Black youth in France are catching a case of Barack Obama’s contagious brand of hope.
In today’s New York Times, blacks in France share how local coverage of the first black nominee from a major American party brings the taboo topic of race back into the French consciousness. One shared that seeing the word “noir” (black) appear in newspapers was an uncommon sight.
The story illustrates how each society deals with its own set of race relations differently. In France, it is against rules to conduct surveys according to race, thus leaving no relevant statistics (France doesn’t even know officially how many Africans are among its citizens). French society’s somewhat strained colorblindness tends to ignore issues that need full airing.
The most persuasive evidence of unrest — clashes with authorities and car burnings coming from minority suburbs — suggest it’s time for France to do some soul searching. But an emerging black consciousness appears in other forms too: daily conversation, books, music.
French black activists argue that just because the government says everyone is equal, reality does not follow. Now, a national discussion of the American Barack Obama might ignite an internal discussion about race in France, closing some of the information gaps brought on by imposed silence. Is it better to be conscious or unconscious of race?