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France only likes Black people when they win

July 16, 2018
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20 years and 6 World Cups later, France managed to snag the title of FIFA World Cup champions after beating Croatia 4-2. The excitement of the French was felt and shared across mostly because many Black people referred to the French football team as “Africa FC” and “the last African team in the world cup” because of the squad’s racial make up. 80% of France’s squad have African lineage while around 33% of the squad are Muslim and much like any society steeped in racism, the ability of this team to produce a desirable result has put a pause on France’s rampant racism and islamophobia.

France has a long-standing tradition of claiming to be forward-thinking regarding race because of figures like Alexandre Dumas (writer of The Three Musketeers) and Josephine Baker. The history of the treatment of black figures in France is proof that France is not immune to demonizing a black body once it stops being useful. The French often stood by the notion that one could ‘transcend” race through a display of excellence, and in football, that meant “Triumph, on the football field, demonstrated that integration had been successful in France and anyone could reach the top of French society.” This may be the case up to a point but the racist attitudes in and around football – especially when France isn’t winning much like the 2010 World Cup – reveal the tried and true method of placing blame on an ethnic minority for the loss of a trophy or say, the loss of jobs.

Marine Le Pen, the new leader of the FN party – since then renamed Rassemblement National – waded into the fray arguing that the problem with the national team was down to them having “another nationality in their hearts”. – The Conversation

French President Emmanual Macron may be the face of liberalism in France but his right-wing-leaning policies on immigration and his attitude towards the African continent is synonymous with the popular stance of French denial in the role France played in the current state of the African continent. Macron referred to Africa’s issues as “civilizational”, also mentioning complex democratic transition, failed states and the high birth rate as barriers to African development. The tea though is that French advancement relied HEAVILY on the exploitation and of African economic capital. In March 2008, former French President Jacques Chirac said, “Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power” owing to the fact that, as we speak, 14 Africa countries have to pay colonial tax to France as well as placing 85% of their foreign reserves in France’s national bank.

For Macron to blame Africa’s underdevelopment solely on Africans themselves is to completely disregard the exploitation and control France has had on the African continent for centuries now. It is well documented that France’s desire to have an independent energy industry is what motivated Charles De Gaulle (France’s president from 1959 to 1969) to start exploiting the natural resources of the African continent after World War 2. – Yannis Davy Guibinga

Macron’s statement shows that France’s denial about its role in Africa’s destabilization is still holding firm, allowing anti-black and anti-immigration sentiment to spread and flourish. When French immigrant Mamoudou Gassam scaled a building to save a 4-year-old boy, Gassama was given a job and citizenship. Other immigrants without Spiderman-like abilities still face ridicule and abuse, feeding into the toxic respectability politics surrounding immigration that posits “usefulness” as the gateway to humanity. This is a complicated situation for Black French people who have to deal with racism in a country they call home. Maboula Soumahoro put it best when she wrote “Blackness is French. Blackness is an experience” in response to the French government recently removing the word “race” from the French constitution, making it “difficult to prove and fight in courts if racial categories are no longer recognized and protected by the Constitution.”

Belgian footballer of Congolese descent Romelu Lukaka described France’s legacy with racism and respectability politics when he said, When things weren’t going well, they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker of Congolese descent.”