A 5 years old, African girl, schooled in an elementary class in Paris came back home crying. Her mother asked what was wrong. She said, at school the teacher was teaching them a new song. While singing the new song the kids have to clap their hands tree times and then put palms down on the leg and say “… and it’s all white”, supposedly referring to the skin color. The little girl rightfully noticed that her palm and skin were not … all white, but chocolate as she said to her mom.
The third time the kids played the clap, clap, clap, white game, the teacher and the other pupils noticed the embarrassment of the African girl. A girl in the group shouted “she is not white”, another one continued “she’s chocolate”. The teacher intervened and move the class to other less controversial topics.
Another story said:
During a drawing lesson, in another elementary school in Paris, a little African girl was asked to draw a human character on the board. She drew very well, colored the character face in brown, with a curly, puffy hair on its head. Some kids in the class start laughing and said there is not such people with burned face, a ballooned hair. The teacher intervened to ask the girl to draw a normal person like everyone else. She complied.
In 2007, few days before Christmas, the social assistant of the organization where I was working in Paris sent an email to all employees with a gift catalog. Employees with kids under 7 years old could select up to 2 items they’d receive as gifts from the employer.
I happened to meet the assistant a morning, and she kindly asked me what gifts my son would like to receive. I said I don’t know, but asked what are the most popular items with other parents. She replied “Every year is different. There are some star products like Lego which work well with boys. Educational games, gears, and DVDs are also popular, but some parents are more practical and would go with stuff like baby bathtub or bikes.”
Then she continued “It happens some years that I receive requests for items not listed in the catalog. Some funny ones, but few years ago, a mom asked her 6 years old daughter what gift she’d like for Christmas. The little girl after a long hesitation and sigh said “Mom, could we become white even if it’s for one day!?”
The assistant became silent for a whole minutes then concluded “It was so painful to hear. I cried, and I cried all day long. I’m a mom too, you know!”
The 6 years old black girl in Paris already knew the difficulty of being black in a work dominated by white people who in a huge majority hate almost instinctively black people. Her dream to become white, even if it’s for one day, is the dream of millions of black kids and adults.
It’s rare to see African kids born in France to amount to anything outside of socially constrained roles in sport or music. They rarely reach university, or achieve any status in science, literature, arts. The overwhelming majority of successful and prominent Africans in France are the one who are born in Africa, and who grew up in Africa before going to France.
The structural racism, daily humiliation and denial of identity often break the kids early on life.
At a personal level, during the first months of my son at school in Europe, he was constantly assaulted by white kids telling him he was brown like shit, and they would often show him their ass, saying “you are my shit”, and many other racist words kids only learn from parents (check the article “why white families teach racism to their kids“)
In New York city you have Russian, Jew, French, Arab, Chinese, etc. elementary schools. These community know the value of protecting their kids and endowing them first with their culture. It’s up to the African diaspora to create African schools for their kids in Paris, London, Brussels, Cape Town.
Yesterday a friend sent me a link to an article which states that more and more African American families are taking their kids out of american schools to protect them against racism. I think it’s a good move, and the next step would be to go beyond homeschooling to start building our own schools for our kids wherever we go, for they to be thought by teachers who resemble them, and receive an education which is less eurocentric.
We don’t have any power to ask white families to stop teaching racism to their kids, nor ask racist people to stop racist aggressions. But we have the duty to protect our kids from being destroyed so early on life by racism.