Thursday, April 1, 2010

Racism Awareness Week – French style

So, we just finished Racism Awareness Week, and as part of his homework, Zander had to practice reading the poem below.  As far as I know, besides a march in Centre Ville, there was nothing else that happened to mark this event.  The march was by members of African nations.  I find it very interesting that black vs. white is the focus of this event, when, in my experience, the real race problems in this nation are between the native French (black and white) and the Muslims.  I guess they don’t count as a race?  Whenever I mention this divide to the native French, they get very defensive and say how the Muslims really need to realize they are French now, and should do all the French stuff.  I mean, if the teachers want to send home Easter baskets with all the little Muslim kids – tant pis!  If they want to complain, they shouldn’t really be here. 

I was glad to see, however, that Zander’s teacher cared enough to share at least a bit of multicultural awareness with her small charges. I will do my pitiful best to translate this pearl of wisdom.


  Poem from an African for my White counterpart

Dear WHITE brother  !!!!

    •   When I was born I was BLACK,
    •   When I’m grown I am BLACK,
    •   When I go out in the sun I am BLACK,
    •   When I am scared I am BLACK,
    •   When I am sick I am BLACK,
    •   When I die, I will be BLACK,


  •   When you were born you were PINK,
  •   When you are grown you are WHITE,
  •   When you go out in the sun you turn RED,
  •   When you are cold you are BLUE,
  •   When you are scared you are GREEN,
  •   When you are sick you are YELLOW,
  •   When you die, you will become GREY.
  • And, after all this !!!  You have the nerve to call me :



    Sadly, the author is unknown (except, of course, that he is African).  It’s really a shame I can’t give him credit for this.

    Enough said, for now.  I hope you all feel much, much less racist sentiment raging through your veins.  (If you are not seeing the irony in my words, I suspect you need some sensitivity training).

    Thank you for caring.

    P.S. Do French white people still really call black people ‘colored’?   I mean, that’s so out of vogue in the US!  It’s either black or African American, right?  What is the PC term for a black french person?  Homme de noir?   Homme d’Afrique?  If it is “Homme d’Afrique,” how do you ascertain if they are French Africans or African Africans or African Americans? The mind reels….


    Alain @ Besançon - Philadelphia said...

    I don't think "homme de couleur" is very widely used but it would definitely be one of the most PC way to say "black people". Actually, I would even say that there is almost no real PC way to say that in French. I have the feeling that even "noir" sounds negative somehow. Most people would say "étrangers" (foreigners) but actually just the notion of "race" sounds very controversial to me. There is no notion of French African or African African because for a good 70% of the French population, they are all the same: "étrangers". Sad but true.

    As you probably know, French are not very good with foreigners anyway. The WW2 thing again, I guess...

    kelly said...

    I read that poem with Zander and I was questioning the motives and purpose of "teaching" this. It didn't make sense to me. When I asked him what the poem meant, he said they didn't really talk about it in class. So they just give you a poem full of racial connotations with extrememly simple sentenses (obviously, it's an easy read, so it MUST be for kids! *SMILE*) and let them read and re-read it without discussion? Sometimes I just don't get it ... I remember telling Andre he should take a look at Zander's hw that day. I'm glad you guys got your hands on it ! What the?


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