Present and Futures of Afro Activism in France

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Article published in The Funambulist 20 (November-December 2018) Settler Colonialism in Turtle Island. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

In France, racism structures all social relationships between white people and people of color. Unequally shared and distributed resources are operative in all aspects of employment, housing, health, recreation, and representation both in politics and the media. The population of Black people in France is higher than any other country in Europe. These communities are primarily comprised of people from West Africa and the so-called “outre mer” (overseas), which includes Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyane, La Réunion and, more recently, Mayotte. Political activity in Black communities, which I call “Afro,” has a long history in France’s hexagonal territory as well as in its (neo) colonies. However, before diving into a specific discussion of forms of Afro activism, it is important to make a distinction between a purported anti-racism that, in actuality, defends the interests of white supremacy, and an anti-racism that defends the interests of people of color. The stakes of this opposition are far from pitting “a white people anti-racism” against “a people of color anti-racism,” it is one that is multi-dimensional and must account for factors such as the relationships to state and market (whether they are considered partners or enemies), the composition of those who run things within the group (white people or people of color), and the specific form of racism being described (individual or systemic). These two different forms of anti-racism have significant differences in means, power, and (il)legitimacy. Afro militancy is relegated to the camp of illegitimacy along with movements against Islamophobia and anti-Roma racism, where speaking out is mocked, initiatives are demonized, and actions are met with repression.