VSlook for the error. In France, Emmanuel Macron’s appointment of the first black to the post of Minister of National Education in May sparked a deluge of criticism and insults. “ A Terrifying Choice », attacked Marine Le Pen. Officer of the “ deconstruction of our country”, “racialist”, “indigenous”, “Islamo-leftist” : the verbal stoning of the historian was of rare violence. His positions, both universalist and sensitive to issues of inequality and discrimination, have been caricatured, falsified, his attachment to the Republic questioned.
It is not the astonishing irruption in politics of an academic that has sparked debate, but his alleged relationship to race, nation and the Republic. As if the accession to the chair of Jules Ferry, the most emblematic position of the Republic, of a mixed-race Frenchman, of a Senegalese father and a French mother, was an offense. As if France’s achievements in terms of “diversity” were terribly fragile.
In the UK, this “diversity” was loudly celebrated on October 24 with the appointment of the first British Prime Minister of Indian origin, Rishi Sunak. That a claimed Hindu takes the reins of a country that has reigned over India for almost two centuries, and the country congratulates itself on its ability to open up to the world. A welcome self-celebration in a kingdom in turmoil. the Times greeted the“extraordinary change of attitude [du pays] with regard to race, barely tempering Sajid Javid’s emphasis. For this former minister of Pakistani origin, the United Kingdom is nothing less than ” the most successful multicultural democracy in the world”.
While the appointment of Pap Ndiaye raised suspicion, that of Rishi Sunak was celebrated. The contrast appears all the more striking as both have points in common: born in Europe, they received an education in elite establishments (Lycée Henri-IV, Ecole Normale Supérieure and University of Virginia for one; institution, Oxford and Stanford for the other) and each personify the success of meritocracy. However, the cultures of their respective countries lead them to present themselves differently: “I am deeply British (…) but my cultural heritage is Indian”says the Briton. “There is no more Republican than me”says the Frenchman.
While egalitarian France claims to be blind to origins and contests the idea of race, the United Kingdom is often presented as “communitarian” and severely compartmentalised. The reality, more complex, is that in France, the taboo on “race” does not prevent, among some, a real obsession with the color of the skin. Having dark skin leads to being suspected of republican disloyalty and summoned to defend oneself against it. In the United Kingdom, we are comfortable with the “ethnicity” which is taken into account in official statistics. The praise of racial diversity, which is the subject of education in the school setting, is both more explicit and more commonplace there than in France.
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