March 21th 2015, International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The Frantz Fanon Foundation was invited to speak in Malmo City during the annual conference, March 21th, 2015. The conference was organized by several actors, ONGs, the Malmo University, and Malmo Municipality.

Speech of Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France
Fondation Frantz Fanon

In fact, I would go back to the January events in France, they are the illustration of the permanence of a coloniality of power that maintains, de facto, people of African descent -I include all the people of the African continent and refuse, as many dominant use to do, to divide Africa in parts; this issue has to be denounced as also the assignment of each other to alleged communities-

We have seen in a few hours, France, its political and media representatives denounce to public vengeance of those who fight for real social justice and against the expression of all forms of racism, including anti-black, but also anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish.

We saw an unconditional « national unity », convened in an unanimous, emotional momentum that went through the streets and squares of many cities in France but also far beyond.

This Sunday, during the march, you had to be on the right « side » identified by media and those who govern us. Every other voice was impossible, any shade of fact prohibited; the only term of the media and political contract was that of uncritical adherence to the official storytelling.

The most incredible moment was when all elected people at the National Assembly welcomed the Prime Minister standing, singing in one voice la “Marseillaise”. This warrior anthem marked the rallying of a part of the legislative body in melting with the Executive for war. But which war? It is the question.

The reality and the dominant ideology have a hard life. The prime minister launched the French society in an imprecise war of good against evil, of against each other … this is reminiscent of the George W. Bush’s formula in the aftermath of September 9, 2001, « we are in war against terror.  »

We can only note that, for fourteen years, it is the Iraqi civilians, Afghan and more recently Syria, Libya and Mali; without forget Palestine… who pay the price of this war against terror. A war where friends of yesterday are today’s enemies in a strange bidding betrayals and stale pretexts.

But without a word of compassion, without any excuse when keystrokes (so very civilized as they are sent by democratic States) decimated an entire family gathered to celebrate a wedding.

Without a word to the 200,000 victims of the war ravaging Syria for three years.

Without regret for the destruction of Libya and the descent into hell of the Libyan people. The French population, in its turn, will pay the price of that eternal imperial war on the pretext of protecting the interests of happy-fews that deal with France « from below » – as they call it – in a condescending look?

This « dangerous » France, because of African origin or coming from migration or another religion that the media is hiding, is already excluded, and directly affected by budget cuts policies. One that is far away from city centers vested in luxury and banks by social, economic, cultural, educational and political exclusion policies. This France from below and from elsewhere is blamed when cars burn or young in spirit kindled by inaction, have, as only hope, to stay there, supporting the walls of their cities.

Lack of empathy, but certainly also a form of cynicism that we have been able to experience during the Israeli aggression in Lebanon in 2006 or in the Gaza Strip in 2009, in 2012 and again in 2014.

Cynicism built on Western arrogance that continues to proclaim everywhere that under its culture, its model called democratic, values and principles that carries, nothing and no other culture can’t be equal, although the use of paradoxical it uses to every comer, it claims the contrary!

Those who surfed on national unity are ultimately unable of empathy, of meeting and of sharing, convinced that « the others » – people of African descent, Africans, Muslims, Arabs, Roma, migrants, young people, poor – are the problem and must be contained, controlled.

The sole purpose of these elites curled up on their privileges is to surf on the populism and refuse to see our country is changing; to its advantage, if we accept to enrich us with each and every one.

For now, those who make, like those who execute this policy, have chosen to impoverish it, to amputate it. How can we not see that are taken into account only the white part and some « other » they were able to « integrate » or « assimilate » by subjecting them to laws increasingly xenophobic and draconian and silenced by the weight of alienation which weighs on their shoulders? The other, along the way, will become enemies from within and some will be more « enemies » than others.

More generally all those fighting the structural and institutional racism, questioning the coloniality of power or denouncing the permanence of racializing paradigm for organizing societies, will be stigmatized.

This is why it is important, if we want see racism, racial discrimination eradicate, to work on the deconstruction of the concept of Race that is still “a mode and result of modern colonial domination” as pointed by Anibal Quijano.

Race continues to invest every field of capitalist power, and racism weighs heavily on the identity construction of individuals. It is characterized by a lack of respect for people identified according to their “race,” which functions in close interrelation, as much at the individual level as in the institutional level, through the establishment of the redistribution of material and symbolic resources along racial lines. Added to this, there is the construction of a representation concerning a certain “national identity” to ensure a “biological, religious, and cultural purity” to cement social cohesion in order to protect itself from supposed enemies, whether they are from the inside or from the outside.

But where does come this representation? And what does that allow its pregnance in most power models?

It is under the belief that the African people put in enslavement were soulless and deprived of any status. Enslavement is a condition worse than that of serfs who received a status. The Black Code, about it, speaks for itself! Race and racial identity were established as instruments of first social classification of the population, which allowed the enslavement, and was never formally called into question.

In the name of a supposedly different biological structure that some have attributed the right to invade, to kill, to dominate and plunder. Does this not always make the most of the merchandisation of work force?

We have to analyze how we went from slavery to colonization; in this the French example is speaking. 1848 was a pivotal year, if it marks the end of slavery because it became economically surpassed, that year especially marked the beginning of the second colonization with North Africa (Algeria was conquered in 1848) and black Africa, Indochina, Tonkin, and then Madagascar; the time of a great colonial empire that was to be the Second Empire politics and the Third Republic had arrived.

The first colonization saw the business of slavery spread widely. It is often thought that the end of enslavement was due to the foresight of the Third Republic which claimed that « slavery is an outrage against human dignity by destroying the free will of man, it removes the natural principle of right and obligation; it is a flagrant violation of the republican dogma: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity « .

Thus, in this logic, low paid employee would be both more dependent and more profitable than slave; colonizers lobbying on the liberating and emancipating character of that second colonization, as an economic way to abolish slavery. The Church was available again to play the games of this civilizational progress. The abolition of slavery, presented as a measure of citizen recovery, had for economic objective the permanence of a system of domination between the descendants of those settlers and slaves.

It is in this context that the abolition, adopted by special laws, combined compensation of masters, the refusal of compensation for slaves and the land reform. Thus, the old settlers were comforted by the payment of subsidies, while the former slaves became their precarious workers, condemned de facto to work on the plantations of the masters.

But the abolition of enslavement, presented as a measure of citizen restoration, had for economic goal the sustainability of a system of domination between the descendants of those masters and slaves.

This is how we went from enslavement to colonization without even questioning the elements that had founded enslavement. Thus, we also went to independence, without questioning the racist elements. So today, we’re back to a new form of colonialism which reifies biological racism at the discretion of the tension of financial and economic crisis and highlights the cultural racism to better divide each other and thereby identifying people with who alliances could be passed. But remains the biological racism transfigured by cultural racism; it resorts with violence at the slightest social or economic difficulty.

Under colonization, the coloniality of power was exerted under certain forms ; in the context of globalization, we find some common forms to colonization; other have varied and some are new. More than 50 years after the independences, one can say that if colonialism no longer exists under its brutal forms, the elements regarding the coloniality of power have never disappeared from the minds of the people and particularly of those who dominate and organize the world with regard to their own interests.

As colonization, globalization hurls its domineering and suffocating tentacles over the whole of the world. What it is different, it strangles the people while maintaining them in an increasingly greater precariousness, it deepens inequalities between those who dominate and those who are dominated, it reduces private and public liberties in order to better satisfy its objectives. Globalization controls minds, summoning them to refer to a single thought, which is refined by most of the media. It is exactly what was happening last january with « Nous sommes tous Charlie ».

The Fanon’s thinkink, through the issue of decolonization and war of liberation, in advance on his time, interrogated the elements of decoloniality of power useful for make emerge « l’homme nouveau », emancipated, disalienated of domination and of nevrose imposed by hierarchical power.

The only way to achieve an ideal society is not to turn a blind eye to these constructions but to seize them in order to deconstruct, reveal their arbitrariness and their hidden discriminating effects, with a view to their transformation.

It is not enough to refrain from thinking in racial categories in order for them to no longer exist. In different contexts, “race” is referred to “nation,” “nationality,” “ethnicity,” “ethnic groups” or even “caste.” There will be no recognition of the tragedies of the slave trade, enslavement, and colonization, except under the condition that all those who have died of this tragic history, are restored in the whole of their fundamental rights and their human dignity.

One answer would be to think recognition as a question of social and political status in order to no longer understand individuals according to their original ethnic descent but by recognizing their status as equal partners in social interactions.

Colonialism was born in the abolitionist movement which, as it was practiced in 1848/1849, was a vicious reaction to the slave trade and enslavement.

The end of colonialism without the effective decolonization – political, economic social and cultural – leads to a pseudo independence is one of the ways to preserve sustainable neocolonialism.

This is a major issue, wherever there are millions of people that are the product of this tormented history. There is many countries, with colonial substrate, where the enslavement weighs in contemporary social relations.

In fact, if the colonial era ended, a common legacy continues to influence the present, it must be admitted that the imaginary and representations are far from being released.

After many avatars, racism melts today in a set of mechanisms of exclusion and inferiority that seem to work autonomously, without anyone having to assume explicitly racist. Ideological superstructures state feed Exclusion through essentialist stigma.

From « the black man who is not entered into history » to combat secularism, essentialism is the new coat of an old speech. Ontological hierarchies are designed to irreversibly differentiate to better exploit.

Thus, the reparation is to treat all the effects of the colonial system, to restore the right order of things, from two main axes, land restitution and financial compensation.

For those who call to another world, it will be only possible if racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, anti-Muslim and anti-black racism are not anymore rules of « governance ». A possible alternative only if the coloniality of power and knowledge that has led the world in this inhuman abyss, from century to century, is finally identified, exposed and deconstructed in order to base the world on non-discrimination and its corollary equality between peoples and States, between human beings, different and equal so that they can act politically as citizens….

The international day against discrimination has to be shared by all peoples because racism is only one of a greater whole element: the alienation.

As Frantz Fanon observed in For the African Revolution: « Racism is not an all, but the most visible element, the most dayly, frankly, at times, the coarsest of a given structure. »

The legacy of a terrible history can only be exceeded by the disappearance of the forms of oppression that perpetuate it.

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