Published: 7 March 2012
By Aidan White
The European Union has been forced to withdraw an expensive video promoting itself in a row over racist stereotyping.
In an expensive and embarrassing climbdown, the European Commission has revealed breathtaking levels of insensitivity and lack of awareness inside its own house in the video which depicts other cultures in a racist manner.
The video was produced by the enlargement directorate of the Commission, which is responsible for the expansion of the EU. It shows images of threatening and exotic foreigners tamed and disarmed by a cool white woman and her clones dressed in yellow – the colour of the stars of the European Union.
The theme of the video – The more we are, the stronger we are – suggests the need for European solidarity in the face of outside threats, more “fortress Europe”, than the “Europe of diversity.
Stefano Sannino, Director General of the Enlargement Division of the Commission was stating the obvious when he said “the clip was absolutely not intended to be racist and we obviously regret that it has been perceived in this way.”
But widespread criticism across the Internet and from civil society groups led the Commission to quickly withdraw the campaign and the video.
The incident leaves a number of unanswered questions over how the project could be innocently put together – seeking to use a martial art motif that is popular with young people – without anyone, including senior staff within the Commission responsible for overseeing the work, recognising the dangerous stereotypes it portrays.
Groups like MDI have worked with the Commission for many years on programmes to promote diversity awareness within media and warning of the challenges of stereotyping, which is often casual and unthinking. This incident highlights how the threat is ever-present. Even within the Commission there is no room for complacency.