The emerge of the black French - ‘Noirs’

Saying you're Black British, Zwart or Afro-Deutsch is a very normal thing to say when you are not French. But not until recently saying ‘Noirs’ or ‘Blacks’ in France was asking for trouble.

Recently black people in France saw that they lived in a condition were the mantra of equality, one of the founding principles of the Republic, didn’t work for them. The black French historian Pap Ndiaye wrote a book about the problem, and titled it ‘La condition noire’, The black Condition.

Ndiaye explains in an interview (see video) what that condition means. “The black condition in France is a way to feel French, while being considered as not French. If you are black, most people in Paris ask you all the time, where do you come from. As a way to tell you, you must be from somewhere else. You must be not French.”

Pap Ndiaye, French historian and Associate Professor at the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales in Paris, drew wide attention in the current debate over diversity and representation in France with his book ‘La condition noire: essai sur une minorité française’ ,The Black Condition. An essay of a French minority. Ndiaye (1965), has a Senegalese father and a ‘French’ mother.

Pap Ndiaye is a member of Le Capdiv, Le Cercle d'Action pour la Promotion de la Diversité en France (The Circle of Action for the Promotion of Diversity in France).

Black Worlds University
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This intro explains the French background.

Racial and ethnic categories were until recently officially taboo in France, though in camouflaged forms they circulated widely in media and political discourse on the "integration" of immigrant minorities. In recent years, men and women of color have begun mobilizing as "Noirs" (Blacks) in ways that are hitherto unprecedented in France. Pap Ndiaye argues that the official invisibility of French Blacks, rather than being the logical and peaceful consequence of their integration into French society, can be analyzed as a consequence of discriminatory processes.

On an academic level, the situation is rather similar. In France, there are more books and articles published on African-Americans than on African-French or Carribean-French peoples. Indeed, African-American history is a well-established field in France. By contrast, studies on African immigrants, African students, Guadeloupean civil servants, etc, are scarce, and there is practically nothing on "French Blacks", as if this figuration had no legitimacy or meaning to describe past and contemporary social situations.

The situation is slowly changing, as more and more French acknowledge the existence of a sizable Black minority with specific problems and needs. Professor Ndiaye studies the reasons why this history has been so neglected, emphasizing ideological, political and academic reasons. He also discusses the legitimacy of the notion of "French Blacks" and analyzes the recent rise of Black organizations in France.

A video on what is it like to be black in France by British filmmaker Cecile Emeka - Update 2015