They are young, old, from Paris, Niort or Bordeaux, in primary school, high school student, dancer, caregiver, rapporteur at the court of accounts, rapper, boxer, actor-director, lecturer, tennis player, journalist or former terrier, Known or unknown, and they all have one thing in common: they’re French and black. In the beautiful documentary blacks in franceIn replays on france.tv through January 25, journalist Aurelia Perreau and writer Alain Mabanckou gave the floor.
A travers leurs parcours individuels et d’intéressantes images d’archives, se dessine l’imaginaire universel qui nourrit la représentation que les Français se font des Noirs mais aussi la représentation que les Noirs-d’mes’ êfont France.
What is being black? “It is the look of the other that decides whether you are black, white or mulatto‘, answers tennis player and singer Yannick Noah. But when do we realize we are? Often in childhood and rarely with praise.In school, there are those who say I look like feces“A little girl confesses.”In boarding school I was the only one other than white and I became a Pampula in a few minutes“, recalls Yannick Noah. The prejudices that often haunt them, in a more subdued way, in the world of work.”The doors are closed so you have to go through the window“Summarizes nursing assistant Didier Villot, who was heard to say he was younger than him”Not the right colorTo become an interior designer.
These racial prejudices go way back and build up over time, since the slave trade, as the authors show us by revealing illuminating archival photos. We see in particular how biological racism developed in the nineteenth century, which was based on a supposed scientific hierarchy of races – blacks, who are at the bottom of the table, described as unfit for intellectual tasks – very well suited to establishing hegemony.
These stereotypes about primitive lions persisted until recently in cultural representations, from music videos There are Papuans By Marie Dauphin (1987) At The Dorothy’s Club where a 1988 episode showed the presenter roasting in a huge pot surrounded by blacks in ghettos. Not to mention the unimaginable and unworthy “Village Bamboula,” an African folk village established in Loire-Atlantique in the early 1990s.
The weight of these biases still has a huge impact on children’s consciousness today. Laetitia Heluit, the rapporteur of the State Audit Bureau, remembers that, as a child, she thought,On that day, I too will turn whiteWhile young dancer Kathy Laurent Purcell admits that she refused to eat chocolate for a long time because she was afraid that it would turn blacker.
Of particular interest is the Doll Test, an entire class experiment conducted in the 1940s in the United States, which consisted of asking black children whether they preferred a white doll or a black doll. The vast majority chose the white doll (which strongly reflects the novel The bluest eye by Toni Morrison). Today in France the documentary was reproduced about ten children, and experience shows that nothing has changed. All black children prefer the white doll. “Because she has blue eyesOne said.Because my school kids are white, and when I grow up I’ll apply cream until I’m white‘ another responds.
If this documentary never succumbs to abuse, it highlights, through various paths, the many indignities that many blacks face today in France. Young Ibrahima Bollywood passionately pursues running and athletics in Niort. But while he was running around in a covered tracksuit for training, he happened to be arrested by the police, who suspected he had made a bad move. “Black and run, you are targeted‘, the rapper Soprano sums up how he and his group Psy 4 de la rime, who were traveling first class on a TGV, found themselves the target of a controller who referred to them as second-rate management, and who, addressing their white manager, had askedThey speak French, to them?‘, before calling the police.
To build themselves against discrimination, blacks in France often turned to the United States to find role models for acquaintance with champions who have proven themselves in the sporting and cultural fields, such as boxer Muhammad Ali, the champion of black pride, whom we see great annoyance with Bernard Pivot on the show Apostrophe in 1976. Today, young Ibrahima derives from the images of this hero displayed in his room the strength of faith in them: “If he can do it, I can succeed in what I doAs for young dancer Kathy, whose arc is presumably incompatible with the classical dancer’s dream career, it is headstrong singer Nina Simone who finds the inspiration to keep going.
This sensitive film also holds hope and shows that attitudes are slowly changing. Actor and director Jean-Pascal Zadi, Caesar last year, welcomed the fact that actor Omar C or Soprano rapper is among the favorites of the French. Young Chef Mori Sako, at the helm of MoSuke, the first African cuisine restaurant to receive a Michelin star, believes his generation has finally arrived.”The right to dream of being an astronaut, a physicist, or a cook“As for Cathy the dancer,” said she.No desire to sit on my dreams“Do not count”Don’t wait for society to change“.”So here I go!She is optimistic and determined.
“Blacks in France” by Aurelia Perreau and Alain Mabanckou (France, 2022, 1h43) can be watched in replay on france.tv until Tuesday 25 January 2022