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SOCIETY Magazin 358

Report 2011: The situation of Black people in Austria This Year’s Focus: Education Despite the fact that Black People have been living in Austria for thousands of years their situation nowadays, in the 21st century, still isn’t the way it should be. Here are some key findings of the report from Black European Publishers. By SIMON INOU Education is the main focus of the second annual report on the situation of Black People in Austria. Which image of Africa do school books convey? What type of schools do the majority of African children attend and what is the situation of African students at Austrian Universities? Do we need an African school in the Alpine Republic? These are the questions that have found an answer in this year´s annual report. The report also shows that the presence of Black People in Austria is not a new development, but that their presence dates back to antiquity. The annual report comprises various issues, which together paint a broad picture of the black population in Austria. A population whose members, as the chapter on Afro-Brazilians shows, are not necessarily African immigrants. The report outlines the features of a community that is organized in associations throughout Austria and who are well connected to similar associations in all of Europe. It offers insight into a community which, although hampered by a racist environment, still has successful role models to show. *** Negative image in school books In Austrian schoolbooks the image conveyed of Africa is characterized by bias and negative stereotypes. Africa is presented as a homogeneous space, where problems and disasters prevail. Wars, economic and political turmoil, as well as poverty and socalled "underdevelopment" are pushed to the foreground. Africans are portrayed as wild and aggressive. Historiography usually begins only with the time of colonization. The rich history of various African kingdoms, except for the Ancient Egyptian Culture, is hardly mentioned. This produces an image of Africa amongst scholars which does not do justice to reality and, what is even worse, only portrays a negative image of Africa and of African migrants. And it also negatively affects African pupils, who do not receive differentiated information about the countries of origin of their parents and grandparents. It is precisely for this reason, that other communities have decided to establish their own schools. However such schools do not yet exist amongst African communities. During the 2009/2010 school year, 1.913 African pupils were enrolled in Austrian educational institutions, 26% of which visited a primary school and 12% an AHS (Secondary School). During the same year (2009/2010), there were 699 students in Austria with African citizenship. In future, it will be increasingly difficult for African students to complete their studies in Austria. The “One World Scholarship Programme” (Eine-Welt-Stipendienprogramm) of the Afro-Asian Institute, which over the past five decades has enabled many students from African countries to study in Austria thanks to a scholarship, will be discontinued as from autumn 2011. *** Presence of Black People in Austria The presence of Black People is not only a phenomenon of our time. Black People were already present in Austria approx. two thousand years ago. Even at the time of the Roman Empire Black People came to this Alpine region as legionnaires from North Africa. Also during the Middle Ages, especially during the Crusades, Black People would occasionally move to Austria. The Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick II (reigned 1212-1250) had black musicians and soldiers at his court. In the Middle Ages, due to the existence of black Muslim troops, the word "black" was sometimes a synonym for "hostile". In early modern times black slaves were trafficked to Europe and owing to good connections of the Habsburgs with the Portuguese royal family, black slaves also reached Austria. During the 17th and 18th Century, some 50 black people were known to be present solely in Vienna. Over time black people came to Austria in different ways and for different reasons - as slaves, soldiers, priests, etc. The current immigration from African countries to Austria is to be understood in this sense as a continuation of previous migration. *** Anti-Black Racism In the 2009 annual report the issue of anti-black racism was already addressed. In 2010, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) confirmed the existence of this extraordinary form of racism, the so-called anti-Black racism, in its report. In Austria, Black People are still affected by racism in all spheres of life, both in situations involving the police, the labour and housing market, in everyday life and in access to public places. In particular asylum seekers from African countries are faced with a more structurally discriminatory legislation that make their chance of being granted asylum and of living in Austria even harder. The impact of racism on its victims can be disastrous. Racism can negatively affect self-esteem, as well as cause depression and trauma. *** Black Austrian renowned personalities Although conditions in Austria partially hinder the successful advancement of Black People, black communities are proud of a number of successful role models such as: the Afro-Austrian Marie Edwige Hartig (Councillor), John Okoro (Bishop of the Old Catholic Church) and Claudia Unterweger (Journalist ORF). In their interviews they explain how they got to where they are today, what hurdles they encountered on their way and what they criticize and appreciate about Austria. KONTAKT POLITIK KOMMENTAR Get a copy of the report? The entire report is available only in German. You can buy the report from Black European Publishers for 8 EUR plus shipping costs. office@blackwomencenter.org Black European Publishers AFRA, Pelzgasse 7, 1150 Wien Tel: +43 1 966 04 25 Cell: 0699 119 69 115 SOCIETY 2_11 | 39

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