During my first reports in France, I had toured the suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis, north of Paris. From the mid-1990s, a film like Hatred, by Mathieu Kassovitz, had helped to raise awareness of the immigrant populations who lived there.
However, the interviews I did with young people made me discover the banality of their existence. What amazed me most was their willingness, to escape it, to paint themselves as black Americans. However, they did not gossip about a word of English, attended a good school, lived in low-cost housing and enjoyed some of the best health services in the world. Nothing to do with the American suburbs that I had visited.
This did not prevent my interlocutors from taking up verbatim the ultraviolet refrains of their idols from across the Atlantic of which they often did not understand a treacherous word. As if they resented their parents for having given birth to them in “doulce France” rather than in this violent America of which they could not help repeating, in rough French, the most worn clichés. This is the drama of acculturation. These young blacks lived in France, but their head was in the United States.
Shortly after George Floyd’s villainous assassination, I wasn’t really surprised to see the same signs in English in Paris, brandished a few days earlier in Montreal. Despite anger that must be understood, they nevertheless give the impression that cultural imperialism has taken a new course. Racism certainly exists in France, as in Quebec and the United States. But by dint of repeating this evidence in a loop, we end up forgetting what characterizes American civilization.
Because racism remains the original sin of America. Unlike the French Revolution, which abolished slavery (at least for a time) and confirmed its prohibition on metropolitan territory since 1315, the American Revolution perfectly accommodated itself to it. She always pays the price. Despite the American Civil War, until the 1960s the United States remained one of the few countries in the world to have an apartheid regime, mixed marriages being prohibited in sixteen states until … 1967!
However, if the civil rights movement has reduced racism, this is not the case with racialism. Even today, in the United States, everything is seen through the lens of race. We know of Donald Trump’s outrageous statements exploiting the cultural insecurity of this white majority who fear being overwhelmed by immigration. He is far from alone. In which democratic country would a presidential candidate dare to assert, as Democrat Joe Biden has done, that a black man who is thinking of voting for the Republican “is not a black man”?
Black, white or Latino, ethnic groups, according to surveys, do not mix, despite some progress. In this communitarized world, we are born, we get married, we study, we go to church, we vote and we mostly die in our “community”. Even the fight against discrimination can only be seen as new discrimination. Upside down ! As if the American imagination could not imagine a citizenship rising above “communities”. Hence the victim competition which threatens the country with a new racial war.
It has long been known that Uncle Sam sought to impose his language and culture. This is no longer enough. Under the pretext that racism is universal, the whole world should therefore repent of America’s original crime. You’d have to believe, as we shouted in the streets of Montreal and Paris, that the police are in all latitudes the armed wing of a racist state. As it was once the armed wing of a bourgeois state. Yesterday, big and small bourgeois made their self-criticism by brandishing the red book. Today, big and small whites are flogging themselves by brandishing the manuals of the critical race theory ” The race struggle instead of the class struggle.
This rhetoric is far from being unanimous. Without denying the existence of rampant racism, many American analysts believe that the problems of blacks are largely due to the disintegration of the family and the abandonment of the ghettos to the law of the market. Ghettos where 90% of blacks murdered are by other blacks. Columnist Jason Riley, of Wall Street Journal, fears that this wave of otherwise justified protests against the police will result in an even greater abandonment of these ghettos. Which will cause even more deaths among blacks. This is what happened in Ferguson, Chicago and Baltimore after similar events.
Why bother to understand the complexity of peoples when we can apply the recipe for “systemic racism” to everyone? A few years ago, French and Quebecers fought to have the principle of cultural diversity recognized worldwide. It is not to have one version of history imposed on us today. That of the war of races!