Why isn’t there a European Obama?
I know this is a catchy topic. My excuses for all readers in advance. But this is a question which has been in the media a lot, both in Europe and in US papers–Slate and the International Herald Tribune had nasty pieces on this, if my memory is correct–. And I believe that it is a question which directly relates to the Maghreb.
Let’s face it, the equivalent of the Afro-American community in several European countries is the Maghreb community (“les personnes d’origine maghrébine“, as French media put it). They are heavily discriminated in most EU countries, often feared, nearly always despised, and always treated as “special citizens”. And, believe me, special has here no positive meaning. There are places where it is worse than others–the treatment of Moroccans in the Netherlands is frankly disgusting–but the general situation is the one I described. Needless to say that, just like in the US’ case, they are a very significant part of the population, often the first or second minority, depending on the country. In these conditions, the appearance of a Maghreb originated European Obama is very unlikely. Clearly, very few people from North Africa are graduating from elite schools like Obama did, even the ones born in Western Europe, or from the much vaunted third or now fourth generation: Even less are populating the benches of European Parliaments.
Is this to say that there is no hope for a “European Obama” from the Maghreb? I wouldn’t go that far. People like Rachida Dati in France, although more interestingly, Ahmed Aboutaleb of the Netherlands, have shown that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Still such exceptional personalities are subjected to disgusting attacks from the right side of the political fence, but also, maybe more surprisingly for the uninitiated, from the left as well. They have to fight twice as hard as the others; they have to win more. Often, they are seen by some in their own original community as traitors (it is true, in part, for both of them). For them, there is little of the incredible hope generated in his community by Obama’s ascension.
I suspect that this has much to do with the difference in position: there is a huge perceived gap between a French Minister or the Mayor of Rotterdam and the Presidency of a great nation. However, it has also a lot to do with the perception of the community itself. I would welcome comments from readers about this aspect–regardless of the obvious discrimination from what Dutch media call “autochtones”–against the Maghreb “allochtones”, what is, according to you, the impact of the community itself?