European Projections of Prejudice

I grew up in France, so it’s fascinating to see what’s going on on the other side of the Atlantic now that Obama has been elected and, just as importantly, now that Obama has chosen Rahm Emmanuel as his Chief of Staff. It’s amazing how a number of Europeans are projecting their own biases and ways of looking at the world onto these decisions.

On the morning of Nov 5th, a major Greek newspaper declared Obama’s election “the end of Jewish dominance” in US politics. Pretty shocking.

Now that Rahm Emmanuel, whose family is originally from Israel, has been selected, the French are delving deep into his Jewish and Israeli background, and some of the people commenting are deeply disturbed and disappointed: they see this as some kind of trick that Obama played, where he claimed to be pro-Palestinian, but now reveals himself to be pro-Israel. Never mind the fact that Obama struggled to establish his pro-Israel credentials during the campaign. Or that Emmanuel was instrumental in the Oslo Peace Accords.

What’s fascinating is that, for the most part, the US Press is ignoring Emmanuel’s religious and Israeli background. Not entirely, but for the most part. Now, of course it’s not entirely irrelevant that Emmanuel is Jewish and originally Israeli: the Israeli Press is very excited, and American Jews who had their doubts are pleasantly surprised. But the point is: I’m willing to bet that Emmanuel’s religious and national background are very low on the list of reasons why Obama picked him. Obama picked Emmanuel because he’s a hard-ass with experience in the White House. Oh yeah, he happens to be Jewish. Just like Obama ran to be a President who happens to be African-American.

I suspect we’re going to see more Obama picks where folks around the World will be trying to read the tea leaves, trying to frame the Obama Presidency into their comfortable world where ethnicity and religion are first concerns. I have a feeling that Obama is far beyond those concerns, and the World, including many parts of the US itself, is going to have to get used to it.

One thought on “European Projections of Prejudice

  1. As an American living in France, I get to see news coverage that is likely not aired in US channels, and it’s safe to say Americans putting ethnicity and religion first are still numerous (though thankfully not numerous enough).

    One news group covering the campaign was interviewing American voters in a central state (geographically speaking) and asked a group of good ol’ boy types if they were going to vote for Obama. It went like this, exactly:

    reporter: Are you going to vote for Obama?
    man: No. (looks at his buddies, they all snicker)
    reporter: Why not?
    man: (with conviction) Because I don’t like n***ers.

    end of clip

    Obama is certainly beyond such, but there will always be people who will never get used to it, and I’m sure he understands that (wisely).

    As for American me and my French family here, I don’t know what was better, Obama’s victory or Palin’s defeat. Just kidding…Obama’s V!

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