On Internalised Racism

People always claim that everyone is a tad bit racist. I wonder how many experience internal racism?

A few weeks ago, I got into a semi argument with a professor and I realized that I may have racist attitudes towards people of my own race.

The argument started when the professor claimed that the French language will soon become an African language as there are more people who speak French on the African continent than France itself.

While we discussed the postcolonial repercussions of such analysis, I said, I would prefer if French remained a European language rather than have Africa claim it as one of its own.

The conversation then moved into a peculiar direction, when the professor claimed, that African francophones will take over Paris in the not so distant future and I replied by saying that if that ever happens I will avoid Paris.

The professor said why would I say such things since I am of African origins and that makes me kind of makes me racist if not xenophobic.

The reason why I replied with my answer is that, I had a very unpleasant experience in Paris dealing with African immigrants who I assumed were undocumented as they fled when the Paris police arrived.

I was harassed, almost molested, teased, taunted upon in the Paris Metro, near the Eiffel Tower and on the RER trains. The experience was so bad that it tainted the image of Paris for me.

The same thing happened (albeit on a smaller scale) when I was in Milan and Sardinia last summer. I get that not all [African] immigrants behave that like the ones I encountered in Paris but my experience was awful. So when the professor said African immigrants were going to take over Paris, I immediately thought of my awful Parisian experience multiplied times ten.

This incident reminds me of when I was learning to ride a bicycle as a kid and I fell and broke both of my arms. Since then I have adamantly refused to learn how to ride a bicycle. I only cycle at the gym but I still dislike bicycles.

I began to question if this experience made me have some kind of internalized racist sentiment towards certain African immigrants. It is not as if I am better than them in any way so why I do I feel the need to distance myself from them and see them in a negative light?

Honestly, I don’t know. I refuse to believe that I have been socialized to see certain African immigrants in a bad light.

Most of my “black” friends in college came from the African continent. But then again they were all posh and very wealthy/upper class…

So what if African immigrants take over Paris, am I scared its going to ruin the distinctly European/French aura of Paris?

Perhaps I’m more of a “classist” than a racist.

I don’t know…


2 thoughts on “On Internalised Racism

  1. I understand the angle you’re approaching from … its really not the question of colour but rather the challenge to one’s exterior identity, and class. It’s the ‘dislikeness’ to anything that may jeopardise the reality of Paris or of France being denaturised by such ‘malaise’.

    Being educated in Paris and having lived for quite some time have had me more ingrained too, but this is the outcome, or rather result to colonisation. And its a profound quandary. It’s not ‘their’ fault, it’s the societal conditioning that have made us who we are if we haven’t truly awakened into the reality of the state, of mind needed to become totally immersed into the savoir-vivre et faire.

    Internalising the issue would have us realise that there’s no such thing as ‘identity’, afterall Paris will always be Paris irrespective the dress she wears. It’s what we have become, that needs questioning and working upon. To preserve the innocence of Paris, is to start working on our own noblesse. Understand that nobility comes with humility.

    • Je vous remercie pour l’excellente réponse. Il est très apprécié.

      You really hit the mark with your comment. I realised that my sheltered upbringing has given a warped view of savoir-vivre. I still need to work on rethinking the European/western ideas of “[high] culture” and metropolis. I’ve been reading a lot of post colonial theories so that should begin to break the chains of some of my westernised view of the world.

      And you are definitely right that Paris will always be Paris no matter what clothes she wears.

      Who knows, the next great city will be situated on the African continent.

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