In a country where the circles of power are overwhelmingly White and male, the fact that many important decisions are made by exclusively White groups would be a good reason to spark outrage.
Centering spaces around the voices of those who experience oppression is the only way for them to identify strategies to deconstruct structural inequalities.
Mélanie Luce is the first woman of color to lead the UNEF, a progressive student union founded in 1907 in France. When she joined a news show to speak about the precarious social conditions of students, she could not guess that she would soon be the center of national attention. Luce admitted that the union sometimes organized safe spaces to support students of color, and the interviewer labeled the initiative as “closed to White people.”
The outrage quickly spread across the political landscape. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer called the meetings “racist,” “deeply outrageous” and potentially “leading to things that look like fascism.” He added he was exploring the legal grounds to prevent the meetings.
In the Senate, the right-wing party the Republicans drafted a letter to the justice minister, claiming the meetings did not comply with “French values,” as if there were no racial issues in France. Legislator Julien Aubert alerted the Paris prosecutor and said in a statement that the interior minister should consider the dissolution of the UNEF, backing the viral hashtag #dissolutionunef. [ . . . ]
In Paris and other cities in France, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday, November 28, to demonstrate against the government’s proposed law to restrict freedoms and protect the cops.
On Saturday, November 28, dozens of demonstrations took place across France to denounce the Emmanuel Macron government’s new security bill, which would seriously curtail freedoms in the country, and against a new case of police violence in which three cops brutally beat a Black music producer. The mobilization in Paris was particularly large. More than 100,000 demonstrators marched from the Place de la République to the Bastille. Protesters came from the entire political and trade union Left, and included an important contingent from the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA). Several groups that fight police violence were also present, including the Justice and Truth for Adama Committee.[ . . . ]
International activist Assa Traore, whose brother Adama was killed in French police custody four years ago, was given the BET Global Good award on Sunday.
Traore thanked BET, an American television channel dedicated to African-American and minority people, for the award, calling it “an acknowledgment of our fight.”
“It’s an acknowledgment for all the victims, for all the families who keep fighting for truth and justice,” she said in a video message played during the virtual awards ceremony.
The award is “BET International’s recognition of public figures who use their platform for social responsibility and goodness while demonstrating a commitment to the welfare of the global Black community,” according to the channel’s website.
Before her brother’s death, Traore, who has been dubbed the French Angela Davis after the US political activist, had never been someone who campaigned for a cause.
But the 35-year-old mother of three was thrust into the heart of the global fight against police violence and racism by the death in Minneapolis police custody last month of George Floyd.
For four years, she campaigned, organized demonstrations, spoke out publicly and gave numerous interviews after alleging her brother was killed by the police. An investigation is still ongoing.
For a long time, the “Adama fight” remained a local battle unnoticed outside France. But the death of George Floyd has catapulted it into the global consciousness.
Thousands of people demonstrated in Paris in early June and hundreds of others took to the streets across France against racism.
“In the name of my brother, I will change everything I can change,” Traore told AFP on Saturday.
From James Baldwin to Jake Lamar, there are so many incredible black writers who have made Paris their home.
Every white writer who’s been to France has an essay, a memoir, a novel, or a poetry collection about the country. It’s practically a rite of passage. But Paris didn’t cease to exist once Hemingway was done with it. There are countless black writers who expatriated to France and wrote about the country with just as much insight and skill. So if you want to understand or live the expat experience, it’s time you start reading about the other side of it. (Consider also purchasing from a local black-owned bookstore, like Sisters Uptown Bookstore in NYC, Mahogany Books in Washington D.C., or Black Pearl Books in Austin.)
Where to start, but with James Baldwin? The Harlem-born writer moved to Paris in the middle of the twentieth century, at the age of 24, to escape the racism and prejudice he faced in America. In addition to works like Go Tell It On The Mountain and Notes on a Native Son, one of Baldwin’s must-reads is Giovanni’s Room, a quasi-autobiographical novel about a young black man who takes up with a handsome Italian in Paris, and one of the seminal works of black queer fiction.
Every day is a new low for Donald Trump as a member of the human race. On Friday, he dragged George Floyd’s memory down into the gutter, too.
Democratic and Republican party politicians alike don’t only represent and defend something horrible — our racist, exploitative system — but they sometimes say really horrendous things that reveal their true aspirations for capitalism and imperialism and how deeply flawed they are as human beings. In the bourgeois media, these moments are often referred to as “saying the quiet part out loud” — so named because they express what the speaker really thinks and the actions that speaker would really like to take. They often happen when the speaker doesn’t realize the microphone is on.
There are many famous “hot mic” moments. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan — doing a sound check just before a radio address while the Cold War still raged — said, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
There are also many examples of saying the quiet part out loud. In 2013, the state’s Republican Party chairman, Robert Gleason, admitted that the photo ID requirement that had recently been pushed through the legislature effectively suppressed voter turnout and that this had been the objective all along, thus exposing as a lie the claims about fighting “fraud.” He said it had “helped a bit” to lower Obama’s margin over Romney, cutting it to half of what it had been over McCain four years earlier. The Republican leader in the state’s House of Representatives, Mike Turzai, had already predicted during the campaign that the voter ID measure would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
Politicians typically try to walk back these moments. But not Donald Trump. There’s no such thing as a “hot mic” for this president. He even brushed off the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, claiming at one point that it wasn’t him speaking. And he doesn’t just say the quiet part out loud routinely; he memorializes it in writing in his Twitter feed.
Even his closest advisers expect this from him. You can see it in their faces.
In that context, consider what Trump said on Friday when trumpeting a surprising decline in official U.S. unemployment that the Boston Globe generously characterized as based on “iffy” data. Speaking in the Rose Garden, Trump revelled in how the analysts seem to have been proven wrong. His own economic adviser Kevin Hassett had warned of an impending 20 percent unemployment rate in June. Referring to the TV shows he spends most of his time watching, Trump said, “I think it was one of the greatest miscalculations in the history of business shows, business shows talking about Wall Street,” he said.
Reading from a prepared statement, Trump then managed to make some unremarkable but at least coherent points. For instance, he said:
Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender, or creed. They have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement.
But the moment he strayed from the paper in front of him, the real Trump came out:
We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen. Hopefully George is looking down and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. It’s a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.
Trump then declared the economic figures were great “for African Americans, for Hispanic Americans, and for Asian Americans, and for everybody.”
Donald Trump is incapable of even pretending to have any empathy for a murder victim and his family. He also seems to be mocking the very idea of racial equality. He is a malignant narcissist who must make everything about himself — either by pointing to pseudo-accomplishments or playing the victim of the “worst attacks” in history. And so, Trump’s “tone-deafness” — as the mainstream media likes to call it — once again provoked the denunciations of other capitalist politicians and their media spokespeople.
CNN’s Maeve Reston said that this comment showed Trump’s “breathtaking disconnect from the pain and tumult that has unfolded in this country after George Floyd’s death. Speaking later in the day, Joe Biden criticized Trump: “George Floyd’s last words, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,’ echoed all across this nation and, quite frankly, around the world. For the president to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd I frankly think is despicable.”
These are strong words, but what about the crime bill that Biden wrote? Isn’t that despicable too, given that it led to the United States becoming the world’s leader in locking people up — especially people of color?
Trump will be Trump. Every time the political talking heads on TV think he’s hit a “new low,” he shows that he has no low. But don’t let his particular brand of “despicable” confuse you. What is most despicable is the system Trump, Biden, and all the Democrats and Republicans represent — a system they are working overtime these days to keep from unraveling as people stream into the streets and say “enough.”
Democrats and Republicans sometimes hide their real agenda behind pretty words and phrases. Biden does this a lot. Trump doesn’t really. What ultimately matters is their actions. Democrats and Republicans alike actively perpetuate racism, violence, and oppression. Our job is to help turn the rage that is exploding everywhere into a political movement that puts Trump, Biden, and the rest of them in the dustbin of history.