasilians (scholars and the like) who would easily say that Brasil is still an extremely racist country (ex.-the favelas, the concept of anti-racism racist, etc.). However, I know a few Portugese/white Brasilians who firmly believe that Brasil is better than the United States when it comes to issues of race and discrimination. Of course this might be like comparing apples and oranges since the Americas and Europe have a different histories, idk.

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  13. 1) Godheval, repost that link. Computer drama over here.

    2) You're misunderstanding Mira and Moi and that's partially my fault; I wasn't being clear.

    In countries where the emphasis is on "place of origin", people really do want to know your nationality ASAP because it determines the value of your ethnicity.

    For example, when discussing race in an Asian forum, Japanese writers noticed that because American culture and media are so revered by many Japanese, a black American is treated better than, say, a black Nigerian in Japan. However, a white American is at the top of the totem pole.

    What Mira is saying, however, is that not all countries revere the U.S., so being a white American tends to bring about an opposite reaction in many parts of Europe. Remember, in Europe, being white is not enough. Americans who travel to Europe thinking it is - and they always do - often get a rude awakening. One coworker told me how "ashamed of being American" she was once she returned from Europe.

    This last decade, for example, has seriously not endeared white Americans to Europeans, or pretty much any other nation, hence Obama's insane international popularity. So being a American of color garners more "tolerance" than being a white American - in most of Europe. This is not to say you'll get the royal treatment. This is just to say that where Americans are concerned, particularly in recent years, POC are seen as "more tolerable" than white Americans.

    What's troubling you here is the typical hypocrisy which comes with racism - I know; it bugs me too. White Europeans are "more tolerant" towards an American POC, but less tolerant of POC who already live in their country, speak their language, and pay taxes. Sound familiar? It should, because we see this in America too. Africans garner more "tolerance" because they tend to be "different" from African-Americans (why? Just list your favorite model minority stereotypes, pick one, and go with it). Jamaicans tend to garner more "tolerance" in Canada than Afro-Canadians.

    And if you're a good-looking, educated, gainfully employed black man in America who also just happens to have a British accent...need I even finish that sentence?

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  14. Yeah, I'm not misunderstanding - or disagreeing with - the contention that an African-American may in some cases be seen in a better light than a white American.

    But my point is that at face-value, are most European even going to even make that distinction? Sure, AFTER it's established that I'm African-American, but before then? It's as you say - that business with the hypocritical double standard.

    And even if I am "better" than the white American, am I still really accepted, or am I viewed - for better or worse - as a "more tolerable" foreigner?

    Personally, I don't want to be "tolerated" - save that for someone actually submitting themselves for your (talking to the Europeans) goddamn approval. But when you're ready to engage me as a human being with my own unique merits and flaws, then we can talk.

    Ah, and here's the link:

    Debunking the Myth of a Color-Blind France
    http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/debunking-myth-color-blind-france

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  15. Regarding that hypothetical Afro-Brit in America:

    Is he actually acknowledged and appreciated as his own unique person, or is he fetishized both for his blackness and his separation from the African-American stigma?

    He represents a sort of "best of both worlds" - all the "otherness" and "exoticness" of blackness, without the psychic burden - or so a white fawner may like to think.

    But fetishism is just another dimension of racism.

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  16. since the Americas and Europe have a different histories, idk.

    Exactly, drvagrantx. Another issue is that white Americans have a bad habit of romanticizing wars and European history. Read a white woman's romance novel some time, I shit you not. But what I've noticed is that Europeans don't romanticize much of their history, because everyone is still angry/annoyed with one another. The various nations don't like each other. They don't like outsiders - period.

    What I find interesting about this discussion here is how the European view of whiteness not only tends to shock white Americans, but how it's shocking POC as well. I'm not surprised though...just look at European history, both ancient and modern, as compared to white American history. White Americans don't know what it's like to be bombed for endless days - Europeans do. They don't know what it's like to have living, breathing soldiers invade their country killing everything in sight - Europeans do. For all the smack they talk about Nazis, white Americans have zero clue what it's like to have Hitler's army actually on their doorstep occupying their country, raping their women, and killing their kids.

    White Americans look at the enmity between, say, the Irish, Scottish, and British and think it's "cute" and cannot even pause to take it seriously because in their minds, all those people are white and thus can't possibly, truly, deep hate one another. Because in America, being white is all you need. But in Europe - again - being white is not enough.

    Are you beginning to see why that statement is so powerful yet?

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  17. From Mira:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Godheval,

    Thank you for your comments (not that I don't appreciate other people's comments here; but you raise some important points I'd like to discuss).

    I do not see as racist, but a FACT, because American-ness and whiteness are inexorable. POCs are NOT fully American, and while I have argued that the alternative to racial identity is national identity, it is a flawed solution.

    Are you talking about situation in America, or Europe? Europeans, on average, don't care what Americans think who Americans are. I never heard people regard non-white Americans as "not American enough"- that issue is usually of no concern to Europeans (in other words, Europeans don't really care about Americans that much to discuss their internal problems).

    I can only give you an example in my country (Serbia). To people here, the only "real" Americans are Native Americans, because it's their land that white people stole. End of story. Still, when talking about the bad things American government did, by "Americans" is always assumed "white Americans". This might be only a local thing in my part of Europe, though (people here care about the land and ethnicity more than anything and those are the principal factors for building one's identity).

    If people of color had more say, were better represented in American politics, then we would probably look better to the rest of the world.

    My point was quite the opposite, actually: the fact POC are not represented enough in American politics is what makes them look better to the rest of the world (assuming that "the rest of the world" is not crazy about American politics, which is a generalization, I admit- but it's not like it makes no sense). Please note that I'm talking about American POC, not POC in general (who are, to many Europeans, still seen as "the others").


    "But your average European sees an American as American first, race second..."

    I don't believe this for a minute. And I think it actually contradicts the point about how POCs are viewed as not-quite-American.


    Contradicts? How?

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  18. Mira, cont'd
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I do believe that, to Europeans, nationality and ethnicity mean more than race. But even if you're right, even if (white) Europeans see race first, American second, it doesn't change the fact they don't see white Americans as one of their own. The situations might be completely different with non-white Europeans.

    I do not believe that with all of the racism running rampant in say, the UK, against Afro-Brits, that a similar predisposed white Brit (i.e.
    racist) would look upon me with color-blind eyes, rather than associating me with the black Brits he/she has such a problem with...


    No, no. I wasn't talking about colour blindness. Europeans are not colour blind, and I don't think they even pretend they are. Now, your example with racist Brit is good

    My opinion might be biased because I live in a 100% white country. Most of the people here never even met a POC, and being an American means more than being black (in negative terms). Europeans living in multiracial countries might have different view on this matter; however, experience with some Western European people show they care about nationality/ethnic group more than about race. Which doesn't mean they are not racists. It's possible to be both racist and a nationalist, these things are not mutually exclusive.

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  19. Mira, cont'd

    As you say, whiteness isn't important to Europeans. But blackness and brown-ness and yellow-ness and red-ness - for their sheer visibility, surely mean something.

    Yes, they do mean something, because Europeans are racists like anybody else. Still, the idea behind this article was that white Europeans don't see white Americans as one of their own- a point white Americans sometimes don't seem to understand.

    The Turks are an aggrieved group in Germany, and surely the racism towards them doesn't wait for them to speak or to otherwise indicate their country of origin. To whatever extent they "look Turkish", they are immediately discriminated against by those who would do so.

    The Turks are discriminated because they are Turks. To be a Turk, means much more than simply "not being white". Perhaps in America, that would be it. Not in Europe. They are seen as "not one of us". They are darker, but that's just beginning of the problem. They are also Muslim (the problem they might encounter in the US too). They have their "strange oriental customs". Their women wear "funny clothes". They are not European. They are not like us. - those are all the things that make Europeans dislike Turks. The look alone is not enough: Greeks and Italians are almost as dark as Turks. Also, people from Balkans are considered white by all standards (I think), but they are discriminated against in Western Europe for the same reasons ("they are not like us!") While one can argue whether Turks belong in Europe or not, the same can not be said for the Balkans, which an integral part of Europe and, ironically, the place where the first great European civilization (Ancient Greece) emerged. But I digress.

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  20. Mira, cont'd
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    To them that "look" (and that's all race is, really) equates to their different nationality.

    Well, you said that yourself. It's about different nationality (and ethnic group). "They are not us". End of story. Their darker skin (and not that it's that much of a darker skin anyway) is only one of the factors that matters, while in America it could be the only factor that matters.

    Ankhesen put it very well:

    So a POC from America gets that American "label" first; even if they're not seen fully as American, that's still their "place of origin".

    Plus, she is also right on "free pass". "Not to be seen as fully American"
    in Europe basically means "not to be guilty of bad things America does all over the world". Now, I am aware there are non-white Americans who are proud to be American (and nothing wrong with it per se), and I know there are POC who support American foreign policies- something that most of the non-Americans do not support. If you are a POC American who supports your government foreign policy, don't worry, you'd be seen as fully American and disliked for that. *

    *Like I said, I assume "disliking American government" is given for Europeans. Even those who support American foreign policy dislike the fact America often sees itself as the most important nation on Earth. Needless to say, Europeans see THEMSELVES and THEIR respective nations as superior to US, so they usually don't like this "we're the best/most important and we'll tell you what to do" attitude of American government. That's why I treat "dislike for the US government" as given for most Europeans.

    Bottom line is, the main points of the article are: being white isn't enough in Europe and white Europeans don't see white Americans as "one of their own". I wrote the article after I realized, to my surprise, white Americans see some sort of unity with white Europeans, in terms of race at least, and that this thing make them feel proud. Non-white people around the world might show some unity because they do have common issue that brings them together: racism of white people. Whites don't have that factor and whatever Americans think, to Europeans, the fact someone else (of different ethnic group or nationality) is also white, means very little to them.

    The problems and issues POC face in Europe and European racism is a different subject that wasn't the focus point of this post.

    PS-Thanks for all the comments, people! I really appreciate it!

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  21. Okay, Godheval (I actually want to call you "God" for short!!!), you do realize why this article was posted, right? It was written for white Americans who assume they're going to "blend right in" or get the "superstar treatment" if they go to Europe.

    Secondly, no...you will not be "seen" as American at face value, and that's not what Mira's talking about. She's talking about what's important to Europeans - hierarchically speaking, of course. For example, white Americans meet me and assume I'm your average African-American. But then they hear my name and suddenly I notice a drastic shift in every single aspect of their body language. They feel it's okay to ask me a bunch of questions about Africa and "feel comfortable" and "confident" supposedly because there's no "baggage" between us.

    So I co-sign not wanting to be "tolerated". I'm personally annoyed with the "not liking all outsiders; get them off our land" 'tude considering that when POC responded that way to Europeans, not only did they not leave, but often they tacked on slavery, colonization, or genocide onto that list.

    About my Afro-Brit example:

    He represents a sort of "best of both worlds" - all the "otherness" and "exoticness" of blackness, without the psychic burden - or so a white fawner may like to think.

    And yes, he would be fetishized as well.

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  22. Are you talking about situation in America, or Europe? Europeans, on average, don't care what Americans think who Americans are.

    I am talking about your own statement:

    "those who don't see POC as fully American..."

    "I do believe that, to Europeans, nationality and ethnicity mean more than race."

    Ethnicity, as it applies to POCs, is barely - if at all - distinguishable from race. What is the primary way a person discerns a POC's ethnicity? The way they look. And race is a visual criteria as well, albeit far more unqualifiable.

    But even if you're right, even if (white) Europeans see race first, American second, it doesn't change the fact they don't see white Americans as one of their own.

    I'm not in the least bit concerned with how Europeans view white Americans. Actually, I'll even admit to taking a little pleasure in the fact that white Americans are looked down upon by those who once were - and who they still perceive to be - "their own". Other than that, my only concern with white Americans in all of my arguments is their relationship to POCs.

    "Still, the idea behind this article was that white Europeans don't see white Americans as one of their own- a point white Americans sometimes don't seem to understand."

    I said earlier: "I'm not at all arguing with your thesis that "whiteness" is not as significant and even that "American-ness" for WHITE Americans takes precedence over their whiteness."

    Again, MY concern is with how POCs are perceived.

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  23. "The look alone is not enough: Greeks and Italians are almost as dark as Turks."

    Skin color isn't the only qualifier for race/ethnicity. Clothes may be one thing, but how easy would it really be for a Turk to pass as a white German, or a Greek, or an Italian? On a continent that is SO particular about ethnicity, would they not notice the differences?

    I mean, take your own region, for instance. I know that Croats are severely prejudiced against Serbians. An American probably couldn't tell a Croat from a Serb, but I damn well bet you a Croat could identify a Serb, naked, silent, from 10 yards away. I think the same visual scrutiny applies to the Turk.

    All the other reasons you name - clothing, customs, religion - are certainly additional reasons for discrimination, and wrapped up in the whole package of "otherness", BUT...my point remains the same, that the visual (racial/ethnic) criteria is significant.

    Just as it is in the U.S. - I could wear Hollywood quality skin make-up, or like Sammy Sosa, bleach my skin to white, but no white American would mistake me for a white person, for my other features which are distinctly NOT "white".

    The problems and issues POC face in Europe and European racism is a different subject that wasn't the focus point of this post.

    And that may be the most important point - I wasn't so much as arguing with your thesis as pointing how Europeans, for their non-enrollment in "whiteness" (to the extent of white Americans) can be - and are - as racist towards POCs as white Americans.

    To wit, an Irish-American girl who regularly visited Ireland told me that native Irish were prejudiced towards Irish-Americans - something that really rams home your point about how nationality takes precedence.

    But, I maintain, only as it applies to white people.

    Because Ireland's also the country that released The Secret of Kells with its blackface caricature.

    So I mean, it's nice and all that white people can "get it too" from Europeans, but that doesn't bring me any peace of mind as a POC traveling to any of those countries.

    @Moi: Right, but face value is significant, even though it's not being addressed in the post.

    Am I to believe that for the person who discriminates against me at face value, upon finding out that I am ethnically the same as they are (but mixed), or an anti-American expatriate, that it's going to undo their superficial assessment based on my appearance? Because I don't believe that.

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  24. Godheval,

    Like Ankhesen already said, this article was written about (and for) white people, namely, white Americans. The treatment of POC is not the focus of it. So of course we can discuss that here- I'm just trying to explain why I didn't focus on these issues in the article.

    Ethnicity, as it applies to POCs, is barely - if at all - distinguishable from race. What is the primary way a person discerns a POC's ethnicity? The way they look. And race is a visual criteria as well, albeit far more unqualifiable.

    I wasn't talking about POC, I was talking about white Europeans. There are many European ethnic groups, all white, who hate each other- and the fact they belong to the same race doesn't stop that hate.

    I'm not in the least bit concerned with how Europeans view white Americans.

    Which is ok, of course, but it was the main focus of this article- how (white) Europeans see white Americans.

    I mean, take your own region, for instance. I know that Croats are severely prejudiced against Serbians. An American probably couldn't tell a Croat from a Serb, but I damn well bet you a Croat could identify a Serb, naked, silent, from 10 yards away.

    No, that is actually not true. Serbs can't identify Croats just by looking at them. Accent might be a giveaway, but a Croat living in Serbia would have a Serbian accent. The only giveaway might be a name- but even that is never a sure thing. My last name (my husband's, actually) can be both Serbian and Croatian. Also, there's no way for people to know that I am, in fact, part Croatian, unless I tell them.

    So, how to tell who's a Serb/Croat and who isn't? People usually ask someone about "what is X?" (meaning, what is X's ethnicity).

    Still, it's a different thing for Turks, because of the different culture and religion. Like you said yourself: skin colour is only one thing. Not to mention Turks are white (Caucasian).

    And that may be the most important point - I wasn't so much as arguing with your thesis as pointing how Europeans, for their non-enrollment in "whiteness" (to the extent of white Americans) can be - and are - as racist towards POCs as white Americans.

    I never said Europeans were colour blind or not racist. They are not colour blind and they are racists. In my country, it's the pre-contact racism, because most of the people never met any POC in their life.

    As for "The Secret of Kells", I actually thought black and Asian monks were put for the sake of tokenism and political correctness.

    Also:

    But my point is that at face-value, are most European even going to even make that distinction? Sure, AFTER it's established that I'm African-American, but before then? It's as you say - that business with the hypocritical double standard.

    I don't know about other countries, but in my country people will know right from the start that you're an American, because they'll ask you. If they see you on the street, their first thought might be that you're from an African country, but after they learn you're an American their view on you will change (regardless of the fact your race stays the same).

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  25. Mira,

    So how do you feel about Serbian-Americans? I know one guy who is an international student from Serbia who's on our swim team, a brother and sister who speak Serbian and visit once a year (I think the brother is living in the Netherlands currently), and a guy who's half-Black, half-Serbian, and that's it. Would you relate to those people differently? Would some be accepted as "one of you" even though at least three of them are American?

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  26. Jasmin,

    This is a sociological article; Mira is explaining European identity in general. This isn't about her.

    Please keep your inquiries general.

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  27. Well, I'll answer, if you don't mind, Ankhesen.

    This is an interesting thing, but I didn't talk about it because I tried to summarize the overall European experience (the similarities) not the differences between countries/ethnicites. But as for Serbia, and the rest of the Balkans I believe, ethnicity itself is the most important, more important than nationality. In that sense, most of the Serbs would see Serbian-Americans as one of their own- but that's because they wouldn't see them as Americans at all. They would see those people as Serbs living in America. Half black guy would be more than welcomed in Serbia, especially if he's ready to speak about how proud he is to be a Serb.

    However, the moment somebody mentions he or she identifies as an American, the dream is over. This person wouldn't be so popular anymore, and would be seen as a sell-out (yes, even if he's born in America and lives there and one of his parents is an American). So, the way people here see the issue, it's impossible to be both Serbian and American, you are either one or the other. (Same goes for Croatian and Serbian, like me).

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  28. My bad.

    I just asked because I don't know enough people from any other European culture to make a comparison. My general question is "So would a European person make a distinction between Euro-Americans of different circumstances?" I just happen to know the aforementioned Serbian people. But I was too lazy to elaborate on that last night. Does that fly?

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  29. Half black guy would be more than welcomed in Serbia, especially if he's ready to speak about how proud he is to be a Serb.

    Fascinating...but it raises a question: Is his black half embraced along with his Serb half, or his is Serb half embraced in spite of his black half?

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  30. It does raise a question, and I don't have an answer. Since there are no black Serbs, or blacks living in Serbia (only a few people- and I do mean a few), there isn't enough people to make a consensus on this matter.

    I'd say, his Serb half is embraced in spite of his non-Serb half (whatever the non-Serb half is). People here are not used to blacks and they usually don't have any experience with them. "Black" on itself doesn't mean anything to them, but they would probably ask about the nationality(it's not the same for people here whether you are an African or an American).

    On the other hand, nobody would force half black guy to deny his blackness or pretend he's white. So in that way, I guess his blackness would be embraced along with his Serb half.

    Let's say the guy is an Orthodox Christian and knows Serbian language. There will be some people unhappy to see him marry their daughter. But he'd be more welcomed than a Catholic white guy who doesn't know the language and identifies himself as an American, and more people would want him (half black guy) as their son in law.

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  31. Oh, and just to add, this is a situation in my country, and it can hardly be taken as general European situation. Other Balkan countries, perhaps, but not Western Europe or any European country with significant number of non-white people.

    Also, I do think Western Europeans don't see things this way; I don't think Irish people see Irish Americans as "Irish".

    But the bottom line is, if you want to be seen as "one of our own", you must be seen as a member of "our" ethnicity or nation. If "we" see you as an American, we won't see you as "one of our own", even if you are white as we are.

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  32. And ANOTHER thing (sorry for spamming, I keep forgetting important bits): I'm not saying our half black Serb would be loved by everybody. There are racist people here who dislike blacks. But when I said "he'd be more than welcomed if he's ready to speak about how proud he is to be a Serb", I was talking about general acceptance. Don't forget that people here don't have any experience (good or bad) with black people, which means they are in pre-contact phase of interacting with black people.

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  33. Hi, lurker here.

    As a Brit, I would agree with a lot of Mira's understanding of the way in which Europeans tend to approach race and identity. As a Western European, I think that what she describes holds true in Western Europe as well. I'm not sure how the proportion of POC in Britain relates to the rest of Europe, but I think we have a significant proportion, certainly in comparison to Scandinavia and the Balkans. I think Mira is correct the a collective white identity is not a concept most Europeans would be familiar with, especially since race and identity in Europe has played out quite differently from in America. Native Americans, for example, though they would not be labelled "white" in Britain, would not necessarily be labelled "POC" either. When looking at race relations between Europeans and East Asians, it is far more likely to talk in terms of Westerner-Chinese relations rather than White-Asian. I suspect that White Americans tend to assume that their understanding of race relations is shared by
    White Europeans, and that's simply not the case.

    I'm not sure that in Britain people would be accepted as British on the basis of being only half British alone. Certainly, if the accent and place of origin were wrong, that would disqualify them. Particularly for Americans, since British identity is rapidly becoming defined by the ways in which we're not American. Similarly, the ways in which we're not Continental. Growing up in Britain,
    having the right accent and dress, are far more important, if only because it allows us to correctly place you socio-economic status and region/class. In terms of race, not being white would not preclude you from being British, but,
    for example, it might raise questions in people's minds about whether you could be English, Scottish etc. So, in talking about South Asians, they would almost always be referred to as British Asians, I've never heard of English Asians. Perhaps this suggests that Britishness is to do with place of origin and status, whereas Englishness counts as ethnicity? Certainly, if you have a separate and obvious ethnicity, then you might be considered, say, half-Jamaican. If, however, you retain an obvious ethnicity not traditionally British, yet recognisable as a subset of British identities despite generations born and bred in Britain, then you would be considered, say, British Asian. British Asians have a culture distinct from both white British and actual South Asians, and so are probably the best parallel for African Americans (in terms of having a distinctly American non-white cohesive identity).

    Continued...

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  34. Race in Britain is very much a case of assimilation. The majority of prejudice, in terms of race, regionality and class, is based almost exclusively on accent. There is a lot of accent variation over short areas, and placing the origin of an accent is one of the more important (and effective) ways of forming an
    opinion about someone. Within England itself, for example, it becomes very important to establish the North-South-Midlands divide, since the Industrial Revolution and Imperial London have left behind considerable socio-economic legacies that divide these areas. Since in large parts of Britain POC are visible minorities, these POC are considered well-assimilated, and are, for the most part, judged by class and region alone. This system falls apart, however, in areas where the proportion of POC is such that cohesive groups become obvious, eg. London and Northern industrial towns, mainly because in these areas
    POC tend to speak with a recognisable British accent that identifies them not as, say, Lower Middle Class rural Dorset Coast, but rather as, say, South Asian Harrow (London), because, coming from Harrow, you have been part of a distinctly British Asian, rather than traditionally English, culture. Where accent and race combine, there tend to be problems, because the speaker is assumed to be either
    a new immigrant, or part of the immigration "problem", that is, lack of assimilation.

    At the point where the speaker's accent is not a recognisable British regional accent at all, it is very difficult for them to be considered British. Since the assumption is that they have spent at least considerable time abroad, their
    "Britishness" is suspect, if not lost forever.


    In terms of collective white European identity, there is the considerable difficulty that race is considered via different categories from those in America. Anglo-saxon in Britain does not stand for white in the same way that it might in America. For one thing, within Britain itself, those with celtic features (including exceedingly fair, thin skin) are considered, if anything, more white than someone with more Anglo-Saxon features. Yet someone with celtic-style red hair is more likely to suffer bullying at school (and consistently so) than any other type. Similarly, there is a vague perception that colour in particular has to do with latitude. Thus a typical Englishman
    would not consider themselves as white as the Scottish, and not as white again as Scandinavians. Since prejudice against "gingers" is rife, yet prejudice
    against Scandinavians is very uncommon, for British people "being white" doesn't mean much in terms of a collective identity, other than as an shorthand for "not south Asian". Similarly, lingering national sentiments left over from WWII mean that, for example, it would be very odd to suggest that, say, France, Germany and Britain should have a collective white identity. If anything, considering the Iraq war, France, Germany and Britain are more likely to unite in opposition to White America (as personified by Bush) than in support of it.

    Similarly, France, Germany and Britain are not full of white people. They're full of Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Brittanic, Meditteranean etc. Each national identity had enough difference in ethnicity within it even at the creation of nationalism, that by and large, national and ethnic identities are held separately.

    Continued...

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  35. This means that race in Britain tends to be differently defined. Hispanic, as a category, is meaningless, since it is considered a shade of white, that is, ethnically European. Similarly, East Asians tend to be considered honorarily white, on the basis that by skin colour alone, they are whiter than some
    Europeans. Black people tend to suffer ignorance, above all things. With a Jamaican or Caribbean accent, you fit within the Commonwealth, and so are considered part-British naturally. If you sound English, then you are considered English in the most useful regards (probable opinions/recognisable
    socio-economic class) and are often mentally whitewashed. Since Britain as a country remains very aware of its erstwhile empire, and yet rarely talk or are taught about it, Black British people are supposed the product of some shadowy nefarious past, and so are considered English in the sense that nobody wants to examine how they most likely arrived in Britain in the first place. If you sound African, then you are considered somewhere between East Asia and the Caribbean, in the sense that you are possibly Commonwealth (but don't ask the average British person exactly what countries were in the Empire and are in the Commonwealth, coz they won't know...) but are also somewhat more of an unknown quantity in terms of culture. So, racially you're covered by Britain's imperial past, and culturally you're covered by a tendency to ignore anything unfamiliar.

    (Britain's attitude towards the Empire is mixed - we are both ashamed of much of the oppression and ruin that we orchestrated at the time and left in our wake now, and also deeply (if not more so) ashamed that we "lost" the Empire. As a result, it is avoided as a painful memory. People think longingly of a time when we were a primary world power (and better than the "upstart Americans"), but are aware (in a very basic sense) that the practicalities of that power involve atrocities we'd rather forget. The result is a kind of ambivalent nostalgia - it was nice (for white British people) while it lasted, but we wouldn't do it again.) At this point, I'd just like to clarify that this is (obviously) the majority white perspective, hideously full of white (and imperialistic) privilege, and that this is a largely un-thought-through perspective. Britain, as a country, needs a good history lesson and therapy.

    South Asia and the Middle East tends to be the main racial category in Britain, especially considering the high proportion of Pakistani immigrants and current issues over "Islamification". This is a complicated issue, however, in the sense that it is more likely to be a Salwar Kameez that is the identifying factor. Dress and accent are the most important things. It is interesting to note how the ex-Empire Commonwealth issue fails to hold for Indians and Pakistanis. This is likely a result of assimilation issues however, since South Indians are the main racial category to have distinct groupings outside London. For most other POC, there are groups in London, or individuals elsewhere. For South Asians there are a number of industrial towns in the North and Midlands (famously Bradford), which, suffering from post-imperial, post-industrial socio-economic issues, are a hotbed of racial tension with the recognisably cohesive South
    Asian groups within them. As with a good deal of immigrant tension, this has much to do with the perception of a complete lack of assimilation, coupled, in this particular case, with the fear of domestic terrorism.

    Continued..

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  36. Discrimination against the Polish should probably also be mentioned. If only because this is one of the main reasons that a collective white identity is a completely baffling concept. There are two main areas of discrimination in Britain currently: against those of South Asian or Muslim extraction, and
    against those from Poland. Politically and socially, Britain is more concerned with those perceived to be most recently immigrating, rather than those presumed to have immigrated before the collapse of the Empire. Thus Polish immigration has become a hot topic in recent years. This is an instance of cultural and
    linguistic prejudice, and so it is difficult for British people to grasp the racial implications of, say, American prejudice against Hispanic immmigrants.

    I think for most Europeans class and regional prejudices are far more real and cohesive, and attitudes towards POC tend to fall under a conscious, though flawed, attempt to be colour blind, especially since (certainly in Britain) we lack a lot of the standard racial stereotypes that would otherwise give guidance on what being a particular POC is supposed to mean. Thus a lot of POCs in Britain would be held normally under the standard class and regional prejudices, since physical characteristics would be largely meaningless within a social context.

    Also, the effect of television and film on British attitudes towards African Americans is particularly strong. Our ideas of African Americans are formed almost exclusively from House or The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Thus African Americans as a group, though understood to suffer socio-economic disparity within America, are understood as a highly educated, highly erudite group (this isn't harmed by the socio-economic makeup of the average African American tourist), into which the European popularity of Obama fits perfectly. Thus, within the British class system, they are assumed to fall somewhere in the middle class. African Americans I think are seen as distinct from the stereotypical American, but not as less American. The entire concept of "African American" is a distinctly American phenomenon, so the idea that African Americans are not seen as "properly American" is somewhat baffling to us. This is in contrast to the stereotypical white American, who is more likely to be
    based on the brash, loud-mouthed stereotype, and thus is relegated to working class. To be honest, I think British people assume that because white America is deemed an unfortunate product of Britain, that white Americans can be roughly classed according to British values, thus little if any allowance is made for the differences in Anglo-American culture, and nearly all white Americans are considered lower class. In contrast, African Americans, seen as distinct from the stereotypical loud white ill-educated American in Hawaiian shirts, are a
    largely unfamiliar grouping. Thus they are given the benefit of the doubt, regardless of their actual socio-economic/educational background, and given status as middle-class intellectuals, that is, highly educated, highly erudite, money irrelevant.

    This is, I suppose, seeing people by race first and nationality later, to a degree, but it is more that your race qualifies your nationality. So, a Black Frenchman, for example, would just be considered French. Within France, it might
    mean something, but while in Britain, you might be noticed as black first, but as soon as your nationality was established, that would be far more important. In Britain, whether you're a Black Frenchman or a White Frenchman is irrelevant, if you self-identify as French, and have a vaguely French accent, you're French,
    and can be happily discriminated against on those grounds alone. For African Americans, however, because we are very aware that that does mean something in America, it makes you a certain type of American, but an American first and foremost.

    Continued...

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  37. Basic national and regional prejudices do take preference in Europe, I think. Thus the same sort of people who join the BNP or EDL would be far more likely to get into a fight with an Irishman than with a POC, if both were at hand. White Americans fall foul of this also, in that the frequency with which white Americans in Britain claim Irish ancestry and wade into Anglo-Irish relations is high, and while there is still unhappiness on both sides of Anglo-Irish relations, there is a far deeper unhappiness in British minds that White Americans are perceived to champion the Irish cause and fund the IRA. African Americans mentioning Ireland are given some leeway, in the sense that I suspect with most issues, Britain doesn't quite know how to quantify African Americans. Any White American mentioning Ireland, however, is automatically despised, and likely to get into a fight in the wrong sort of setting. Distinctly more so, interestingly, than an Irishman.

    So, in summary, I tend to agree with Mira's understanding that in Europe, being white really isn't enough, and will often (for an American) make things worse. I realise that Mira has already covered a lot of this, I just thought I'd add my own understanding of a Western European (British) perspective. Racism definitely exists in Europe, but it is closely entwined with distinctly European regional, national and class prejudices, and so tends not to mesh well with American racism.

    Apologies for length.

    (Also, apologies for posting anonymously - I don't have a URL or any of the other things listed and am unsure how I'm supposed to leave a comment. Obviously, if these posts get deleted, that's fine, I just thought I'd try.)

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  38. @ Anonymous

    You can do a name w/o the url, I believe; others on here have done so.

    Thanks for stopping by.

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  39. Well, as a European native speaker of a languague with less than half a million speakers, I experienced that once at a party, there was one PoC, my eyes gave the impression that he was an outsider. But when I heard him talking, in the Forrest-West-of-the-River- mainland dialect he had passed the test, one of us. That acceptance is total.
    Languague, religion, class, politics,nationality (as in citizenship),... if one of or a combination of those determines the group one belongs to, race becomes nothing but an outdated construct that should have been thrown away before they started the 20th century.

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  40. Theory aside. From a European perspective straight out of real life I can confirm most of the previous posts by "Anonymous" and Mira's OP.

    Born and raised in France, I grew up in a bi-lingual family. French mother and British father. What adds another layer of confusion to some outsiders (especially Americans) is that my mother is mixed African/European and my father son of Polish immigrants who came to the UK in the thirties. My father went to Paris as a student where he met my mother and decided to stay in France.

    I can safely say, as I lived it first hand, that my father was never really fully integrated into French society whereas my mother was taken for granted as being 100% French. So was my grandmother by the way, who was 100% Cameroonian. My father never lost his thick cockney accent speaking French and certain British ways (and never really made any effort to lose them I suppose) which certainly contributes to the fact he was never "one of them". By looks alone, he could easily pass as French, definitely more so than I do. Anyway, I do know very well about his daily struggles to get along with the "mad frouses" as he calls them whereas my mother's problems were mainly limited to the occasional bout of obvious racism from ignorant individuals. I don't know if it was because she was stern and opinionated that she didn't notice it or if she really was not a target. Speaking for myself, I've been exposed to all sorts of ignorance throughout my life but always as more or less intense flares, never as a permanent dull ache. I might bump into the occasional idiot in the UK or Germany who put me in a basket with North African terrorists until they hear about my background. It's extremely rare though. My French accent might help too, I don't know.

    Where my accent definitely never helped was in the USA. That's where, for the first time in my life, I felt like I was put on a rail or into a drawer if you like. Once Americans managed to get their heads around my "bizarre" mixture, I was offered to go to some US-newcomer venues. Certainly well-meant in their way but I was never suggested a French or British venue. They thought the most appropriate for me would be an African meeting centre "to connect with my people". Well, I checked it out and they were all from Anglophone countries I had never been before and whose cultures I was not familiar with at all. I do speak English and they were nice people, no problem, but I suppose you get my point. But well… Africa is a country, right? Europeans are all white and it's best kept that way, right?

    All of the above exists in different individual stories. Some easier, some nastier. I do know for a fact though that I'm pretty much centred average. The main point is that Europe is not obsessed with "race", unlike the US, although people over here are far from being colourblind, despite the recent suggestions coming from US journalism. I'm definitely not the only one who can confirm this. However, "race" is not made a central paradigm that every detail of daily activities is built around. Proper communication and mutual understanding are the paramount elements in a society. Sharing the same language and cultural upbringing are critical enough to ensure smooth communication. This is especially true in high context cultures with few but intimate bonds and implicit knowledge, typically found in Latin and Eastern cultures. In light of this fact, skin colour and hair texture appear as very petty and actually useless criteria for the ability to connect and to respect each other.

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  41. Some more first hand evidence how screwed up Americans really are. Women's FIFA world cup game, Sweden (100% white) vs France (about 60% white - 40% non-white). The US American referee was so blatantly biased pro Sweden it was ridiculous to watch. And those kind of people know they'll get away with it just because, of course, they are American. It really is no wonder Americans are despised in most parts of the world.

    Please, never ever let US Americans (merely 10% of the world population) be referees or judges anywhere else in the world. The "rest of the world" doesn't need their skewed opinion.

    Just keep out. Thank you!

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