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Rise of racism in France attacked

First black newsreader attacks 'profound racism', as justice minister expresses surprise at lack of support over insults

FRANCE’S first black newsreader has decried the “rise of racism” in the country in a column in Le Monde.

Harry Roselmack, who was employed by TF1 in 2006, said racism was not limited to supporters at the heart of the National Front, but was deep within French society.

Recent events, such as an attack on the justice minister Christiane Taubira by a National Front candidate comparing her to a monkey, had pushed him to increasingly see himself as black, he wrote.

“I am firstly a man, a son, a brother, a husband and father, a citizen, a journalist, I am passionate, and yes, yes, I’m black. The Republic, it’s slogan [Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité] and its laws work, most of the time, to make me forget this,” said Mr Roselmack.

He drew on the example of Banania, a chocolate drink sold in France under the image of a smiling black man.

Nutrimaine, the company producing it, was ordered by a court in 2006 to stop selling it under its traditional slogan “Y'a bon” as it upheld racist stereotypes of black people who could not speak French properly.

Posters of old Banania adverts are still popular.

“How many times have I explained to a restaurant owner, or even a friend, that the old posters ‘Y’a bon Banania that they have on their walls, could not be viewed only as amusing or nostalgic,” he said.

“It is a heritage of ancient times, a justification for a domination total and criminal: slavery and colonization.

“But this racism has left traces and, if one was capable to read the unconscious of the French, one would often discover a jolly blackman, talking in poor French, deprived of history and civic culture.”

Meanwhile, Ms Taubira has also criticised the failure of public figures to speak out against the racist attack on her.

In an interview in Libération, the minister said that she had received a lot of personal messages of support but was surprised that no “strong and clear voice” had spoken up.

“For a long time I’ve attracted this ‘monkey’ and this ‘Y’a bon Banania,” said the justice minister, who added that she had informed her staff that they “had other things to do than sue”.

Taubira herself is being sued for defamation by the Front National after her response to their candidate’s monkey comments.

“It needs reminding that racism is not an opinion, it is a crime. But that is not enough, because we can’t ask the justice system to tackle a deep-set disease that undermines our democracy,” she said.

Photo: by Pascal Montagne

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