France’s Racism Still on Display as It Denies Its Colonial Past — and Present

Nahel M., a 17-year-old poor French citizen of Algerian and Moroccan origin, died of a single bullet fired by a French police officer at virtually point-blank vary on June 27.

Once I heard the information in regards to the homicide of younger Nahel within the ghetto-ized suburb of Nanterre, shot at shut vary as a result of he initially refused to cease his car, my thoughts went again to the primarily Algerian-populated and impoverished Nanterre of 1968, and to the brand new college campus constructed there again then — the start line of the historic scholar upheaval.

In 1968 the Nanterre college students had been sensitized by the Vietnam conflict and the U.S. function in it, and by France’s racism towards the exact same ghetto the place Nahel, two generations later, could be murdered. Time and again, we discover in these bearing witness after Nahel’s demise a sense of “everlasting recommencement” — everlasting rebeginning.

One other reminiscence involves thoughts about these Might 1968 days that I witnessed and during which I participated: the cobblestones. We pulled up the typically centuries-old cobblestones to construct barricades. It was the turning level of our confrontation with a police pressure whose brutality was already in overreach after they tortured Algerian freedom fighters struggling for his or her independence — to which Frantz Fanon has clinically referenced.

After 1968, all cobblestones had been step by step, relentlessly, pulled out of the Paris cityscape, by no means to get replaced. It was a logo of the state’s worry and denial of the message despatched by an upheaval that marked the start of the tip of [Charles] de Gaulle’s authorities, as a result of the working class had fashioned a united entrance with the scholars.

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With Nahel once more, there may be that very same feeling of the federal government’s denial and hypocrisy. And France’s fundamental denial, that it has no colonial current or previous. Because the spokesperson for Europe Ecologie Les Verts, Marine Tondelier, talking to Sud Radio on June 29 of this yr, said: “We’re talking of a continuum of police violence, a continuum of racism, a continuum of post-colonization that has by no means been addressed or handled — and a continuum of segregation on this nation, the place we warehouse in suburbs individuals we don’t know find out how to relate to in any other case. I’m unhappy to say that, on this nation, the suburbs are solely talked about when they’re burning.”

The continuum of systemically racialized violence towards individuals of France’s former colonies residing within the “metropole” — the “mom nation” — is so full of tragedies, riots and upheavals {that a} timeline would fill an article. The three references by each protesters and sociologists, after Nahel’s demise, are: the 2005 demise of two Algerian youngsters, Zined and Bouna, who had been coming back from a soccer match with a gaggle of pals and had been so terrorized by the hostility of cops that they ran from them, taking refuge in an electrical substation the place they had been electrocuted and died; the police brutality towards the “gilets jaunes” [yellow vests], though they had been principally decrease center class and French; and the police brutality towards these — together with the youth — protesting postponement of the age of retirement.

The latter was so surprising that the United Nations issued a stern and prescient warning on the finish of final April on the Human Rights Council, criticizing France for “police violence, racial and non secular discrimination.” (

We are going to come again to the elephant within the room: France’s denial of its racist post-colonial posture.

In the meantime, the French authorities and different commentators or media near the powers-that-be, and even sure leftists, keep away from the query: “Is that this France’s George Floyd second?” Does the query contact too uncooked a nerve? The French are fiercely individualistic, and even when President [Emmanuel] Macron all too simply and swiftly incriminated video video games (in addition to parental negligence and social media) as the basis explanation for the youth upheavals that adopted Nahel’s killing. Certainly these movies had been made-in-France, not within the USA, because the French are likely to say.

Nahel: Eight Causes Why This Is France’s George Floyd Second

Chillingly, we now know that the final phrases Nahel heard had been: “Shoote-le,” a vulgar Americanism for “Shoot him.”

One other argument states that this might hardly be a George Floyd second in France, since “racist police brutality has been occurring for many years in France” — the implication being that there was no racist police brutality within the U.S. earlier than George Floyd. What in regards to the slave patrols, the Jim Crow lynchings and, nearer to our personal continuum, [the killing of Michael Brown in] Ferguson, Missouri, Amadou Diallo, James Byrd, Eric Garner, Elijah McClain and a whole bunch of different Black deaths, earlier than and after George Floyd?

In George Floyd’s case, as in Nahel’s, a video surfaced simply in time to destroy a false police narrative that was already being officialized. In Nahel’s case, the false narrative was that he had sought to run over the 2 officers, which is belied by each the video and a press release given by the opposite passenger. In George Floyd’s case, the trumped-up narrative was that his chokehold demise by the hands of Derek Chauvin was “a medical accident” — which the video and testimony additionally belie.

One other surprising and necessary similarity between the 2 deaths is the context of accelerating militarization of the police on either side of the Atlantic. The chokehold utilized by Chauvin is at present taught by Israeli coaching officers. The police officer who felt emboldened to execute 17-year-old Nahel had a license to kill, because of a brand new 2017 French legislation pushed by means of by rightwing police unions underneath the Socialist authorities of Francois Hollande. It principally offers the police capturing rights that solely the navy police, known as “gendarmes,” had till then — blurring the road between self-defense and license to kill. The gendarmes are a part of the French military.

The variety of these killed by police since passage of the 2017 legislation has elevated fivefold, regardless of Inside Minister Gerald Darmanin’s assertion on the contrary.

One other unhappy comparability with George Floyd’s killing, but additionally Manuel Tortuguita’s 57-bullet slaying early this yr, is the sullying of the picture of the useless sufferer. Tortuguita’s brother bears witness to how the Georgia Bureau of Investigation needed to analyze Tortuguita [Paez Terán], not their demise; George Floyd was “a identified drug addict” affected by “excited delirium in any person too huge” (Chauvin’s phrases); little Nahel had a “prison document.” All falsehood, innuendo: The sufferer is criminalized past the grave.

The comparability with George Floyd and what occurs virtually day by day within the U.S. since Fred Hampton’s homicide and the frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal is the weaponization by the state of the police narrative. Likewise, because the journalist Cemil Sanli stated additionally on June 29 to Le Media about Nahel’s demise: “He was killed twice, as soon as by the bullet and that demise was instantaneous — however his identify was additionally poisoned by a sluggish day-by-day police narrative spreading by means of the media.”

It’s too early on the time of this writing to say whether or not one other comparable facet may be detected between each “moments” — but when the overspill of the youth rebellions, from France to Brussels and Lausanne [Switzerland], continues elsewhere in Europe, there may also be a extra world Nahel-inspired motion. In any occasion, the embers slumber — as reviews of upheavals in French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique point out.

One final worthwhile similitude between the contexts of each murders to think about: the post-George Floyd interval, marked by the Black Lives Matter upheavals nationally and internationally, despatched the U.S. police right into a spiral of disgruntled demoralization – a lot so, that the initiative got here from Atlanta to spice up its personal police’s morale by introducing the ominous mission of a “Cop Metropolis” — the place the cops may play cops and robbers in a mock metropolis, studying counterinsurgency with the newest up to date navy gear.

Likewise, in an article for France Inter dated Might 17, 2021, we’re given the outcomes of a French ballot known as the Cevipof, certainly one of which reveals that 74 % of cops on obligation in France intend to vote for the Rassemblement Nationwide, Le Pen’s far-right social gathering. This tendency is on the rise and the reason is that, by their very own admission, the police are “professionally drained and in low spirits.”

French Far Proper Solid Its Id in Its Hatred of Algeria

The Left is conscious that the indignant upheavals following Nahel’s homicide, the destruction of property and lack of tourism, are already favoring France’s shift to the far proper — a far proper that constructed its id across the hatred of Algeria and its combat for independence.

Certainly, the far proper is so emboldened by the state of affairs in France following Nahel’s demise {that a} fundraiser was began by a frontrunner near Marine Le Pen and by Eric Zemmour for the police officer positioned in non permanent custody: the quantity now totals over 1.6 million euros ($1.7 million), rather more than Nahel’s household has been capable of acquire. GoFundMe allowed its platform for use.

In his June 2, 2023, article titled “Is Killing Blacks a Development Business?,” Ishmael Reed writes: “Distinction those that within the outdated days lynched without cost with Kyle Rittenhouse, who raised two million for a protection fund. He killed two demonstrators. Daniel Penny, the killer of Jordan Neely, has damaged that document. As of Might 19, Penny has raised $2.66 million of which [Ron] De Santis gave $2 million.”

The thoughts boggles. Macron didn’t even, for the sake of public relations, go to the mom of the kid who was killed in chilly blood — however the day after the capturing he was filmed dancing at an Elton John live performance, whereas Paris was burning. In the meantime, the Algerian authorities broke a precedent round the sort of occasion and despatched a stiff reminder to the French authorities that it anticipated France to guard these of Algerian lineage on French soil.

The backdrop of Nahel’s demise is, certainly, a souring of French diplomatic relations with the Algerian authorities, which simply earlier than Nahel’s demise reinstated a really militant stanza of its nationwide anthem performed solely at conferences of the Nationwide Liberation Entrance (the armed nationwide liberation motion that wrested nationwide independence from the French). The added stanza, written by the poet Moufdi Zakaria in 1955, through the wrestle for independence, says:

Now comes the day

when you’ll have to render accounts. Prepare. Right here is our reply: Our verdict

will probably be given by our revolution, for we’ve got determined Algeria will dwell.

By restoring the Nationwide Anthem, President [Abdelmadjid] Tebboune of Algeria is alleged to have needed to criticize Macron’s double-faced post-colonial relationship to his nation and the French authorities’s favoring the declare of previously French Morocco to the Western Sahara enclave claimed by the Polisario Liberation Entrance.

Macron badly wants Algeria’s fuel to scale back his dependence on Russian fuel within the context of the Ukraine conflict. However on the identical time, with a purpose to pacify stress from the intense proper, he has additionally been making an attempt to jeopardize the 1968 Franco-Algerian settlement, which facilitates Algerian immigration into France. The truth is, Macron’s coverage of oscillation, of desirous to have his cake and eat it too, has been his trademark all through his uneasy and unfeeling navigation of the week since Nahel was killed.

His chosen Minister of the Inside, Gérald Darmanin, is the right executor of Macron’s Munich-type angle. Very formidable, Darminin has been identified to change events and let political protectors down if he may discover extra worthwhile platforms, as a result of he has his personal presidential dream. He publicly proclaims that his mom continues to be a “cleansing woman,” and his Algerian grandfather was within the French military. Colonial ambiguity would look like in his DNA.

In the meantime, identical to the youth in Atlanta Metropolis Council asking the Council members on June 6 of this yr, “Do you even hear us or are you sleeping?,”the immigrant racialized youth of France’s disinherited suburbs clarify that they don’t have any interlocutor, will not be heard, so they might solely act out their anger.

Darmanin introduced that the median age of these arrested was 17 years outdated. No marvel. Nahel was 17 and his demise struck the sturdy collective chord of intergenerational trauma and invisibility because the finish of the Algerian conflict. As I log off, we hear that kids of 12 to 13 have been arrested, and we can not assist considering of Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables,” the place the kid revolutionary Gavroche is killed on the barricades in 1832 Paris. However then, “Les Misérables” and the heroism of 12-year-old Gavroche are taught in French colleges — these very colleges to which France’s colonial immigrants don’t have entry.

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