Why Harassing Powerful Black Women Is Fair Game In France

Why are the French so scared of black women exerting their political power?

The smell of misogynoir is strong in France.

On February 28th, Laetitia Avia, a French congresswomen for the ruling centre right party La République En Marche, received another racist letter, calling her "a big fat black pig who is meddling in France's business." She published the letter on Twitter and pressed charges.

Another Congresswoman, Danielle Obono, is racially harassed on a regular basis. Once, she wore a headwrap while addressing congress. Another time she refused to pronounce the words "Long Live France" on national TV (something white politicians are almost never ask to do). Everytime she dares speak up, she triggers a wave of racial abuse and insults from members of congress and the general public, insulting her intelligence and calling her a racist ("Reverse racism" is very strong belief in France). It had gotten so bad that journalists like Hamidou Anne had to publicly defend her. Meanwhile, many in her left-wing party remain quiet or insist that her views do not represent them.

During a heated debate on TV, about whether or not a young French singer should wear the hijab, French activist and journalist Rokhaya Diallo, has been called by a politician "French by virtue of her passport." In other words, she may be "technically French," but she'll never be a true, native French woman.

Since the beginning of her career, Diallo has been harassed, insulted and threatened by her peers, politicians and the general public alike. Last year, she had been invited to be a member of a French advisory council to promote digital media among the public. But the newly formed French government asked her to resign due to her anti racist activism. The head of the agency refused to back down and stepped down. Rokhaya and every single member of the agency decided to resign in solidarity.

Ironically, by basically firing her, the French government confirmed that not only it is the gatekeeper of institutional racism, but even more so adamant in maintaining the status quo: i.e. that no one shouldn't mention race. Diallo, Obono and Avia are harassed in their daily life as well as on social media, mostly on Twitter and Facebook.

It's not just a French issue, either. In the UK, Diane Abbott has had racist and sexist abuse thrown at her since she was elected to Parliament more than 30 years ago. In the US, black congresswomen like Maxine Waters and and Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore are also harrassed on a regular basis.

Misogynoir is a term coined by Moya Bailey, a queer black feminist activist. It describes the intersection in which black women find themselves, being the recipient of both racism and sexism. In other words, what they face in many given situations, is a complex violence committed by everyone: white people, non black people of colour, black men and even fellow black women who have internalized misogynoir.

Does France love Black women? Yes, when they fit their racial ideas of the savage black women, ready to fulfill their sexual fantasies. Yes, when black women work in low-waged jobs that are seen as beneath what most would tolerate. Black women are liked when they're nannies, walking around wealthy children in the 8th or 17th arrondissement in Paris. Or when they are cleaning ladies, usually appearing in offices at night when everyone has left, or early in the morning, taking the first metro at 5:45 am.

These are the roles black women are stuck in, roles that are palatable to French racism and in which they are both highly visible and invisible. But as soon as they dare behaving like human beings and step out of the place they have been assigned by society, they are seen as a "menace" and as "angry, aggressive" racist stereotypes that follow them regardless of whether or not they act in a threatening way.

"Because they're black and in power, they represent a slap in the face to white supremacy."

It's not a surprise that women like Diallo, Obono and Avia—highly visible and powerful women—are the target of such heinous acts. As black people, they are expected to be thankful that France has taken them under their care and allow them to stay there and thrive, to have successful careers. They are literally asked to scream "long live the republic" and remain quiet when racism and sexism show their ugly faces.

France, in many ways, still behaves like a colonizer in its treatment of citizens of colour, so when women like these remind the elites and the government that the country is not only problematic, but still refuses to have a conversation about race, it is seen as an attack on the status quo. They dare to be unapologetic about institutional racism, about racism and sexism. And because they're black and in power, they represent a slap in the face to white supremacy. Whether or not, as a whole, black French people will possibly gain power by successfully integrating and changing French institutional racism, or by self organizing and building stronger communities, it is important to stand by the women leading the fight.

So far, they have taken the matter to court. Laetitia Avia has launched the hashtag #nerienlaisserpasser (#totoleratenothing) to bring light to racism and sexism in politics and in the media. The French president has recently asked her to take part in a new committee in charge of regulating cyber racism and antisemitism. The irony shouldn't be lost that had the agency been created a few months ago, it would most likely not have defended people like Rokhaya Diallo, who has been a victim of cyber harassment due to the actions of the government. Time will tell if the agency will be able to fulfill its mission.

The nature of white supremacy is to be afraid of powerful black women and the change they will bring. But, once and for all, black women are not at the bottom of society and an attack on them is an attack on all of us.


Former UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Laureate, Kofi Annan, Has Died

The celebrated Ghanaian humanitarian and the first black African to serve as head of the UN, passed away on Saturday at the age of 80.

Kofi Annan, the seventh UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away on Saturday morning following a brief illness. "His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during the last days," read a family statement. He was 80.

Annan was the first black African to serve as head of the United Nations, holding the prestigious position from 1997 to 2006. He was lauded for his global humanitarian work, eventually earning Annan and the UN a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for "their work for a better organized and more peaceful world."

Annan was head of the UN during the onslaught of the Iraq War, proving to be one of the most challenging global events to occur under his time as Secretary General and one of the most divisive of the early 21st century. "I think the worst moment of course was the Iraq war, which as an organization we couldn't stop—and I really did everything I can to try to see if we can stop it," he said in 2006.

Annan was also the founder of the Kofi Annan foundation and chairman of The Elders, an international humanitarian organization of global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela.

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The iconic artist returns with her first single since the release of her 2015 album Unbreakable, and it's a timely nod to the "made for now" influence of afrobeats fashion, sound and culture.

On "Made For Now," which features Puerto Rican reggaeton titan Daddy Yankee, Janet Jackson does what she's done successfully so many times throughout her decades-long career: provide an infectious, party-worthy tune that's fun and undeniably easy to dance to. "If you're living for the moment, don't stop," Jackson sings atop production which fuses dancehall, reggaeton and afrobeats.

The New York-shot music video is just as lively, filled with eye-catching diasporic influences, from the wax-print ensembles and beads both Janet and her dancers wear to the choreographed afrobeats-tinged dance numbers, which see the dancers hitting the Shoki at one point in the video. The train of dancers travel throughout the streets of Brooklyn, taking over apartment buildings and rooftops with spirited moves.

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You Need to Hear Juls' New Single 'Saa Ara'

New hip-hop and highlife grooves from the celebrated UK-based Ghanaian producer.

By merging the diverse influence of growing up in Accra and East London, Juls has managed to cultivate a hybrid afrobeats style that has set him apart from the rest.

For his latest single, "Saa Ara," he teams up with award-winning rapper Kwesi Arthur and gifted lyricist Akan.

The brilliant fusion of vintage highlife instrumentals and booming hip-hop beats, along with Kwesi Arthur's lively chorus and Akan's fiery delivery gives the song a very spiritual and classical feel.

Soothe your soul this weekend with these tasteful sounds from Juls.

Listen to "Saa Ara" by Juls featuring Kwesi Arthur and Akan below.

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