MP’s comment against a Black colleague and the rising number of racist attacks are indicators that the country is now in the grip of the extreme right wing.

A French parliament session was thrown into “turmoil” after a far-right MP’s off-microphone comment apparently directed at a Black colleague – “back to Africa!” – during a debate on immigration. It is still unclear whether the MP was speaking pointedly about his Black colleague or whether it was a broader outburst aimed at all Africans.

But what is clear is that France and the French have become a very problematic nation, besieged with insecurities and identity foibles which often manifest in racist upsurges. 

Imagine how Parliament member Carlos Martens Bilongo of the leftist France Unbowed party must have felt by the slur. His parents grew up in Africa looking up to the French as a super race of sorts – powerful, influential, and worthy of grand reverence on the continent. Perhaps even a truly great modern European democracy which, for many Francophone Africans like Bilongo and his generation, must have seemed almost like a dream nation.

But Bilongo’s dreams must have ended on this day when he saw the Republic for what it is: inherently racist on all levels, which despite the pretences, can’t really hide its loathing of Africans.

Even the French group SOS Racisme called it “the true face of the far-right: that of racism”. The group’s president, Dominique Sopo, said no matter what Gregoire de Fournas said exactly, “obviously, they are extremely violent comments”.

Bilongo has received a great deal of support from people who are embarrassed by the racist assault.

“I’m torn between joy and sadness,” Bilongo said. “Because I received many messages of support overnight ... because I see all these faces here showing solidarity with me.”

The question remains, though: How many of those messages represent the country itself?

One only has to look at the subject which sparked the outburst in the first place to see whether the suspension the deputy received and the kind words offered to Bilongo really cut it. 

The Black MP, who was born in France, was questioning the government over a rescue boat carrying hundreds of passengers stranded on the Mediterranean Sea as it has not been given permission to dock yet. 

Charities have appealed to the government to take them in or help find a solution, according to reports. 

But was all the uproar against the racist comment genuine, or was the slur really part of a trend from indigenous French people who struggle to come to terms with France no longer being a colonial power and currently facing social and economic upheaval? The cliches about the French being racist seem to stand up in Africa, the continent, and indeed against African males in France itself. There is really no racism like French racism.

A cursory glance at the statistics in France itself backs this up. A study last year found that nearly 12,500 racist crimes were registered by the police and the gendarmerie. Of these, 6,300 offences were found to be in the high- or medium-level crime category. The total number of incidents jumped 16 percent compared to 2020. France has quite a problem with its own identity and place in the world. 

And this racism is growing, fuelled by growing numbers of French who have lost confidence in the political system and have turned to the far-right and anti-immigration Marin Le Pen’s party to 'Make France Great Again'. 

And Macron has felt the pulse of the masses and himself shifted towards the far-right ground to keep voters happy, which has not only manifested itself in blocking all Moroccans from entering the Republic but also dehumanising the migrants waiting at the Calais jungle to make their way to the UK. 

The French, famously, harbour a gross inferiority complex which many misinterpret for a superior one. This is evident in how the country dehumanises the African race and has a chilling reputation for its “barbarism” on the continent. 

While the Belgians can dismiss their hand-chopping in the Congo as the work of a deranged Leopold II, the French really don’t have any excuses for Algeria, where freedom fighters were decapitated and their heads taken back to France as trophies. 

Recently, these skulls were returned to Algeria from a museum but it says so much about the French elite that no apology was issued that went with the gesture. 

“In the end, the story raised more questions than it answered and revealed a past, as one Algerian historian noted, “which spoke volumes about colonial barbarism,” commented James Zogby of the Arab American Institute, who is sickened by how the French “continue to parade themselves as the world’s bearers of civilisation, culture, and values while caricaturing the peoples of the East or the South as lesser species”.

And yet this reality, even if it once rang true, is hardly the case these days as former colonies in Africa are breaking away from the clutches of the Elysee. The dream that Bilonga may have had, or certainly his parents who came to France with grand hopes of living it in Paris, has been replaced with a morally bereft nation, red in tooth and claw towards those who remind it of its former prowess. 

Indeed, it was Mark Twain who once wrote of the Republic, “France has neither summer nor winter, nor morals – apart from these drawbacks, it’s a fine country”.

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Source: TRT World