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by Aris Roussinos
Wednesday, 15
July 2020
Reaction
14:48

America exports its racial politics to France

Implanting race-based identities in Europe are misguided and dangerous
by Aris Roussinos
BLM protesters in Paris, France. (Photo by Samuel Boivin/NurPhoto)

Few outside observers would look at America as a model of racial harmony to be emulated. Even the American liberals who a decade ago were insisting that the US had entered a harmonious post-racial future have now decided en masse that America is an oppressive white supremacist entity whose population requires re-education, and whose entire historical legitimacy is questionable. A New York Times piece this week therefore makes for uncomfortable reading, as it shows how the US State Department, in a fit of misguided idealism, intentionally exported its divisive racial politics to Europe.

While the French state is officially colour-blind— it does not even record the racial makeup of its citizenry in its census data— this state of affairs “is being challenged,” the article notes, “by the many Black French who have gone through a racial awakening in recent decades — helped by the pop culture of the United States, its thinkers, and even its Paris-based diplomats who spotted and encouraged young Black French leaders a decade ago.”


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Thanks to a US State Department program, potential French race activists were recruited and sent to America to attend courses on “managing ethnic diversity,” while in Paris “the embassy organized educational programs on subjects like affirmative action, a taboo concept in France,” a dynamic which “has contributed to fears, especially among French conservatives, of an “Americanization’’ of French society. This “risks fragmenting France… and poses a threat far more central to the modern republic’s founding principles than familiar complaints about the encroachment of McDonald’s or Hollywood blockbusters.”

French critics are right to be concerned by attempts to overlay American dynamics on a European context. The United States is a deeply unstable country, and its fractious racial politics, along with the ideological framework which underpin them, are a potent source of political division.

Scholars have long noted that European attitudes to migrant minorities follow the colonial pattern, with France adopting the colour-blind rhetoric of total assimilation and the direct relationship between the citizen and the state, and the UK continuing its colonial policy of indirect rule through local elites, here transmuted into the contentious role of “community leaders.”

Whatever their merits, these are vastly different frameworks to America’s history of enforced slavery in the Early Modern Period. Political identities centred on race are entirely alien to Europe, and attempts to squeeze our continent’s vast ethnic and cultural diversity through the narrow channels of America’s arbitrary and essentialised census categories are as dangerous as they are misguided.

Were the Russian or Chinese embassies attempting to politicise European minorities in such a way, or Saudi preachers exporting their political ideologies in European mosques, it would rightly be seen as an act of hostile and dangerous meddling in our national politics. Indeed, were the Russian or Chinese embassies working to foster a “racial awakening” in the US, the American liberal commentariat would not view their efforts fondly.

It is significant, as the article notes, that “the U.S. Embassy in Paris began reaching out to ethnic and racial minorities in France after the Sept. 11 attacks as part of a global push to ‘win hearts and minds.’” Wisely refusing to follow the US into one destructive delusion of American liberalism, the Iraq War, France nevertheless found itself at the mercy of another variant. As Iraqis can attest, American liberals are most dangerous when they believe they are helping.

Indeed, in his response to the BLM protests, Macron’s refusal to remove statues, his vivid warnings of the dangers of “separatism,” and insistence that it’s “necessary to unite around Republican patriotism” and that France is “a nation where everyone—whatever their origin and religion—can find their place” indicate that the French state has no desire to let the drifting spores of American dysfunction take root on this side of the Atlantic. Instead, American diplomats should be politely but firmly be dissuaded from exporting their political disorder to our own continent.

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chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago

An excellent and important article, highlighting an area that is too infrequently emphasised: the global rhetoric on “race” is conducted entirely through the lens of parochial American racial politics.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Very much so. It is why in the UK the black community most certainly has a more prominent voice than any other minority, despite being smaller than Asian and other communities.

It doesn’t matter on face value – but we should be mindful not to let it skew our mindset from the realities.

An interesting side anecdote which shows how things like these are overlooked as people focus on other things:

There are almost as many Indian nationals living/working in the UK (c.1.4m) than British people of Afro-Caribbean heritage (c.1.7m). In the run up to the last election Corbyn came out in favour of Pakistan over a Kashmir dispute, which had a massive affect on a significant part of the voting population. This was not really noted within the main discourse.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I should add that i was not aware of this until an Indian colleague of mine pointed it out, and I had to do some digging to see it.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Labour are so uncomfortable with the Chancellor and Home Secretary in a Conservative Government being of Indian heritage that they question Priti Patel’s life experience of racism. Disgusting.

Nor did we hear support for the right of the people of Hong Kong to come to the UK from the open borders lunatic wing of the Labour Party. Immigrants it seems are not welcome if they are going to vote Conservative.

It’s not surprising that these two topics are not covered by the media, when the media has been so silent for so long on the proliferation of grooming gangs in Labour run councils. Don’t rock the paedophile vote, comrades!

Russ Littler
Russ Littler
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

I would suggest that you wise up, and do some serious research, and then come back and tell me all about these “parochial American politics.”.
Here’s my challenge: Prove to me that it is “not” the United Nation, the World Bank, and George Soros who are funding BLM and ANTIFA. There you go, I’ve made it easy for you. Now prove me wrong. (PS) a little pointer. All public donations to BLM are funneled through a front agency called “act Blue”, and then channeled directly to the Democratic party. The two biggest recipients of that funding last year, were two white privileged guys called Joe Biden, and Bernie Sandars. The real world is not what you think it is.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

Soros is an American citizen. And you should prove to us that the “world bank” and the “UN” are supporting BLM. I’m not seeing it. On a broader sense what this article is saying is that the US is the home of identity politics and both deliberately and unconsciously exporting it across the world.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Yes. Critical race studies are taught even in Ireland. The differences in the white populations and nations of the UK disappear, Northern Ireland is barely mentionable, the immigrants from the EU are all supposed to be part of some “white dominant group” which might be true in the US, which has had little migration from Europe in two generations, but makes no sense anywhere in the UK or EU. And as someone says below, the UK’s black population is treated as if it is the same percentage of the population as in the US. Far from being under represented the 3% of the UK population that is black gets more airtime and discussion than any other minority. Contrast with the British East Asian (Chinese and other) population which is largely unmentioned.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago

In this phrase – “Even the American liberals who a decade ago were insisting that the US had entered a harmonious post-racial future” – “liberals” appears to mean “people who voted for Barack Obama”.

In this sentence – “As Iraqis can attest, American liberals are most dangerous when they believe they are helping” – “liberals” appears to mean “George W. Bush and his henchmen”.

Perhaps a more precise term is needed?

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
3 years ago

George W Bush’s “henchmen” included Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton? I was unaware of this.

Peter Kriens
Peter Kriens
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

Well, educate yourself. Ever wondered why big companies so cheerfully align behind the Democrats? Although the press makes it look like Republicans and Democrats don’t get along, they are all from the same Uber class that also hosts the media, press, and academy. They provide a nice theatre show.

Identity politics are a lightning rod to distract the attention from the actually much more relevant class differences. Just like feminism & immigration doubled the workforce and thereby lowered wages, so are identity politics used to prevent, what used to be progressives, from paying attention to the class struggle. A class struggle that might increase their cost.

Ever wonder why people calling themselves ‘left’ can fight side by side with big capital like Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Nike, Coca Cola, etc.? Something is so wrong with this picture.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Kriens

“Educate yourself”. Oh mate.

Auberon Linx
Auberon Linx
3 years ago

There are more precise terms, but “liberal” is both accurate and adequate for the purposes of this article. It denotes a consensus between both Bush and Obama administrations that US has the missionary role to bring about the end of history. While the means differ, the goal is the same, and it originates in the Enlightenment philosophies.

David Jones
David Jones
3 years ago

Indeed, and here again:

Wisely refusing to follow the US into one destructive delusion of
American liberalism, the Iraq War,

“Neoliberalism” is constantly dismissed as far too vague, and yet “liberalism” is used in an even more broad brush sense

asterzingerz
asterzingerz
3 years ago

PS Actually, there is some evidence to suggest that Chinese Communists are in fact abetting and fueling the chaos in America… we should be outraged, but there’s very little investigation. Too bad we couldn’t get Chinese traditional culture to come and advise us; the old China had a long history of dealing with plagues, but Communism has, from what I’ve heard, all but killed it. And looking to the Greeks and Romans for age-old wisdom is racist now, and we got rid of Native American culture, not that they had terribly advanced medicine; so we’re just going to flail around stupidly.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  asterzingerz

There is no evidence of that at all. There’s plenty of evidence that the US is spreading identity politics worldwide. Sometimes just because of its cultural power, sometimes deliberately.

asterzingerz
asterzingerz
3 years ago

Ah, f**k. So much for my plan to escape to France. Well, maybe I can stand there shouting that this is a terrible idea and the US is on fire.

Jim Cooper
Jim Cooper
3 years ago

Macron’s correct “race” is about finding ones “place”. Etymologically the word race signifies a relation of objects IN SPACE – a mill race controls the flow of water, a running race the flow of athletes etc. Hence racism is a reasoned assessment
and hence a rational fear of perceived DISORDER – originally spatial but now also social, cultural and so on – people and things out of place. Racism is I fear a universal and eternal human quality…just like inequality and injustice…

Leti Bermejo
Leti Bermejo
3 years ago

America’s history of enforced slavery in the Early Modern Period.

You seem to forget that the country of ‘America’ was in fact largely born from French and British émigrés. Slavery preceded ‘independence’ and was a european business.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Leti Bermejo

The country of America then became independent and it was an American business.