Black France
July 16, 2014 7:41 PM   Subscribe

A three-part series looking at the history of France's black community and their long struggle for recognition. French President Francois Hollande ran on a platform promising to eliminate the word 'race' from France’s constitution. But critics were quick to point out the disparity between constitutional reform and actual practice.

Between one and five million French citizens claim African or Caribbean heritage. These numbers are, however, estimates, as population censuses do not recognise race.

For over a century, black immigrants, though never officially identified as different, were treated as 'others'.

Even today, of France’s 577 members of parliament, only five are black.

This three-part series tells the story of blacks in France - a long history of segregation, racism, protest, violence, culture and community building - from the turn of the 20th century until the present day.
posted by whyareyouatriangle (6 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
The most unnerving thing I experienced in Paris was noticing how my wife and I would go around a corner, and if there were more than 5 Afro-French up ahead, suddenly the native (or pick your own term) French would vanish like ghosts, and the Afro-French would identify us as American just because we were white and going down that block. This was just far enough ago that the Afro-French community was still taken aback by the Obama election, so you can surmise how we were greeted. The unnerving part was watching the native-French population take unconscious but noticeable efforts to live like the Afro-French weren't even there.
posted by ocschwar at 8:45 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I spent a semester in Paris in 1991. Before we left, we had a meeting where one of the coordinators told us not to talk to African immigrant because they would try to use us to get citizenship. (??)

Our film professor, an amazingly sophisticated women from the Sorbonne who I idolized in a thoroughly unhealthy way, liked to break up Bergman film marathons by showing us comedy videos of French performers in blackface, mocking "how Moroccan immigrants likes to wear cheap, tacky clothing."

Unfortunately, it took me over a decade to realize how monumentally fucked up the whole process was. And I was persuaded to give up of a few friendships with some North Africans because obviously, I was being scammed for my whiteness. I'm not proud of my behavior. Unfortunately, a childhood spend in Southwestern Virginia did not prepare me for confronting racism, since apparently we solved that problem in the War of Northern Aggression.
posted by bibliowench at 8:45 PM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

As in, this cannot bode well.
posted by ocschwar at 8:46 PM on July 16, 2014

The French ideal is beautiful, but so-called "color blindness" doesn't get rid of the concept of race or get rid of racism. Instead, it allows systematic racism to fester uncountably and unquantifiably. It removes the possibility of analysis of large populations to show the patterns that reveal both intentional and unintentional prejudice on a societal scale.

It's all just sweeping things under a rug.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:46 PM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Is there a way to watch it on Aljazeera? Francophones can watch Part 1 and Part 2 on YT. The main author of the documentary, Pascal Blanchard (litteraly Pascal Whitey) is a prominent historian of French colonialism and gave a number of interviews (here (in French) and here (translated in English)) when the series was first shown on French TV in 2012. His opinions are a little more nuanced than the Aljazeera summary though.
posted by elgilito at 2:02 AM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

It removes the possibility of analysis of large populations to show the patterns that reveal both intentional and unintentional prejudice on a societal scale.

It's the kind of deliberate blindness reminiscent of how in the US we have effectively limited the funding (and even more so blocked the record keeping) necessary to be able to measure and study the impacts of firearms. I guess when you know the answers won't be good, why even hear the news?

I'm looking forward to watching this when I have time this weekend.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:43 AM on July 17, 2014

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