I was standing in front of my apartment bookshelf, eyes darting between the shelves, trying to decide which two novels to pack in my carry-on. My eyes landed on James Baldwin’s Nobody Knows My Name. I had to smile.
I was heading to Paris on the eve of Valentine’s Day, in the early days of Black History Month. Alongside a handful of outfits, a conversational repertoire of French, and fading European history lessons, I’d packed a deep curiosity about my African-American ancestry in Paris.
Police violence and racism confront workers and minorities in both France and the United States. France’s capitalist leaders insist that what happens on the other side of the Atlantic is irrelevant and reject any discussion of defunding or dismantling the police. The authors put the lie to their contention.
“France is not the United States.” Over and over, that is the refrain from those seeking to stigmatize the demonstrations in recent weeks here in France against police violence and racism. To that they add, over and over, that the demonstrations are a form of ethnic factionalism, that they are divisive, that they are a threat to the “Republic.” Indeed, in view of the latest statements by Macron, the right wing, and the extreme right opposition, it is true that “France is not the United States.”