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European Union politician Alice Bah-Konke speaks about racism: I feel very tired

Published on 2024-05-31 22.33

The European Union Parliament is no exception to everyday racism.

Alice Bah Konke (MP) was stopped several times and asked to show her ID badge.

-I lived believing that this happens to everyone. But only other black politicians identified themselves.

When Member of Parliament Alice Bah-Konke's first name entered the EU Parliament in 2019, she was surprised by the number of times she had to show her ID badge at Parliament's headquarters in Brussels.

This could happen just seconds after she swiped her card at the entrance, or be suddenly turned off after being in the building for several hours, something she previously told The Guardian.

-I raised the situation with some colleagues. And then they were very surprised and said that they had never been stopped.

But a few black MEPs have gone through the same thing.

-I felt it was not funny and cool.

He was reprimanded by the bus driver

Another incident occurred just a few weeks ago, when she was riding a minibus from a train station in Germany to the parliament in Strasbourg. The bus is intended only for EU parliamentarians.

Alice Bah Conkey waited for the bus driver to open the trunk so she could put her bag in it. But when nothing happened, she tried to open the trunk herself.

– Then he came out and scolded me. “What are you doing, this is a bus for politicians, you shouldn’t be here, get out of here!” Only then did a German Social Democrat come, recognize me, and say that I am a politician.

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The situation made her uncomfortable – but then she was angry.

-As a black person, as a woman, I'm tired of the way racism gets in your way. It becomes very clear how this constitutes an obstacle in the way of equal opportunities for people to live their lives and shape their daily lives.

She says this isn't particularly her fault — everyday racism affects everyone who deviates from the norm.

– Now it happens to me, I am a politician, a special person with power, money and opportunities. It's not my fault at all.

“Politics will not be good”

According to a survey conducted by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR). Watchman Reports indicate that 10 percent of the EU population belongs to racial minorities.

But among EU parliamentarians, this percentage is only 4.3 percent.

ENAR warned that the lack of diversity could become even greater if a wave of new far-right members are elected within a week.

Alice Bah Conkey sees that as a problem.

– Some want to reduce the matter to an issue of justice. For me, it's above all about efficiency. I know that women have different skills and experiences than men, for example. The same with people with disabilities.

Testimonials: I was asked to use another door

In the article published by The Guardian, several EU parliamentarians also testified about the problems that arose because their appearance stood out from the norm.

– Sometimes people ask me to use another door, or they tell me frankly: Sorry, this is only for members of parliament, says politician Mohamed Shehim from the Netherlands.

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Many of them also witnessed the threatening and racist rhetoric launched by parliamentarians.

– I sat in the plenum when a politician healed inside the hall. It was a devastating experience, says Alice Bah Conkey.