Monday, November 22, 2010

Something Old From Someone New

Nicholas Sarkozy should run for president.

Sure, France's president already has that title in his home country, but that shouldn't stop him from immigrating to America, ignoring  the rules on presidential candidates, and tossing his hat in the ring. Given Sarkozy's views on immigration and "national identity" he would probably give the crowd trying to take their country back recurring nocturnal emissions.

I find Sarkozy interesting because despite all the claims that Europe has "moved past" racism, the actions of the French, English and British prove that's a pipe dream. What should have become obvious to most folks, and was already obvious to me, is that many European nations never dealt with widespread racism within their borders, and it's been allowed to fester and spread. Now, as more and more immigrants from the countries these European powers have screwed over the years attempt to come power seat, this deep-seated racism and xenophobia.

Sarkozy is just the face of the movement.

It was only five years ago when France's slums exploded with riots fueled by the pent-up anger felt by children of many of the country's immigrants. Sarkozy capitalized on the fear those riots created and expanded the country war against what many French believe are uncouth interlopers. He created a "National Identity Ministry" and set out to prove he didn't like foreigners one bit.

It's funny looking at what the French have done and then considering our own country. Tea Party candidates recently rode the wave of anti-immigrant and anti-black sentiment still prevalent in much of the country into Congress, and they're hoping to use those same feelings to take back the White House in 2012. One of the central themes of this new shift in direction has been the discussion of what it means to be a "real" American, and a call for "real" Americans to take their country back.

That's where Sarkozy could really make a mark. A central theme to his election was the idea that France had fallen victim to too much multiculturalism and really, too much diversity. Sarkozy argued that immigrants should be forced to become indelibly French and toss off any affiliations to their old countries. Implied in this message was that any sort of connection or allegiance to another country was a betrayal of French values, and the mere possibility of the existene of this sort of conflict justified pre-emptive action by the French. That pre-emptive action has included banning Muslim headgear in public spaces, and clear discrimination in hiring and education for immigrants.

It's interesting to watch Sarkozy and the French people stammer and stumble around in their moral morass. It's actually quite satisfying since the French love to blast the racism and discrimination in America, but seem to somehow miss the beam in their own eyes.

Yet, it becomes scary when I think that it's not that unlikely that if President Obama fails to get re-elected America might get its on National Identity Agency and I'm not sure black people would be as safe from scrutinyas we assume. Those centuries of enslavement only count so much towards proving our worth. Besides, these past few months have taught me that a sizable portion of this country views any sort of questioning of American ideals and motives by non-white folks as a sign of intense disloyalty and grounds for suspicion.

True, it's only the latest iteration of the "Stay in your place" motif, but things have risen to a pitch not seen since minorities were openly denied equal opportunities. Many whites will bristle at that comparison, but it is what it is.

Sarkozy's views echo something from the not so distant past throughout the Western world, and we see it taking shape in a variety of countries. Many white folks have decided the time has come to rise up and recreate the past that many of them cherish and miss. Sarkozy is just one more cog in that frightening machine.

Something old indeed.



Darth Whitey said...

As a certified Francophile who has spent many moons in France please allow me to respond.

I'll just say this, because I cannot speak for the French at large: I don't care what a person's name or skin color is, but when I'm in France I want to feel like I'm in France.

I get an extra pleasure hearing non-white people in France speaking good French, wearing berets, drinking wine, eating baguettes and pate, and all the rest of the stuff you might think is mythical about the French but I assure you it's real.

It's a great pleasure seeing a black soccer player interviewed on TV and realizing that if you had not seen his face you wouldn't know he was black or that his parents were from Senegal. I love seeing arabic Frenchmen in cafes sippin espresso, gesticulating wildly as they speak with their hands.

I have the same fascination when I go to Germany, it's AWESOME hearing the kids of Turkish immigrants speaking German, seeing them drink a beer, I love it.

I love France, I love its culture. I don't care who the French are, just be French. I wouldn't care if every single person in France had a name like Mohamed, was not white, or whatever. As long as they speak French, eat French food, have that French attitude and character (it's unique!), then God bless em.

So, yes, Sarkozy is right-of-center on the spectrum of French politics but that place on the spectrum is still to the left of President Obama. The far left in France is made up of actual real communists who call themselves so, and the mainstream left-of-center party is actually called the socialist party. Sarko would be appalled to be compared to these insane republicans.

Vicky said...

Monoculturalism at it's best displayed in the comment above, unabashedly indulging in all the simplistic stereotypes of what constitutes Frenchness or Germanness.

Anonymous said...

Great Article ...

With regards to Darth's comment above ... its so ignorant I dont know what I feel is anger or just pity.

Big Man said...

Y'all have to engage Darth. He's been here a while and he's interested in learning.

For the record Darth, what you described is not "French." It's a certain culture adopted by the dominant group in a society and then forcefed to everyone else.

Being "French" like being "American" means you're a citizen of the country. That's it. Hell, it could even mean you're just a resident. Expecting immigrants to wash themselves of all those inconvenient "non-French" attitudes is quite ridiculous.

But, in this case, it's also not based in reality. The truth, if you read the article, older immigrants who were less assimilated actually received more opportunities and less hatred. The parents and grandparents of the kids featured in the article were seen as more "French" then them, even though these kids only know what it's like to live in France and immerse themselves in French culture.

See, that's the trap of "National Identity." It often has nothing to do with all of your actions, only with a small subset defined by those in power, or those who identify with those in power. That small subset quite often includes the color of one's skin, which means that you have to be "extra" French to overcome that major handicap. It's not about these kids refusing to be "French" it's about the white French deciding that they are quite happy with the way "their" country looks now and don't want to see any changes regardless of the fact that change is one of the few constants in life.

Deacon Blue said...

Honestly, Darth, I think I'm less disturbed by any racial/ethnic/Borg-like assimilation subtext in your comment than I am by the fact you want France, Germany and other foreign locales to be amusement parks.

Just like a Disney venue, you want them to conform to your vision of what the country should be, and that's the kind of thing that gets us labeled "ugly Americans" sometimes.

There is a lot of history to be found in foreign places, and differences in culture, but people are people, and not animatronic constructs there to behave in "traditional" ways.

It would be like someone coming here and expecting people in Texas to act like cowboys, people in Southern California to act like surfer dudes and valley girls, etc.

Darth Whitey said...

I laughed out loud when I read Deac's comment about amusement parks, heh.

Hey man, it's MY money and my vacation, and I'll get mad when I see a McDonald's near Notre Dame if I feel like it. I'm planning a trip to Peru next year, is it ok if I get upset when I see a pizza hutt at Machu Picchu? Is it ok for me to expect to see people in ponchos and big hats chewing coca leaves, or would that be racist or something?

Look, the United States is a different story. We have no culture, no history, it's a blank slate, it could be entirely replaced in a 50 year period and I wouldn't care. I couldn't care less about Mosques in New York, whatever. Unlike in the rest of the Americas, the European settlers here exterminated the natives wiping out any history that we would have had to "respect." I love shopping at Korean markets, buying weird food and stuff, but I don't like seeing that in France. If that makes me racist, then fine, I'm racist.

F'all y'all. Just kidding, I always wanted to say that and thought it'd be a good time since everybody is against me heh.

Big Man said...


Do you really think French culture is the "pure" culture developed by the initial settlers of the area?

Or Peruvian culture?

The idea that America doesn't have a culture is commonly joined with the idea that white americans have no culture, and thus there is nothing wrong with them subverting certain aspects of other cultures for their own enjoyment and amusement.

The truth is, what you consider "culture" is not some immutable thing. That's actually the point of the post. Culture is what the people make it, and the children and grandchildren of French immigrants should demand a say is what passes as culture in that country. If the Fr ench didnt' want outside influences they should have stayed in their Texas sized country and avoided colonization and failed empire building. They didn't, and thus they have to deal with the fallout.

Darth Whitey said...

That's really interesting actually. So does it "offend" folks when white people do things like grow dreadlocks and hippie stuff like that? I dunno, that's just the first thing I could think of but I get what you're saying. Interesting.

Here's something odd I realized the other day: I met a person who partakes in one of my niche hobbies, someone I had been speaking to on some bboards for years in a community for our common interest and to my surprise, he was black. I was taken aback, like it was unexpected. Mind you I had no objection or anything, just a violation of expectations, nice guy. Kind of like being surprised when an Asian guy has a British accent know what I mean?

And mind you I hang out in liberal, upper middle-class circles of geeky, highly educated white people and we all think of ourselves as quite progressive and very not-racist and we think tea party people are racist and stuff and we have great contempt for them.

I guess I'm really incredibly racist even though I don't mean to be. Sorry about that. Not mean-spirited I think, just a product of growing up in an all-white environment where people of color were kind of exotic and foreign or something. I'm racist but I don't discriminate, how's that? And here's the million dollar remark that will drive you crazy: as proof, I offer that I voted for Obama! haha j/k, I know that's ridiculous, like saying "I have black friends" before saying something racist.

Darth Whitey said...

I should also add that when I say "white" I also mean east and south Asian, including Indian folks darker than most of y'all. I didn't even think that I had done that when I wrote it.

Big Man said...

You are a funny dude Darth.

Raving Black Lunatic