Friday, October 26, 2012

Europeans and Bigotry

I wanted to follow up a bit more on the previous post.

I have traveled throughout and even lived for a school year in Europe.  As a student, I have studied its languages, its literature and its art.  Later in my life, I have worked with Europeans in professional settings.  For several decades, I have had close personal friends who are from Europe.  Though I don’t purport to be an expert, I do know something about the cultural attitudes of Europeans.

In my experience, Europeans are not exactly highly evolved on gender issues.  I mention this because Americans often view Europe as highly progressive on social issues, so this is counterintuitive to many of my countrymen and women.  After all, Europe has outlawed the death penalty and has provided universal health care.  European nations have been leaders in providing legal recognition of same sex unions.  And the people of Europe have high levels of literacy and education. But in my experience, we Americans sometimes overestimate how progressive Europeans actually are. 

From an American perspective, I’ve often been shocked—and at times simply horrified--by bigoted things that I’ve heard come out of the mouths of modern Europeans  in casual conversations.  A number of specific examples come to mind, but frankly I don’t feel comfortable repeating them in a public forum.  To an American audience, such comments would be viewed as inflammatory and very hurtful.  They are simply not the sorts of things that are said in polite company in the United States. 

And I’ve been surprised because such comments have typically come from well-educated, young, otherwise progressive Europeans.  I’ve also heard such shocking things come out of the mouths of Hitler-era Germans, but sadly one might expect that more readily.  Such comments are akin to hearing the bigoted things that I’ve heard from my own white relatives who grew up in the Jim Crow South. 

The sorts of bigoted comments of Europeans that I’m referencing have primarily been disparaging of people of color, especially people of African, Asian or Middle Eastern heritage who have migrated to Europe for economic or political reasons.  But I’ve also witnessed a good deal of stereotypical attitudes on gender and a lack of sensitivity on gender equality issues.  In my experience, women are often viewed in sexualized terms by others and even themselves. 


1 Corinthians 12:12

Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many.

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