French Identities and Whitness – Pr. Kwame Anthony Appiah

Comprendre Nadine Morano – Extrait d’une converstion que j’ai eu avec le Pr. Kwame Anthony Appiah sur l’identite francaise et la race blanche.

Reading Nadine Morano – Extract from a conversation i had with Pr. Kwame Anthony Appiah on French Identities and Whitness

« If you imagine your identity in France tied up with a history of being a christian country, a white country, a country with churches not mosques, a country where people look one way not another way then you can feel has it was alienated from your own home if you think of it no longer being a white place, no longer being a christian place , no longer being a place with churches but now a place with churches and mosques, and so on, a place full of people you can’t understand, whereas, the whole point of home is that you go out on the streets and you know what people are talking about, you can understand the chatter of people around you. On the other hand, many French are not worried about that either, many French are in fact excited by the idea of living in a multicultural society, they want to have strangers from others societies around, they are curious about them, they want their kids to be taught about them but still there is a great degree of hostility.
Racial hostility is good for right wing as elections approach. No modern right wing will directly say things that are racist. But they are willing to say things that would send signals to people who are racist as elections approach. In politics, you get people excited by one thing because you don’t want them to think about something else. The people who are most likely to support nativists, racists policies tend to be people who are on the receiving end of some of the worst conditions in the society, don’t make very much money, who are on a risk of unemployment, who live on farms that are barely viable, those sort of people, you can distract them from the fact that you are not doing anything about those problems.
France has a very high unemployment rate by the standards of the industrial world; it has a very high white unemployment rate but of course you don’t keep a separate white unemployment rate because that will be illegal and that’s troublesome. It’s true it will be less troublesome than in the US for example because we have a health care system that looks after people, welfare and unemployment system but still those people will still rather have a job. And when the elections comes around they are thinking about the fact that they don’t have a job, they might vote for somebody else. That’s the time to remind them that at least they are not black. This appeal to a kind of racial solidarity in order to undermine class divisions is something that has been pointed to in races relations in order to in the industrial world.
The main way we can do something about that is to point it out. Saying this is what you are doing. It doesn’t require a conspiracy, people do this without being conscious they are doing it. Appealing to racial solidarity is something politicians can do quite easily, they don’t have to plan it. This requires people here in France thinking of French people of African ancestry not being really French. Because if they thought them as really French, you couldn’t do this. That is the sign of not thinking of them as really French. That is a sign they still have a sense of French identity that is tied up with race and whiteness. And it’s not a special sin of France. »


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