Wednesday, November 12, 2008

After U.S. Breakthrough, Europe Looks in Mirror

From afar, Europeans and others are hailing Obama's election.

In the general European euphoria over the election of Barack Obama, there is the beginning of self-reflection about Europe’s own troubles with racial integration. Many are asking if there could be a French, British, German or Italian Obama, and everyone knows the answer is no, not anytime soon.

Europeans will no longer be able to lecture America on its failings with its own blacks. No one will be able to do it any longer.

“They always said, ‘You think race relations are bad here in France, check out the U.S.,’ ” said Mohamed Hamidi, former editor of the Bondy Blog, founded after the 2005 riots in the heavily immigrant suburbs of Paris.

No more. “But that argument can no longer stand,” he said.

For many immigrants to Europe, Mr. Obama’s victory is “a small revolution” toward better overall treatment of minorities, said Nadia Azieze, 31, an Algerian-born nurse who grew up here. “It will never be the same,” she said, over a meal of rice and lamb in the racially mixed Paris neighborhood of Barbès-Rochechouart. Her sister, Cherine, 29, is a computer engineer. Mr. Obama “really represents the dream of America — if you work, you can make it,” she said. “It’s a hope for the entire world.”

In a suburb of Paris, people watched election returns from the United States last week

In Rome, a poster from the Italian Democratic Party said, “The World Changes.” The only black member of the Italian Parliament saw the Obama victory as a “provocation” to Europeans

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