Friday, May 18, 2012

France appoints three blacks as cabinet Ministers! But it didn't come easy

From left to right: Christiane Taubira, George Pau-Langevin, Victorin Lurel
Three black cabinet members are appointed in the new French Government. With their appointment France is now the frontrunner of political diversity in Europe.

The line-up. Christiane Taubira, from French Guiana, is the new Minister of Justice. George Pau-Langevin from Guadeloupe, a member of Parliament representing Paris, is named junior Minister for Educational success. And Victorin Lurel, also from Guadeloupe, is the new Minister in charge of overseas departments. He succeeds Marie-Luce Penchard, who was also from Guadeloupe.

Although Taubira is not the first black Minister in France, with her appointment as Minister of Justice she can be seen as being the first black person in France to hold such an important cabinet position. Responding to the question that this cabinet has a lot of diversity, Taubira replied that it also includes the diversity of political, professional and social experiences.

Taubira, who is on the left of the Socialist Party, served as a deputy at the French National Assembly since 1993. She is also the author of a law, now called "Loi Taubira,” voted by the French Assembly in 2001, which recognizes the slave trade and slavery as crimes against humanity.

France has made a giant step forward, but the road wasn’t easy. After the ethnic urban riots in 2005 and the violent strikes on the island of Guadeloupe in 2009 it became clear the country lacked diversity in every major institution. To ease the tension, the first black Minister Rama Yade was appointed in 2007. Yade, originally from Senegal, became a junior Minister in the Zarkosy government. In the same year there was a little uproar when black news anchor Harry Roselmack read the news on of France's largest television networks. His appearance was a result of ‘diversity’ talks between the networks and the government. And after the riots in Guadeloupe in 2009 the French Prime Minister quickly installed the first black Minister of the overseas departments, Marie-Luce Penchard, in an attempt to deescalate the conflict.

The biggest difference between the two previous Ministers is that new appointed Ministers are seasoned and well known politicians. With three black cabinet Ministers the French national motto liberté, égalité, fraternité is now enriched with the word that has been shouted in streets of Paris since 2005, 'diversité'. Viva la France!

List of Black Cabinet members in Europe

1902-1905 : Abraham George Ellis (The Netherlands) - from Suriname, Minister of Navy.
2001 – 2002 : Paul Boateng (UK) - from the UK, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
2002 : Philomena Bijlhout (The Netherlands) - from Suriname, under Secretary of Emancipation (2 hours).
2003 : Baroness Valerie Amos (UK) - from Guyana, Secretary of State for International Development
2006 to 2010 : Nyamko Sabuni (Norway) - from Congo, Minister for Integration and Gender Equality.
2007 : Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen (Sweden) - from Martinique, Minister for Children and Equality (only 4 months).
2007 - 2010 : Rama Yade (France) - from Senegal, started as Secretary of State for Human Rights.
2009 - 2012 : Marie-Luce Penchard (France) - from Guadeloupe, Secretary of State for Overseas Territories.
2012 - : Christiane Taubira (France) - from French Guiana, Minister of Justice.
2012 - : George Pau-Langevin (France) - from Guadeloupe, junior Minister for Educational success.
2012 - : Victorin Lurel (France) - from Guadeloupe, Minister of overseas departments.
2012 - : Helen Grant (UK) - From the UK, under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice and for women’s and equality issues.

Check the entire and correct list of Black Cabinet members in Europe here.

18 comments:

  1. This is very uplifting news! I've noticed that with the election of socialist presidents, as in this case of Francois Hollande, and in the cases of Evo Morales of Bolivia, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Lula da Silva of Brazil, Blacks, who had been literally "invisible", no matter how small or large their demographic numbers, have become "visible" and regarded as full citizens of their respective countries.

    The trend seems to be: Conservative, right-wing presidents and prime ministers will "forget" and ignore that Blacks even exist in their countries, but so-called leftist leaders will bring Blacks out of social obscurity.

    I hope this is a sign of a New France that values all of its diverse citizens! (By the way, 93% of all Muslim voters voted for recently-elected socialist president Francois Hollande.....I hope he keeps his promises to them and all the people of color).

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    1. John, I hope you are right but remember the Nicolas Sarkozy government there were minorities and women as well but more importantly in non-traditional positions. Non-traditional? Not the minister of Sports! Still in France going on 30 years and I am tired of being only considered a basketball player or jazz man for the French because I am Black American. But the flip side is when stopped by the police (French version of profiling) initially no respect (Tutoiement) but after they see my papers I gain respect (Vouvoiement) is this a step closer to equality? Of course those 93% of Muslims who voted for Hollande do not think that that respect has reached them and that is where it should start. Being respected by those who are paid to protect you!

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  2. John, I also hope he keeps his promise. I can understand that 93% of all Muslim voters voted for him. And the end, as you may know, Sarkozy made anti-immigrant statements to please Le Pen voters.

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  3. there has been in united kingdom on tony blair government government attorney general for england and wales and a few ambassadors. i do not know any ambassador representing france that are blacks

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    1. Yes, but the Attorney General for England and Wales is not a member of the cabinet. And I don't know of any black French ambassadors either, but that's because I have don't have any knowledge of the French diplomatic service.

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  4. This is not the first time. The Sarkozy government had appointed several Blacks in non-traditional posts. By non-traditional I mean that traditional post minister of sports and of course the world knows have fast we can run and shoot a basketball. Living in France going on 30 years and have written yet to be published book on living here, I have lived through the first socialist government: François Mitterrand no women and of course no minorities.
    Let's get back to the basics. I think that there maybe only a handful of local mayors in this country. If the locals do not have faith in minorities then how can the national government.

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  5. Yes there was a little uproar when Black news anchor Harry Roselmack read the news one of France's largest television networks. But lets get it straight. He was the summer replacement for Patrick Poivre d'Arvor the N°1 French TV news journalist. But when Patrick Poivre d'Arvor left his position why wasn't he replaced by Harry Roselmack? Instead he was replaced by a cute blond Laurence Ferrari. Harry and her shared another news broadcast on another channel. France still is.......

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    1. Rainmain: Hurry up and get that book published! It's past time that we get a "new and updated" version of what it's like to be Black in France. All we've got on this side of the Pond are old Josephine Baker or Chester Himes biographies. France has changed significantly from their Black (specifically, African-American) expatriate days in the mid 20th century.
      Merci!

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  6. Well, here in the UK, we have black people in high profile roles but these days, racism is an issue we are concerned about but ensuring that all UK citizens have equal access to resources irrespective of race, color or nationality. I notice lots of French Arabs and blacks in the UK lately and they have complained that it is difficult to progress if you are black, arab or mixed race

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  7. That story about France having its first Black member of gvt is just ludicrous. From Blaise Diagne, during the First World War, to Félix Houphouët-Boigny, a member of the Franch Cabinet in the 1950s and also a member of the consultative constitutional council that drafted the 1958 5th Republic Constitution along with Michel Debré and others, to Lucette Michaux-Chevry, the former president of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, a two-time member of the French governement under Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, the writer of this article is an ignorant. Not to mention the presidency of the French Senate by the late Gaston Monnerville, for 22 years, starting from 1946. The president of the Senate in France is the second highest ranking official in the Republic.

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    1. Anonymous, thanks for your contribution. But I think you have read this posting to fast, I never wrote that these were the first black French cabinet ministers.

      You are right about Félix Houphouët-Boigny, but not about the three other you mentioned.

      Blaise Diagne was a member of the French Chamber of Deputies, this is not the cabinet member position.

      Lucette Michaux-Chevry was never a cabinet member, but an advisor. Her daughter was the former minister (and cabinet member) of the overseas territories,

      Gaston Monnerville, yes, but since when is the president of the Senate of France a member of the cabinet? But he was Undersecretary of State for the Colonies, and that's a cabinet member position.

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    2. I am a Black Frenchman and I know the history of my country. You obviously do not know what you are talking about.

      Blaise Diagne was a member of the French Governement from January 1931 until February 1932. He served as Sous-secrétaire d'Etat aux Colonies (Under- or Junior Secretary to the Colonies).

      Lucette Michaux-Chevry "was never a cabinet member" ? Rubbish. She served as Secretary of State under the Prime Minister in charge of Francophony from March 1986 until May 1988. She later became Delegate Minister for Humanitarian Action and Human Rights from March 1993 till May 1995.

      I never wrote Monnerville was a cabinet minister. My point was to stress that a Black man has already been the second highest-ranking official in French history, way before President Barack Obama was elected leader of the USA.

      Today Madame Christiane Taubira, from French Guyana, is the Justice Minister of France.

      I am sure you know very little about French Black history that goes back centuries.

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    3. Anonymous, it's always good to have a debate. And I am sure I make mistakes, but it helps if you don't use words as ludicrous, rubbish and ignorant in a debate. It keeps the debate more open and people will be open to learn from you. I will look into the examples and add them to the list. Thanks for the contribution.

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    4. Okay

      I am sorry

      I did not want to harm you. I am passionate, that's all.

      We are all fighting for the same thing and I do congratulate you for this very interesting blog.

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    5. Not a problem, it's always good to have passionate people commenting on this blog!

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  8. I mean Gaston Monnerville was a black man from French Guyana, with Martiniquan origins.

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  9. Also Kofi Yamgnane, Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Integration (1991-1993)

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