Sunday, 15 May 2011

What makes a beautiful city aka... are the 'French' Racists?

The reason I ask this is not only because of recent incidents that have been reported in the news - but also because of a conversation I had with a friend ( who is French ) who - after telling me how terribly racist French people are towards black people – Paris being the worst offender – then ended her point by saying what a beautiful city it was!.
I felt the need to disagree with her in that in my opinion any city which is as racist as that could never be described as a beautiful city… in fact... quite the opposite.
It made me think though about what really does constitute a beautiful city. Is it the architecture? is it the people?...what? I tend to lean towards the view that people are what make places great – however – people can also make places very ugly –look at the Middle East.

If we say it’s people who make a city beautiful – and we accept that attitudes among the majority of the French are extremely racist then what does that say exactly... and why then do we still 'oo la la' about France?

Personally I’ve felt the ‘*French’ are racist ever since I was about nine…ish. I went to France as part of a student exchange trip and it was awful... The best part of the trip was the first morning after arrival where I woke up opened the shutters and was welcomed by the most wonderful sounds of nature. That was idyllic. Nothing else was! I couldn't have a bath as it was packed with junk so I had to use the sink – there was no alternative – I was given the worst tasting pizza I’ve ever had in my life which I’m sure was topped with **snails ( the best I’ve ever tasted was in Italy!!) and when they took me out 'sightseeing'...it was at night! and... we never left the car! not-once. Need I say more?
Sure some places look stunning at night - like London for example - but let's be real.. that's not why they did it!

Did I say it was an exchange trip – oh well forget that. The parents decided their son would not be taking part - the most plausible reason as far as I was concerned (even at nine) was that they didn’t want him to stay with a black family. 30 odd years later my view on that hasn’t changed. Good luck to them.

We did have another student come to stay though. So clearly there are some French people who are not racist. A really fun boy called Lawrence. Or' La-ron' as we called him. My parents treated him as they would their own child (minus the 'licks'!!) i'm kidding!.. there were no 'licks'... he was treated extremely well – and he had a great time...we even took him around London... in the day! Wished he could stay - but alas he had to leave..

Now - the way the ‘French’ are treating black people in France is appalling. Immigrants... and tourists alike apparently...I’ve not been for a while – but I have no reason to doubt the firsthand accounts I’ve been given... I also can’t understand why so many... especially our Black Caribbean elders seem to think a shopping trip to the port of Calais is going to France!! I asked my mum once ...why??– ' Oh well I like certain things!!'... I wanted to say 'try change your taste!! – either you see France or save yourself the hasstle and go Tesco’s - but that’s another story!)
The city of love and romance??... really.. well..maybe for some

In short I think it’s time we redefined what constitutes a beautiful city. If it’s the people - then can Paris really still be honored with that title?

*there are always exceptions
**they could have bloody asked first;-)!!
humph..don't put that shite on my plate I'm from London!!! :-)


  1. on a trip to Paris years ago I got abused by a fruit seller (didn't have the right change). didn't understand a word of it but my companion was incensed and really let the guy have it. wouldn't repeat what was said for the fear I would really kill him. Later explained it was racist and how there was a casual habit of it that would get you arrested in England. The french police? won't ever start on that one. how does one feel when one gets asked to show one's passport twice in one day? Also experienced the same in Rome while working out there

    beautiful cities? indeed, but with a cup of black sea rock salt. pass

  2. Chrome..I never quite forget experiences like that! I think a united Europe can potentially be cause for concern for anybody who isn't European. Despite the fact that I was born in London most wouldn't consider me European I suspect - which means that what for many - the thing that qualifies someone as European is based purely on skin colour. (In Europe)
    It's for more forward thinking cities to really lead the way and for certain behaviours to be squeezed out of existance.

    Carribean islands tend not to operate in that way. In the Carribean for exampe you'll have a variety of 'nationailities tell you straight - i'm Jamaican - or...I'm Monserration (accent an' all) despite the fact they clearly look chinese!

  3. Hi,

    As a fan of your music (and i think we don't get to hear new sounds that often, which is sad !), i bumped into your blog by chance and found this post - which i found full of clichés and over-generalisations, based on things that happened to you. I have been hassled and insulted in the West Indies because of the colour of my skin (yes, i'm white !)and that's not why i'd call all black people "racists".
    All in all, Paris is a very tense city where aggressiveness is well visible and exerted by people of all colours. It is also a place where, regardless of your colour, tourists aren't always well treated (but one thing must be known is that people don't like being addressed to immediately in english by people who assume that everyone in the world speaks that language !)
    Unlike what you think, france is a very motley country, where there are a lot of mixed couples, and where you are rather more likely to see kids hanging around together, regardless of their origins (it's getting less so in the Paris area, though, as ignorance grows and grows). The same way, i've been to quite a few areas in london where you only see groups of strictly black youths hanging together, some being really unpleasant to the passersby. If i adopted the same point of view as yours, well, i'm afraid i could also say that the black londoners are racist, an opinion that i would never utter !
    Besides, Paris isn't france, the same way London isn't england, they're just big metropolises where people pile up, get alienated, suffer and feed their bile against each other : where you have too many humans in the same spot, humanity loses its value.
    PS : if i had stuck to some impressions i experienced firsthand in england, just like being punched in the face in a pub by grownups when i was a teenager - just for being french, or people flinging stones at me and my german mate (the frog and the "nazi", in their own words !), you can be sure that i wouldn't have bothered to write you back in english !

  4. Hi Rey, ..well I'm glad you did! it's always great to get another point of view..

    I would say though that these 'over generalisations' were not based soley on things that have happended to me..in fact the post was born out of a conversation with a few french acquaintances( black) who I'll just stress... speak french.. fluently..lived in France and therefore should know better than I. Still.. who feels it knows it I guess. My 'cliches' aside do you not think there is a low tolereance towards black people and other ethnic minorities in France? In your opinion, is it a myth?

    I would also like to point out that when asking 'Are the French racists?' I did state that there are always exceptions.. of course there will be.. like with most things.. but would it be right to dimiss the experiences of enough people to warrant the question being asked?.

    I think that in order to make a change one would need to recognise a change needs to be made, and at times, that may require the asking of questions that others may find uncomfortable

    What's important I believe is the dialogue that ensues as a result, the conversation..the growth the understanding, the greater awareness that may enhance, hopefully all parties involved

    You say that tourists whatever thier colour aren't always well treated.. I'll take your word for it... I know where I've heard complaints and where I haven't..

    I would be a hypocrite If I said there weren't problems here in London/England.. there are, and I talk about them..

    I will consider your points as they are worth considering.. look forward to hearing you views on other matters.

    PS.. you still a fan of my music?!? ;-)lol