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  • "THE FIGHT AGAINST RACISM NEEDS OUR WHOLE SOCIETY".

    We spoke with Magda-Sarah Boulabiza of the European Network Against Racism about racism in today's society, ways to fight it, and ENAR's work.

    Hello Magda! For those who don't know you yet: What does the European Network Against Racism do? 

    ENAR is the only pan-European anti-racism network that combines advocacy for racial equality and facilitating cooperation among civil society anti-racism actors inEurope. We are a network of over 150 members located all around Europe working towards a racially just and equitable Europe. The organisation was created in1998 by grassroots activists on a mission to achieve legal changes at theEuropean level and make decisive progress towards racial equality in all EU Member States.

    What topics are you most concerned about right now?

    Despite the general awareness of systemic racism that arose in 2020, Europe is gangrened by far-right media, politics and narratives that are targeting racialized communities. Their ideas are becoming normalised and used even outside of political parties, media and groups that would be considered as belonging to the far right. There has been a consistent failure to address the growing threat of the far-right movement on a European level. And the resulting effect is a gradual shift of European Union politics toward the right and a normalization of racism and discrimination.

    What was your biggest success in 2022, what are your goals for 2023?

    In February, we published our climate justice report, The climate crisis is a (neo) colonial capitalist crisis: experiences, responses and steps towards decolonial climate action, demonstrating the disproportionate impact that the climate crisis has on racialised people in Europe. We also worked on strengthening our relationship with our members. We hosted regular ENAR cafes to check in witht hem and organised regional network meetings for Central Eastern Europe and France. We centered joy and well-being in our practices during a retreat for ourmembers. On the advocacy front, we successfully organised 2 People’s Summit to ensure that civil society is included in European anti-racism policy making. In 2023, ENAR will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. We will conduct a seriesof punctual activities that bring our communities together to celebrate our achievements and look towards the future by establishing moments of reflection.With the upcoming European elections in 2024, we will also be investing more of our time to counter the normalised far-right narratives that are impacting our communities.

    What was the 35.000€ donation from last year used for and in which way were we able to support you? 

     I would like to warmly thank Asphaltgold for your donation in 2021. Building a dynamic, effective, well-resourced, safe and resilient anti-racism Network – a movement for racial equality and justice in Europe is one of ENAR’sstrategic objectives. This is why we decided to allocate the 35.000€ you and your community donated last year to our Empowerment and Resilience Fund to ensure its sustainability and durability. The Empowerment and Resilience Fund is a mechanism created by ENAR to support our members’ activities. Under this scheme, we are able to support financially grassroots anti-racism organisations to cover the costs of projects supporting racialised communities, but the scheme can also finance their daily operations, and their organisational development or contribute to their sustainability and resilience. Our Empowerment and Resilience Fund is built on a model of mutual aid, meaning we aim to build wealth within our community by hiring members to support other members and build their capacities. This year, we managed to giveout 35 grants up to 10.000€ each to our network.

    How can people join your organization or support you even without financial donations?

    Our network is open to all anti-racism civil society organisations in Europe. This year, we managed to welcome and induct 10 new members of the Network. Individuals are welcome to support us by disseminating our messages, reports and activities sothat they can reach a broader audience. We are very vocal on Twitter (@ENAREurope). Following us and sharing our content is a good place to start to show solidarity with the European anti-racism movement. I also welcome everyone to seek education on racism, its history and how it continues to unfold today.

    Magda-Sarah Boulabiza, Policy and Advocacy Advisor at ENAR (Photo: European Network Against Racism).

    Does the war in Ukraine / energy crisis affect your work?

    The invasion of Ukraine in February was an eye-opening moment for many European stakeholders. It shed light on the double standard that exists in migration management and welcoming refugees in the European Union. Member States were able to quickly adapt to a very large influx of refugees and were welcoming to Ukrainian refugees, allocating budget towards ensuring that refugees could have access to universal services like food and shelter. We witnessed and documented the differentiated treatment of racialised people and non-Ukrainians fleeing Ukraine, starting from the moment they escaped the war and arrived in the European Union, to services they could access and the different protections they were granted. Many of our members are working at the frontlines of forcedor wanted migration to Europe, providing services to racialised people comingto Europe. To respond to the war, we held several meetings with our network tounderstand the challenges there are facing being front liners and how we can support them. We funded a project from Subjective Value Foundation, an ENAR member, under our Empowerment and Resilience to do a documentary on the experiences of racialised people fleeing Ukraine. We also held a strategic dialogue that aimed to build bridges between businesses and civil society organisations working with racialised communities fleeing Ukraine. Europe's resulting energy and cost of living crisis are hitting racialised communities very hard. Poverty and racialisation are intrinsically linked due to the compounding effect of structural racism. Racialised people have been historically exploited and excluded from access to wealth and services. This continues to unfold today and informs how they are able to respond and adapt to economic events like inflation as well as the support they will get from public institutions.

    What happens to you when cases like Mahsa Amini's become public?

    We stand in solidarity with all movements fighting against all kinds of oppression. We advocate for the right for women to choose and have the freedom to wear whatever they want, whether in Europe or elsewhere. Tragic murders like the one of Mahsa Amini in Iran do resonate particularly here in Europe where we face the opposite situation: the racist and colonial regulation of Muslim women’s clothing and their bodies by European States pressuring them to unveil or excluding them from society if they do not. Muslim women in Europe are the target of mainstreamed far-right discourses leading to their fundamental rights being violated, getting denied access to opportunities, to public and private spaces and facing hate speech and even crimes.

    What can each individual do to combat racism? What should educational institutions, such as schools or sports clubs, do?

    In a system ofoppression, inaction profits the institutions and people who are exerting power and benefit from unjust systems. To quote Bell Hooks, professor, activist and author, “No matter how many calls for solidarity are encouraged (…), those who benefit most from their access and privilege must be willing to dissociate from these very same systems that grant them access and privilege.” The fight against racism requires all of society to come together. People should be aware that being anti-racism necessitates taking risks and being willing to take these risks to dismantle racism individually and collectively. For instance, publicly calling out racist actions or comments from institutions or people and risking facing an uncomfortable situation. I would like to invite people to reflect on whether their social positions and status are more important than racialised people’s dignity. Education and sports are powerful tools. They have the potential to either empower young people or rather systematically prejudice them. When sports are regulated by institutions in a way that excludes some groups based on what they chose to wear, or how their bodies are perceived, they perpetuate exclusionary practices. For instance, some Black women have been denied competing in certain sports due to high testosterone levels, while recent science has proven that testosterone alone does not provide them with any advantage. Until very recently, there was a ban on swimming caps made for (natural) Black hair in sporting competitions (read it here). Sports clubs should ensure that everyone can access their sports, and change policieswhere it is not the case. They should protect their athletes from racism from fans, referees or other athletes, and sanction people engaging in racist behaviours. Sports organisations adopt adequate measures to ensure that their practices are anti-racism. When schools do not manage to adapt education practices to youth whose learning styles are not suited for classrooms, they are failing some children. By diversifying and decolonising teaching curricula and practices, and ensuring racialised representation amongst the staff, we are laying the foundations for an inclusive,anti-racist society.

    Thank you for your time and continued success in your work!

    The interview was translated from English.

    Click here for the ENAR publications

    ⟶ Want to dig deeper into the topic of anti-racism? Together with ENAR we have compiled a list of recommendable books, films, podcasts & co.

    Here's how Asphaltgold continues its anti-racism campaign on Black Friday 2022