By Hama Tuma
By Hama Tuma
Ever since he was elected to power, French president Sarkozy has not disappointed those who were itching to ridicule and chastise him. A small man with a sharp tongue that has, alas, seceded a longtime ago from his big ears and common sense (if any), Sarkozy, of Hungarian descent, has proved from the outset that he would be more condescending and insulting towards Africans than his predecessor Chirac . Jacques Chirac was liked by many people but he was the very person who condemned Africans in France for their noise and smell and refused to apologize to former French colonies who suffered French brutalities and massacres or to properly acknowledge the role of African soldiers who fought for France in the world wars.
Sarkozy did start out by blatantly and boldly telling Africans that they have yet to enter the present century and he was not referring to the calendar of Moslems or Ethiopians which are not the same with his. He was telling Africans that they are actually retrograde, not yet civilized, and savage if you will. There was some hue and cry but this did not deter Sarkozy from sticking to his belief and befriending the dictators at the same time. Now, a French president who acts and talks like all French presidents of the past is not a problem for us Africans–we know how to deal with the creature after so many years of sad experience. We do not expect much and thus we are not really very disappointed when a president comes after another and the same racist and oppressive policy continues albeit with a different name. No African émigré or sans papier is really shocked when Air France planes routinely transport the deported ones back to Africa. The important thing is not to be caught without papers and not to expect France to really be the land for asylum seekers as the officials never cease to remind us. Liberté, Fraternité, Egalite, France terre d’asile and other such nonsense. What has now shocked us Africans in France is that Sarkozy has practically swept the rug from under our black and jigger–mutilated, coarse feet and blamed the Roma (otherwise known as gypsies) for all the ills and malaise of France.
Africans have lost again. What do we have but our notoriety as the problem children wrecking the peace and order, the conscience of the world? We are the famine children, the war mongers, the lands of warlords, symbolized by the killers in downtown Mogadishu, the rapists in the Congo, the mutilators of the LRA, the ones who perish en masse trying to invade Europe, the impoverished refugees, the ones who steal the menial and dirty jobs from the Europeans who would never be caught doing them , the criminals and dope dealers, the con men and swindlers, and more. Back in History, we were the nightmare of the white maidens and spinsters, the black Mandingo hordes, cruel and barbarian, the ones even those claiming to be enlightened, from the ancient philosophers to Voltaire and even Marx the “Moor”, considered alien to enlightenment and education. Of such notoriety we thrived, playing on the troubled conscience of the liberals and those desperately trying to suppress their racism by doing something good for us “boys”. Refer to those who rush to help famine victims in Ethiopia while spending much of their tax payers’ money bankrolling tyrants whose regimes cause the famines in the first place. Sierra Leone, Eastern Congo, Darfur, and more–who fanned the wars and why? Their slave trade, colonialism and imperialism, their unbridled exploitation of our resources, their cruel plunder assured and worsened our poverty, made us destitute, turned us into beggars, turned them into our unwanted benefactors and the circus continued. Much as we hate to admit it, we Africans benefitted from the situation, we were a permanent prick on their shriveled conscience, and, as they insist on telling us alleged lazybones, it seems it has been easy to wait for the dole rather than work. We even got bona fide guardians and defenders from the same West, men and women who told us they knew better what was good for us and vowed to campaign to have our debts cancelled no matter the question of ongoing agricultural subsidies and the continuing robbery of our resources. No matter if the greed for these resources, from oil to Coltan fuelled, the so called “tribal and militia wars” ravaging the continent. Some praised the malaria mosquitoes for reducing our number while others promised and did send us nets for protection. What do they really want?
Reduced to a state of “the scum of the earth” most repressed Africans got some solace and salvaged some pride from the fact that they were notorious as problem children of the world and that they were blamed for most of Europe’s ills and mostly incarcerated in camps, reduced to doing degrading menial work, subjected to racism and also deported. Of course, the Arabs had started to threaten this particular position and notoriety of the African but ask an European and he would tell you that the African émigré is lazy and present in Europe only to rob the riches of the hardworking white people, to engage in swindling of the social security system, to benefit from the medical care, to marry the innocent white (but preferably blonde) maidens. Many polls in Europe have confirmed this prejudice to be that of many if not the majority. That Sarkozy has from the outset exhibited his racism to Africans was also a solace and this is why his sudden diatribe against the Roma and his racist actions caught all Africans by surprise. Sarko did not consult or warn Africans before he took away their status as the main targets of his racist wrath and replaced them with the Roma ( who are not even that many in France!) whom he accused as a people (“they are….”) of being criminals, exploiters of children, drug traffickers, prostitutes and thieves, illegals. The accusation made no distinction between those living legally and without resorting to crimes and those who were not. It covered the whole people from child to eighty years old and the accusation brought to mind the same kind of stereotype used against the Roma by the Nazis (who murdered no less than 1.5 million Romas and dumped them into anonymous mass graves). The Africans carry their crime on their face–they are black and easily identifiable for the prejudice package, forever victims of the prima facie. The Romas had also the misfortune of looking somewhat different, having their own lifestyle and tradition and the tendency to be present day nomads (gypsies in trailers and whites in trailers are not the same as a Bedouin in a tent and Gadafi in a tent are not the same at all). Still, the Romas are not blacks notwithstanding the assertion that they did originate from Egypt which (sorry, Mubarek) is really black and Nubian (and not Arab) as many do insist.
Sarkozy has shamed republican France by this crude racism against Romas but he has hurt Africans the most by relegating them to a position of non importance. Compared to the fate of the Romas that of the sans papiers pales. The Romas are hogging the front page, eliciting not only condemnation ( which is not always bad so long as you are NEWS) but also sympathy all over the world and exposing Sarkozy and those French people (60% according to one poll) who backed his racist measures. Sarko’s popularity has increased a little bit and he has stolen the thunder of the vociferous and fascistic right wing but, care he may not, he has lost his salt amidst Africans. As for racial stereotyping and deporting people en masse, African tyrants wrote the book on it and are not that impressed by Sarkozy. In Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi had deported thousands of Eritreans and claimed he did not like the color of their eyes”( no, the tyrant in Addis Abeba does not have blue or green eyes!). African émigrés have also stopped being surprised by the racist stereotyping that has been their lot in Europe as they clean sewages and toilets, sweep the streets, take the pampered dogs for walks , labor as nannies, coolies, etc. Horrible as their condition was and still is, they had some pride in the masochistic realization that they were the main specters haunting fortress Europe. No more though, unless our marabous, juju and voodoo men come to the rescue. As for the Romas, they should stop complaining and enjoy their condition as they are now in the eye of the world and they, as deported Africans, can always come back with the help of the corrupted police, immigration officials and human traffickers of white European origin. To elaborate on this would not be proper but Romas should be happy that they have a position much more important than the perennial victims, the Africans. They have beaten the recession and so many other serious problems to become the main and foremost problems of France. What more can they ask after taking away this exalted position from Africans?