Obama declared it: “nous sommes tous Francais”-we are all French.
Confirmed. Daily, I see Facebook profiles showing the French flag in the background of their photos; mostly, from my black friends who represent the entire spectrum of the African diaspora.
We continue to weep for Paris.
As a product of the American education curriculum and other popular sources of information, we have learned about how France’s revolution inspired our democracy; how France gave us the Statute of Liberty (originally a woman of color escaping the bonds of slavery); how the French mostly embraced black soldiers during the liberation of Paris in WWII; how they revered Josephine Baker, and how they gave a home to James Baldwin and so many other black American ex-patriots at the height of the days of legal segregation.
Many of us, including myself, have been to Paris as tourists. I had a great time. Some of us live there part time- or at least, we live there in our souls- per our Facebook postings.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; first and foremost, black Americans are Americans, and nowhere is that more evident than when we travel abroad.
We think, act, and dress like Americans, and when we leave America, we take an American attitude- of raised expectations. One of my sons calls us Negroeuropeans.
But, what do we really know about France other than the marketed appeal of the City of Lights?
Some things are really rotten in France that reflects their history/treatment of former colonized folks. Have you not noticed that the terrorists in France are French citizens; from nations that were former French colonies, including Mali, Algeria, Djibouti, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, and Togo. There are a few others in Asia, namely Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Then, there is Haiti and French Guiana in the Caribbean.
Get the picture?
Black Americans have shed fewer tears for Kenya, Mali, Nairobi, and….fill in the blanks. To wit, only one of my Facebook friends has posted an African country’s flag on their profile. I love it!
Let me repeat myself. I do not condone violence. The uprisings on the continent of Africa by their home-grown terrorists who are killing innocent people there, beg for a deeper expression of sympathy- from us and everyone else.
Who is weeping for them? Who has posted the flags of Mali, Nigeria, et al on their Facebook?
Is it because Africa, and its history of colonization and subsequent rebellions against the Europeans has simply not seeped deeply into the black-American psyche?
With few exceptions, namely, the handful of free slaves who were sent back to Liberia, beginning in the late 1700s, or the followers of the back- to- Africa movement under Garvey in the 1920s, and the Black Power movement in the 60s-70-s, black Americans have not shown much interest in knowing more about the home continent; nor has it appealed to many black Americans to make any intellectual or economic investments in, let alone form emotional attachments, to the continent.
Besides, to which African country would you begin to pledge any allegiance? We don’t know where we’re from. Forget about DNA. We are all mixed race! The closest we get is the hyphenated middle country of origin, i.e. Bahamian-American, Jamaican-American; Haitian-American, and so on.
Yes, we can all be French!
Identify with Africa? It’ll never happen as long as we have visions of the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, and other beautiful and highly promoted attractions in the City of Lights dancing in our heads.
And we will continue to weep for Paris; so successfully marketed as the ultimate place for romance; where everyone celebrates a joie de vie with wine, bread and cheese, sealed with a kiss.
Look more closely.
Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org