Fear of a Black France

You want to troll French fascists? Tell them the truth: the most French man in the world right now is a black kid called Kylian Mbappé.

I was born in the late 70s of a mother from Martinique and a father from Lorraine region in eastern continental France: I was always aware that, for good and bad, France was more than white, more than Europe, more than what most thought and took for granted. I looked to history to make sense of the very existence of my family, and the history I found was a history of exploitation, slavery, abuse ignored by most French people.

Growing up in the 1980s, there were few places where French flags were acceptable: government buildings, sporting events, right-wing and fascist meetings. That was about it. For lefties like me, waving the flag was an act of political aggression. For a Frenchman of West Indian descent like me, waving the flag was also source of special ire, because I’d grown to know that no matter how French I actually was, no matter how well I knew French history, how well I spoke or wrote, how beholden to French values of liberté, égalité, fraternité, how connected to culture I was, there would be Frenchmen to fly the Drapeau tricolore in my face as a reminder that for them, against all aforementioned values, my skin alone was proof that I would never quite be French. All of this was both sublimated and exacerbated in football games where black and brown people were especially visible and worshipped by fans who would just as soon spit racial slurs at them.

So, 1998 was a bit odd. I shunned crowds and watched at home.

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By Grégory Pierrot on Africa is a Country

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