The French rapper Black M was recently invited to give a concert following a WWI battle centenary celebration. His performance was cancelled amid protests by far right politicians and activists who claimed that his lyrics were promoting anti-French sentiment and using language similar to that of ISIS. The rapper was subject to racist slurs and at the centre of a huge controversy. Conveniently, the French government members only showed their support for him when the concert had been cancelled.
No alternative has been proposed. There needs to be one.
In response to this, Black M published a heartfelt note on his Facebook page with a photo of his grandfather, who belonged to a colonial infantry in the French Army (dubbed ‘Tirailleurs Sénégalais’). In his post, the rapper defended his love for France and claimed his pride to belong to the nation for which his grandfather fought and that welcomed his parents.
Following his post, far right activists and politicians went on to claim that he fabricated the story. The line ‘my grandfather fought for our country to be free’ is a one that many of us learn from our parents as a defence mechanism when faced with people who question our nationality. Yet the divisions in French society seem to have reach a depth beyond that.
Our parents also always taught us to be proud of who we were because we live in a country that always questions us – our origins, the colour of our skin – and will never let you forget that you are not really welcome. But this way of self-preservation is often seemed as a threat to divide the nation. When you are French of African descent, you are in a constant tug of war between a dual identity and constantly attempting to find a balance in a country that seems uncertain of how it plans on dealing with the results of its imperialist past.
We are in a love/hate relationship with our own country in which the ‘hate’ gets little room for expression.
Following the cancellation of his concert, a lot of celebrities voiced their support of Black M by reiterating their love for France. French of African descent (and other ethnic minorities by extension) are not only torn apart between two places geographically, but emotionally. We are in a love/hate relationship with our own country in which the ‘hate’ gets little room for expression.
So what if it did?
There is not much Black M could have done to perform for the centenary but by not attempting to defend his own lyrics, he has failed to raise the voices of those who identify with those lyrics. Resentment against the French nation is no longer some hypothetical monster that the far right can use to get more voters. It is a real, dangerous – yet constructed – and perhaps even a legitimate feeling that is shared by many but masked behind deafening ‘Vive la France’ chants that no longer make sense to some of us.
It is unsettling to see how quick we are to appropriate African-American struggles but can’t seem to find the strength to fight our own. If black lives matter on the other side of the ocean, why can’t black voices matter over here ?
Peace and love feel a bit powerless when facing this extent of racism and violence.
Why are we forcing ourselves to accept a collective memory and understanding of a country that has a history of treating its people unequally?
Peace and love feel a bit powerless when facing this extent of racism and violence and I have been longing to see French of African descent do something else than proclaiming their unconditional love for a country that has done little to love them back. Our Stockholm Syndrome has lasted long enough.