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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.


  1. So enjoyed reading this article, Brother... It's interesting learning about the African presence in France and how race can have a negative impact in the French society like, as you stated, celebrating, partaking or having a voice or presence in something that might be dominated by the Caucasian Frenchmen, such as this soccer game... Even though the racism might be a little more subtle than here in The States, it still has the potential to cut them almost as deep as it has many Black Americans (when you tally in the slavery, Jim Crow, Willie Lynch eras of our history)...

    Second, I enjoyed reading about how your family's heritage and your early life experiences further inspired you to write this article. I could feel how proud and blessed you are to come from such an honorable line of people and to be given a name that you can always wear with pride and dignity.

    So you marched in a Free Nelson Mandela rally... Wow, very cool! Socially and politically conscious at even a very young age. How many kids would be involved in something meaningful and constructive like that? Good for you! ^_^

    Writers like you are what make the African Diaspora so beautiful... Keep up the wonderful work and may your blessings continue to multiply eternally.

    All the best. :-)

    1. Thanks for your kind, inspiring words. I love when my readers interact and drop a line. Thanks so much for sharing your time. One Love, always!
      ~ Kaya


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