Sunday, October 26, 2008

A European Obama

Paris is a multicoloured city - black Africans, North Africans, Asians, Turks and others. But black and brown faces are largely invisible in the top ranks of business, media and politics. France has about six million North African Muslims from its former colonies and another 2.5 million sub-Saharan black Africans, although the numbers are disputed since the government's official policy of égalité dictates that even counting people by race would be discriminatory. But what's not in dispute are the visible facts; out of 577 members of the National Assembly, there are no black or brown faces other than those representing the overseas territories.

Germany is home to some three million Muslims, mostly from Turkey, but only a couple are in parliament. The Netherlands and Sweden are slightly more encouraging - Sweden has members of parliament who trace their origins to Egypt, Eritrea and Congo.

Britain has fared better in terms of raw numbers, starting in 1987 when the first non-white MPs, including Paul Boateng, were elected on the Labour party ticket following urban race riots that underscored the lack of black progress. But leaders of Operation Black Vote, a political mobilisation group, told me Parliament would not be truly representative until there were 50 to 60 minority members, representing Britain's 10 per cent minority population.

So it's difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a Barack Obama emerging in Europe soon.

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