Culture and Racism

French Word of the Day: noir (new-ar)- black

I don’t normally get political on this blog, but this event came just in time for the start of Black History Month in the States.

French Elle has published a controversial article about how black women are now becoming more “chic” because they’ve embraced the style of the “white-geoisie” (not my term).

The article appears to rely generally on thug stereotypes.  A better explanation can be found here.

Although Elle has taken it down, I found it here.  (Or part of it, at least.)

An open letter was sent to Le Monde entitled “When Will a Black Woman Appear on the Cover of Elle?” and can be found here in its original French.

Americans largely get labelled as racists, so I always find it interesting when things like this come from other countries.  One thing the open letter criticizes is how the article focuses on the black women in America, completely ignoring the black population of France.

Elle has since posted this debate with two women who are part of a site called Afrosomething.  Basically, they rip Elle a new one for being racist.

Some points from their talk:

  • Not all of the women listed in the article as black are even black
  • Styles being touted as black, such as those worn by Nicki Minaj, are worn by others (such as the Japanese)
  • to say “the black community” is incorrect because there are so many different black communities
  • to say “black-geoisie” instead of simply “bourgeoisie” makes them a completely different group, separating them

They point out that while the article tried to start out as showing how blacks had gained more of an equal ground, it fell into clichés that made it completely racist and shocking for 2012.

I’ve always found this tension an interesting part of modern French culture.  I think a lot of times it gets ignored, but it’s always right there.



4 thoughts on “Culture and Racism

  1. Salut Meghan,

    I had to reply to this because it speaks to me: I am writing my dissertation on hybridity in Francophone literature. You can read more on my blog:

    I must first say that I have not yet read the articles you mentioned (but I will!) Racism has always been a “problem” in France. It dates back to Zola’s time of the Dreyfuss affair, and even before that: Protestants, Jews, Moors, …. I think what is particularly difficult is how can French face their colonial past of being the dominant, saving community for the poor colonialists and how to bring them “up” to French standards of appearance, culture, etc. The question of l’identité française that is happening now, the veil about 7 years ago … all speak to the hang-ups that still exist. I think the issue is that France was not founded by all different sorts of people, like the States. There is an interesting interview with Alain Mabanckou on RFI, that I recommend you listening to. It is very insightful as to where we “need” to be with moving on after Négritude of Aimé Césaire, Senghor and Damas, how the French need to reconsider that “Frenchness” means black, arab, vietnamien (indochinois), carribean, european as well as the cultural “French” past that is part of their patrimoine.

    Thank you for bringing this up. I look forward to reading the articles you mentioned!

    Continue observing and enjoying. btw: if Le Clézio’s exhibit is still at Le Louvre, Les Musées sont des Mondes, I encourage you to go!

    1. Merci, Martha! Je trouve ca très intéressant. I noticed a very large underlying racism throughout my time in France, and I made a mini study out of it during my time there, as well. I’ve read quite a few essays on the subject, and look forward to reading the ones you sent!

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