Racist caricature highlights ugly truth about French media


Current values, a far-right magazine, has drawn criticism from across the French political spectrum for a caricature depicting Danièle Obono, a black member of the National Assembly, as a chained slave. The racist cartoon accompanied a fictional story in which Obono finds himself sold into slavery by Africans in 18e-th century Chad. An investigation has been opened by the courts.

The story of the magazine and the accompanying cartoon are doubly racist. First of all, it’s no coincidence that Gabon-born Obono was cast as the protagonist of the fictional narrative: she is one of around 25 black MPs. The MP has become a figure of hatred for the far right due to her perceived proximity to groups such as the Party of Indigenous Peoples of the Republic, which advocates decolonial politics – a taboo in French public discourse.

Second, the story fits into a long pattern of whites, both Old World and New, deliberately playing the role of Africans in the slave trade in order to exonerate Europeans of their guilt. The Current values The story was titled: “In which the member of the France Unbowed party feels for herself the responsibilities of Africans in the horrors of the slave trade.”

“When right-wing writers attempt to sidetrack this discussion of the so-called ‘African’ responsibility for the slave trade, they are simply shirking their own responsibility by perpetuating very old stereotypes about African people and upholding racism and white supremacy. alive, ”Ana Lucia Araujo, a historian of slavery, told the New statesman.

African traders played a crucial and long misunderstood role in the slave trade, capturing and handing over slaves to white Europeans. The 1977 TV Show Roots first showed many Americans how African slavers contributed to the slave trade, selling the protagonist, Kunta Kinte, to the British. Mathieu Kérékou, a former president of Benin, who as the kingdom of Dahomey sold hundreds of thousands of Africans into slavery, apologized in 1999 to African Americans for his country’s role in the “abominable” »Slave trade.

But the Current values story, written by a pseudonymous author, was not meant to educate but to harass. It’s a bizarre work of political fanfiction, using the past as a fig leaf to comment on the present. The subtext of the story is that Obono’s anti-racist activism distorts the real dynamics of the slave trade, suggesting that his views on contemporary politics are wrong as a result. In a pseudo-excuse published by the magazine, its editorial staff specifies that the purpose of the report is to fight against the “falsification of history” perpetuated by “decolonial militants and the dismantling of history”. The magazine explained that they chose Obono because of his supposed adherence to such flawed theories.

The symbolism of drawing a black MP as a slave – a trade in which France has played a pivotal role for hundreds of years – is undeniable. This is an extreme example of the racism prevalent in the French press, which frequently targets French people of Arab and black African descent. Current values has once appeared with covers calling a Muslim minister an “ayatollah” or deriding “anti-white racists” over a photo of Lilian Thuram, a black footballer who criticized white supremacy in French society.

Current values (to which President Emmanuel Macron gave a controversial interview last year, calling the magazine “very good”) is the most extreme newsstand publication, but even more respectable newspapers have published such inflammatory articles, such as the infamous 1991 Le Figaro cover bearing a likeness of the national symbol, Marianne, in a veil, asking: “Immigration or invasion?” Other magazines like The Express worry about “the West against Islam”.

“In France, women in politics are often attacked for doing their job – and this is even more the case for women politicians of color. Just because we are talking about this publication now does not mean that racism does not take place out of the spotlight, ”said Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, French MEP from the Green Party, at the New statesman. “The granting of an interview by President Macron to this magazine gave it more credibility and seemed to normalize their extreme ideas.”

The caricature’s condemnation touched the entire political spectrum, from Obono’s own France Unbowed party to the National Rally of Marine Le Pen. Will this incident lead one to estimate for a long time to what extent the general pretext of secularism can be used as a thinly veiled blanket for the lowest instincts remains to be seen.


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