“For once, I started working as a negro. I do not know if the Blacks have always worked so hard, but finally I had …”
These few words uttered last Friday by Jean-Paul Guerlain on the set of “13h de France 2” incited much disbelief and anger in France. Words that all would be considered racism towards the African-Carribean community.
This speech failed to make front page news in France and was even less widespread throughout the rest of the world’s press. This was to be expected as no allegations or major political voice has reacted except Christine Lagarde. A staggering silence.
This leads one to question whether the French politicians maintain a double standard. Facing the silence of the journalist and presenter Elise Lucet alongside the entire French political class, remarks such as these are not unwarranted.
Are apologies by email sufficient enough to wipe out all distress and anger felt by thousands of African-Carribean viewers? Is the term “slippage” strong enough to describe such explicit racist words? Does a laissez-faire policy apply to freedom of expression too?
This concern is shared by SOS Racisme and the CRAN (Representative Council of Black Associations), which decided to bring the case before the judicial system. Furthermore, they denounced the statement and classed it as a “stereotype full of colonial insinutations”. Christine Lagarde on the other hand found that “Guerlain’s words were pathetic.”
Once more, these words which I condemn, will as usual be written off.