People Gray Clipart-two men debating before election 2


When I arrived in France at the age of six, I was met with a level of ignorance that has yet to be surpassed. Before coming here, I had lived in a place where I looked like everyone else and everyone looked like me. In France, on the other hand, people treated me like a circus freak. Why do you sound like this? Why is your hair like this? Why is your skin so dark? Have you ever seen a lion? Or a giraffe? Do you have drinking water back home? 

I couldn’t understand why my existence was the subject of such curiosity. Were French kids so unaware of the world beyond theirs?  

“They probably don’t know better. If it becomes annoying, ignore them,” my mother told me. But, being the people pleaser I have always been, I took the time to answer their questions even if I was unable to give a proper explanation. What do you even say in response to “Why are you Black?” I assumed that this was the last time that I would have to answer silly questions like this. At some point, people would become more mature and better informed, or it would at least be seen as impolite to ask a stranger about their racial make-up. 

I didn’t know at the time that racism is forever. 

When you’re a person of color, some people treat you like a walking encyclopedia or an SOS Racisme campaign. You suffer from racism but your suffering is transformed into an educational experience for white people. It’s your duty, no, your power not to walk away at the first slur but to see this encounter as an opportunity to educate others. Why? Because racist people are actually not racist. Well, they’re racist but not racist racist. In reality, they are just ignorant or sick and tired of their lives. The high cost of living and the rule of the elites are making them bitter and cold. They didn’t want to be racist but they can’t help but notice that France has been in decline for the past decades, and the immigrants are stealing their jobs!

That’s why you have to initiate dialogue with them. Ignorance can only create fear and hatred, but if they get to know you, they’ll realize that you’re human just like them. Amazing, right? If only it was this easy. Weirdly, to change a mind that is full of stereotypes, you have to perform other stereotypes. You can’t just be Black, you have to be one of the “good ones”: assimilated, civilized and educated. That way, they can come to the conclusion that not all Black people are as bad as they thought. But you have to be careful. Playing the racism teacher is not an easy task. The racists will switch on you the moment you do not abide by their standards of respectability. Like if you are Omar Sy, and one day you dare to complain about institutional racism in this country, everyone is quick to remind you that France gave you everything and you’re being ungrateful. 

The ”talk the racism out” method is very popular with those on the left. They strongly believe that racists are not lost causes, but only turned away from the left because the left turned away from them. That’s why they still bother to debate with neo-Nazis on CNews at 9am. They think that they can turn the tide and bring them back to their side. However, such efforts are an attempt to bring reason into the realm of the irrational. There’s no logic to racism. It’s not a situation where you can win the debate and your opponent realizes that racism is bad. 

However, the moment that you initiate dialogue with a racist and you bring a Black representative to debate with a Nazi, you are suggesting that racism makes sense. You are validating it as a rational and discussion-worthy perspective. 

A racist will say that he hates Black people because an immigrant stole his job. Aside from the fact that one cannot technically “steal” a job, why is he judging an entire group based on the “actions” of an individual? He’s on the streets yelling slurs at random Black people who don’t have anything to do with his work difficulties. They are not the immigrants who stole his job. I am not that immigrant either. Still, some would say that I should go talk to him and risk subjecting myself to racial hate, just to prove that dialogue can erase prejudices. The problem is that the reward for my efforts (some ideal of a colorblind society) is small in comparison to the trauma inflicted on me.

This is especially severe when those on the other side of the debate, the racists, are acting in bad faith. Their goal is not to have a sincere discussion and deconstruct racial prejudices. Their goal is to shame me and then gaslight me. They act as if a group, with all its diversities, can be summed up by the actions of an individual. Though I suspect that deep down they know it doesn’t make sense. But if you try to make them acknowledge their contradictions, they become defensive. “How dare you? I would never.” Sadly, they care more about being labeled as racist than the consequences of their racist actions. They utter words just racist enough to enrage me, but not too racist to suggest they’re the ones at fault. Sometimes, they turn the situation around to present themselves as the victims, and yet again, I am the angry Black woman. 

When they swear that they don’t want Aya Nakamura to perform at the Olympic games because she is “vulgar” and does not represent France, we Black people understand the implied racism. We understand that they are so furiously opposed to the possibility of a proud Black woman, the most listened to French artist in the world, singing an Edith Piaf’s song, which they understand to be the élégance à la française. But the racists will swear up and down that they are not being racist by describing her as “ghetto” or “ratchet.” There is no point in reasoning with them when they don’t want to listen to the voices of people of color. 

What is the solution to eradicating racism, then? Firstly, one that does not involve exploiting the suffering of people of color. Our struggles should not be a learning experience for white people. We deserve safe spaces where we don’t have to be subjected to racism. If you so strongly believe in democracy and debate, then go and get somebody else to debate the racists, but please don’t make it be me. Alternatively, you could just do it yourself instead of sending racialized people to the front of the democracy vs. racism war. 

Sadly, people of color will have to continue to take the responsibility for the fight against racism. White people do not understand its gravity, and nor do they really try to understand. The ignorance of the white liberal is fascinating. They think that they know everything there is to know about racism but I still have to spoon-feed the whole thing to them. They redefine their ignorance into activism. They say that they are giving a voice to minorities, but many are doing this just to feel better about themselves. 

Don’t tell me that your grandmother would kill you for having a Black friend if you’re not willing to challenge her. Black lives matter more than white feelings, so call out your racist friends. Do your part of the job. 

Personally, I won’t discuss anything with racists and I won’t coddle them anymore. As Toni Morrison once said, “The very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.” And I am tired of explaining myself. 


Other posts that may interest you: