About 20 French-speaking Belgian politicians of foreign origin from various parties organised a meeting with the press on Friday in Brussels to jumpstart a broad movement against racism. They said they had had enough of the “banalisation of racism” and said a call launched by actress Cécile Djunga, a weather presenter at the RTBF who was verbally attacked because of the colour of her skin, had given “momentum” to their initiative.
The event came on the heels of a VRT TV reportage exposing the racist inner circles of the Flemish identity-based organization Schild & Vrienden (S&V).
Racist attacks have been on the increase in the past few weeks. In one such incident, a veiled woman was attacked in Anderlues. In another, two black girls were molested and verbally abused at the Pukkelpop Festival. A young black man was pushed onto the railway tracks in Aarschot, and a young woman was brutalized at a press event in Konkke and told to “go back to Africa” although she was of Haitian origin.
Friday’s event was organised at the initiative of Gisèle Mandaila of the Democratic Federalist Independent (DéFI) party, the first and only black personality to be part of a federal government in Belgium. The participants called for the application of a “zero-tolerance” policy on sexism, racism, antisemitism and homophobia. They said perpetrators should be identified and the 1981 law against racism must be applied, especially since smartphones now make it easy to produce evidence.
Society was also called upon to conduct a wide-ranging introspection. There is need to rethink education in this regard and, in particular, to examine migratory flows and decolonization, the politicians insisted, adding that campaigns needed to be carried out and the Federal Government should launch a huge national plan against racism.
“The way people see others has to change,” the political leaders stressed. While hateful, violent racism exists, there is also daily racism sometimes expressed unknowingly, they noted. In this regard, each politician mentioned an incident from his/her personal life.
The group pointed a finger at various leaders, especially “those who are quick to tweet” and those who “go abroad to call on foreigners to stay in their countries without bothering to create the tools that would enable them not to flee” their homelands.
The movement hopes to grow by being joined by “Belgians of non-foreign origin”.
Speakers at Friday’s event included: Pierre Migisha (Humanist Democratic Centre – cdH), Joëlle Kapompole (Socialist Party – PS), Latifa Ait Baala (Reformist Movement – MR), Nadia El Yousfi (PS), Bea Diallo (PS), Marie Nagy (DéFI) and Bertin Mampaka (cdH).