Gerhard Casper Lecture
Being Black in Europe: Identity and Invisibility
To be black in Europe is to have a variety of identities imposed upon oneself, beginning with the very designation “black”— which people from African cultures did not choose for themselves. As such, black identity in Europe is uniquely complex, not least because of the legacy of the Atlantic slave trade, which defined people of Black African descent as property rather than as human beings. In this lecture, Allison Blakely observes that while recent decades have witnessed highly visible achievements by individual black Europeans, the black population as a whole continues to experience a sense of invisibility. This, he argues, stems from European societies’ minimizing their own black populations in census categories, as well as from restrictive immigration policies and the strategic use of flexible definitions of black identity. Specious pronouncements of “color-blindness” further obscure black presence and associated social challenges. Even though black Europeans’ individual identities are diverse, a group identity is perpetuated by shared racial and color bias throughout Europe.