Blacks in France and in the English speaking world

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/DR

In 2008 if you wanted to pass your Bac ES (the French A. Level with economics as a specialty), you had to master any subject linked with Globalization. I found it fascinating, thinking TV, culture, and Bourdieu…

Now that I spend more time watching TV, using the internet, or travelling a bit more, I realize the differences there are between the different people of African descents living in the West. The differences mainly come from the institutions and societies of the different countries they live in.

 

English speaking countries have an African History.

America has a black history, which is widely reported in the international media. Whether you are German, French or Italian you don’t have to be black to know the names of these African Americans: Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. If you’re interested enough in the American black culture you’ll find and learn about other names such as Kathleen Cleaver or Angela Davis whose name, by the way, is sung and celebrated by the French artist Yannick Noah in his last album, for instance. In the United States you do have African studies, you have Black Entertainment TV… institutions in many fields. We all witnessed how black history influenced the election of President Barak Obama in 2008.

America has a black history that is also part of its wider national history. It is also reflected in the different institutions, in the media and the everyday life of any American citizen. Bourdieu said « Television has a sort of monopoly on the brain; training a very important part of the population. » Because history, culture and society are not hermetic, I grew up watching not only Dragon Ball Z but also shows like The Fresh Prince and the Cosby Show.

And Frank Ocean, Jay-Z, Kayne West are

also artists and singers I listen to. They are part of my culture today. Similarly, in Great-Britain there is a black history that is part of the wider national cultural heritage. And personalities like Chinua Achebe, Liyah Kebede or Ozwald Boateng also contributed to what we call the « cultural enlightenment » of their country of origin. I believe the differences that exist within the African larger community or diaspora has something to do with how part of the national heritage the African cultures are considered in Western Societies. In Britain and in the United States, you have a Black History.

African heritage and the French “Republique”

France doesn’t have such stories integrated at the national level. Worse, we don’t teach colonization, or post-colonization. The history, culture or heritage of the «African French» does not fit in the values of the French Republique; though, the French Frantz Fanon was the one who inspired so many African Americans during the Civil Rights Movements; though, Josephine Baker adopted Paris and the “Folies Bergères” as her favourite city and place; though, Angela Davis learnt philosophy in France and Sidney Poitier was a « jeune premier » in the 1961 movie Paris Blues.

We, French lack something. We lack the story of our contribution to the construction of the French society which would enable us to feel Afro-French. Aimé Cesaire is celebrated as a great artist, an incredibly talented poet expressing his bittersweet love for France and the French. He also was a politician, which we don’t talk about enough. Christiane Taubira who became the Justice Minister in 2012 and is known to be at the forefront of all fights for the improvement of the black diaspora in France pointed out more than once the fact that we don’t celebrate the Afro-French culture yet. According to her we may be still working on certain neo-colonial Franco centric system. Put it like this, things my generation have to change are quite clear.

 

 

 

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