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Black journalist explains Trump's focus on Poland
by Richard Prince

At least three American journalists of color — Darlene Superville of the Associated Press, Abby Phillip of the Washington Post and Toluse Olorunnipa of Bloomberg News, accompanied President Trump on his trip to Europe for the Group of 20 summit meeting last week, but no journalist quite had the perspective of Remi Adekoya.

Adekoya, who writes for Britain’s Guardian newspaper and is former political editor of the Warsaw Business Journal, is described as Polish-Nigerian, meaning his father is Nigerian and his mother Polish.

He grew up in Nigeria but worked in Poland, where black people were scarce. Adekoya was on hand Thursday to describe for listeners of the American program “Democracy Now!” why Trump would choose Poland as the first stop on his tour. Trump said there that “Western civilization” was at stake.

“Poland is one of the main countries which refused to take in any migrants during the 2015, 2016 migrant crisis in Europe, when suddenly a million refugees found themselves in Europe,” Adekoya said. “So, this — so, the fact Trump made this speech in Poland is significant. He would not, most probably, have been able to make this kind of speech in Western Europe to the kind of reception which he did get in Poland, which was very positive. And like I said, supporters of this right-wing government were basically shouting, ‘Donald Trump! Donald Trump!’ throughout the speech.” Many of those supporters were bused in, Adekoya said.

Host Amy Goodman asked about his background. “I was born in Nigeria, lived there for the first 17 years of my life,” Adekoya replied. “Then I moved to Poland in 1995 as a student and lived there for—living there from since then, essentially. Now I shuttle between the U.K. and Poland. And, yes, that’s it.

“I’ve seen the changes in Poland. When I arrived in Poland, the country was just six years out of communism. There were very few foreigners in the country, as you can imagine, definitely very few black people.

“Things weren’t always very pleasant. With time, things improved regarding the treatment of foreigners and treatment of black people. I mean, there was a time in the mid to late ‘90s when you could hardly walk on the street without hearing a racial insult hurled at you.

“But towards the early 2000s, some 10 years after the end of communism, and when Poland joined the EU finally in 2004, you know, the economy improved, and people’s moods generally improved. Poles got a little bit more used to seeing foreigners on the streets. Those kind of, let’s say, racial insults just hurled on the streets, just like that, stopped, and things improved vastly.

“Unfortunately, since this government came back in, the current Polish government, in 2015, they used the migrant crisis of 2015. When there were a million refugees, essentially, within Europe’s borders looking for where to go, they used that crisis to scare Poles into essentially making the argument that, ‘Look, look at what is happening in France. Look at what is happening in countries like the U.K. They’ve got terrorism there because of all these Muslims who are there. Do we want that? Obviously, we don’t.

“So, we can’t allow them—the EU, that is—to push on us, you know, these migrant refugees, these Muslims, and tell us that we have to take care of them, because, essentially, well, maybe while not all Muslims might be terrorists, but some of them definitely are, so why take the risk?’ . . . .”

Interestingly, Adekoya told Journal-isms by email, his skin color proved to be a positive in his work as a journalist there.

“To be honest, my skin colour worked to my advantage as a journalist in Poland. When I started covering parliament, it was often easier for me to get an interview with a top politician than for Polish journos. The politicians were simply curious about me as the only black journalist they’d ever dealt with! I also got noticed more easily in general in the journalistic world. So it ended up being a plus :)”

Michael Ottey, an African American assignment editor on the foreign/national desk at the Los Angeles Times, has also remarked on Polish reactions to black people. After being laid off in 2009 as assistant foreign editor at the Miami Herald, Ottey decided to travel around the world, filing “Mike Tends to Travel” dispatches online as he did so.

Ottey’s most popular blog, he said, was from 2013: “POLAND: Stop Staring At Me!”

Read more at TheRoot.com



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