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Monday, July 30, 2018

Abeng Op-Ed: Trevor Noah Wasn't Wrong About Africans Born in France

After France won the 2018 FIFA World Cup earlier this month, South African comedian Trevor Noah cracked a joke about the fact that France's victory was also an African accomplishment, since so many players on the French national team are of African descent. I and many people of African descent around the world hold similar views. As a matter of fact, many of us posted our comments and expressed our sentiments all over social media. Personally, I supported Senegal and Nigeria (the two Sub-Saharan African countries in the tournament), then I cheered for other teams with players of African descent as well. From my pan-African eyes, I love to see all people in the African diaspora excel. But is this, my perspective, racist?

"No Matter Where You Come From" / "I Know No National Boundary"
I grew up in an era when blacks in the African diaspora were reclaiming our roots. Omodele is a name my mother chose, Tesfa and Feyishola and Shango and Imani and Sudi are some of my cousins; Shaka and Dingane and Olatunji are some of my childhood, family friends. My mother and her sisters and brothers celebrated everything African. She was the younger sister and close friend to true life revolutionaries. Black culture was exalted; Fela, Miles, Hugh, Satchmo, Marvin, and them were Kings. "No Matter Where You Come From" by Peter Tosh was the national anthem. And Madiba was a living martyr. (When I was just fifteen, my cousin and I marched in a Free Nelson Mandela rally in Central Park) So, I know no national boundary where black people are concerned, the whole world is my province...

So, like many blacks in the Diaspora, I was turnt up that France's winning World Cup squad was comprised of so many players of African descent. When a French ambassador chastised Trevor Noah for bigging up the African-ness of Les Bleus (The Blues), pointing out that the black French players were French nationals, French-born, and trained in France, I understood this ambassador's view - that no matter these players were sons of immigrants, they were French, regardless of race or religion. And I admit that's seems a commendable and noble view coming from the French diplomat. My biggest question, is this a case of "You're not like those others."?

A couple years ago, I interviewed the Quai54 Streetball creator Bah-Pna Dahane, a French national of Chad origin, who stated in that interview:
"France's racism is different than the United States'; France's racism is more a gas you can't smell but will kill you slowly from the inside."
And, I've read lately about racism rearing its head during the selection process of this said French national team. So, although the ambassador has good intentions, maybe, we won't pretend that brothers and sisters living in France don't feel marginalized, at the very least.
I'd love to hear from our French bredren.

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