Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
Yesterday’s deadly attack in Paris laid open the wound of rampant racism in France. An attacker shot dead three people at a Kurdish cultural center and wounded another three persons. The attacker was arrested and had a history of immigrant attacks. France has a problem with racism and immigrant hatred, but officially that subject is ignored and not to be discussed.
Kylian Mbappe has said he was racially abused in social media following his team’s loss in the final game of the World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Mbappe is a French footballer who played on the French national team in the World Cup recently. Although he was born and raised all his life in France, he has complained about previous incidences of racist attacks against him.
The French Football Federation (FFF) has condemned the attacks directed at Mbappe on social media, and has vowed to take action against the authors of the attacks. Isabelle Rome, the French minister in charge of gender equality, has confirmed that Mbappe was the victim of racist attacks.
Amelie Oudea-Castera, French sports minister, tweeted concerning the racist comments that they “have no place in soccer or anywhere else.”
This is not the first time Mbappe has voiced his dismay at being the victim of racial attacks. In June 2022, Mbappe was so upset he contemplated leaving the French team after receiving racial attacks in the wake of his miss on a crucial penalty kick which made the French national team leave the Euro 2020 tournament.
To add insult to injury, Noel La Graet, President of FFF, mischaracterized Mbappe’s complaint. La Graet blamed Mbappe’s hurt feelings on having missed the kick, but Mbappe wrote on Twitter that it was the racism and not the penalty he was upset about.
La Graet said in June 2022, “We met for five minutes. He was angry, he no longer wanted to play in the France team. You know what it is, he is a winner, he was very frustrated, like all of us, with the elimination.”
Mbappe was frustrated with the lack of support and understanding on the part of FFF in light of the racist comments.
“Kylian Mbappe has accused the French Football Federation’s (FFF) president of denying the barrage of racist abuse that pushed him to consider quitting the French national team.”
The talented Paris Saint-Germain forward was instrumental in France’s World Cup win in Russia, scored in the team’s winning Nations League tournament, and kicked four goals in November to put France on the road to the World Cup in Qatar.
Mbappe is French, but his father came from Cameroon and his mother from Algeria. It is Mbappe’s African ancestry that has been the source of the racist comments directed at him.
France has a deep-seated problem with racism, but due to the official French political ideology, France denies they have any problem, and denies that racism exists in France.
In the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, Jean Beaman wrote in 2021 an article titled “Race: A Never-Ending Taboo in France”. France has a problem with racism based on skin color and African ancestry. However, due to the French political ideology of “liberté, égalité, et fraternité,” French citizens are supposed to be treated as equals as long as they do not identify as a member of an ethnic or religious group. Their identity is supposed to be French only, and nothing else. In this French mentality race and ethnicity are denied.
The French official line is that race is not recognized, and because the issue is not to be discussed it becomes a taboo topic and suppressed. However, to find the reality in France is just a matter of interviewing Blacks and North Africans in France to identify that there is a real problem.
President Emmanuel Macron has spoken out against French universities who may be discussing American racial theories. The French feel their system of Republicanism is superior to the American system of identifying race and ethnicity. When there have been accusations of racism in France, the French will often blame American ideas that can corrupt the French values. In the US there is a race problem, but some Americans are working toward solutions and not denials. They recognize the problem and are discussing it openly.
Mbappe is considered one of the greatest football players in the world. He is French, plays in France, and played on the recent French national team. Because of his extreme value as a player, and his youth, only time will tell if he might leave France for a place which is less racist and more willing to support players who find themselves a victim of racist attacks.
Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist