Faced with a panel of mostly African-American students, the minister, visiting the United States on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, resumed his academic clothes, describing the differences between France and the United States. United in the fight against racism.
“The French state is officially indifferent to skin color“, recalled this historian, specialist in American minorities, who himself has a Senegalese father and a French mother.
“It’s a nice idea, of course (…) but reality requires a more concrete approach“, he continued, noting, in fluent English, that “inequalities, discrimination and different forms of racism exist in France“.
To tackle it”effectively“in the world of education, it is necessary”identify the poorest neighborhoods and invest more in their schools“, he estimated.
This answer”clearly emphasizes social inequalities” because “the concept of race remains very sensitive in France“, he noted, in the face of students accustomed to policies targeted on the basis of ethnic statistics.
An unthinkable practice in France, where “far-right organizations are powerful right now“and where he is, according to him,”difficult to address ethno-racial issues in a nuanced way“.
“I can attest to the price to pay when we dare to talk about it“, continued the minister, who was accused by the National Rally of being “a racialist activist“.
But, he assured,this will not prevent us from actively working to develop a more inclusive culture in our schools, so that no one feels excluded because of their gender or their skin color“.
The day before, in New York, he had gone to the very exclusive French private high school in Manhattan and to a bilingual French-English school in Harlem, where African-American and West African minorities live.
He who studied at a university in Virginia had confided to being “sometimes considered too American in France, a little too +woke+“, and had denounced “the traces of anti-Americanism often quite evidentin French political discourse.
His predecessor Jean-Michel Blanquer was also a detractor of “wokism“, a term used on the right to denounce an alleged complacency of the left towards the demands of minorities.