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Diasporas, Cultures of Mobilities, ‘Race’ 3

Corinne Duboin
Claudine Raynaud

Theorizing Diaspora, Blackness and Post-Raciality

Whose ‘Post-Racial’ ‘Post-Black’ Is It?: USA, France, Italy, and England

Mark A. Reid


In the United States, France and Italy movements toward a ’post-racial’ and ‘post-black’ ways of being and thinking provide spaces for their citizens of color. Communalisms of the racial-religious-sexual singular identity formulations are challenged by what is becoming a Post-Negritude awareness that complicates monolithic selfhoods as they encounter plural forms of being and thinking. This article analyzes how Blacks in the U.S., France, and Italy undergo critical reassessments of their racial-religious-sexual identities to embrace a more plural concept that is catalyzed in national politics. Still, I argue there remains the residue of what the Martinique psychiatrist Frantz Fanon calls the ‘Blackness of Being’ as is evidenced in the recent arrest of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin and the reception of Italy’s first Afro-Italian minister, Cecile Kyenge. All of which overshadows the optimism that followed of the election of President Barack Obama, the appointment of Harlem Désir as the first black to lead a major French political party. As Afro-Europeans move into positions of national importance like their post-Obama American counterparts, the leopard has not changed its spots—the residue of the Blackness of Being remains resilient. The western world is far from a post-racial, post-black, and postcolonial reality. Using articles and images culled from the press, I analyze the inconsistencies in ’post-racial’ and ‘post-black’ thinking when confronted with recent ‘everyday’ injustices.

Texte intégral

1In Europe and the United States there have been utterings of ‘postracial’ and ‘post-black’ ways-of-being and thinking. We can point to films, theatrical performances, and the literary arts, as is sometimes suggested in classrooms, newspaper editorials, and at academic conferences. Individual artists have sought a personal place that is inclusive of our many identities—sexual, ethnic, gendered, and racial. Their critical moves have fractured previous monolithic and binary notions of unique identities in an effort to embrace, celebrate, and challenge a one-dimensional personhood. This indicates a transnational, transracial change that occurs in real social time. It catalyzes issues of a postcolonial awareness, which in turn complicates monolithic selfhoods, when plural forms of being and thinking come into existence. This is especially true in Western countries like France, Italy, England, and the United States, where formerly colonized and enslaved populations struggle, demand, and fight for their civil rights. Here, I refer to racial, national, gendered, ethnic, and LGBTQ communities as they interrogate the dominant ways of being, thinking, and pseudo-legal judgments of the status quo.

2A few examples of these struggles are the movements for same-sex marriage, women’s rights in India, and the increasing presence of people of color in leadership positions in what was formerly a white male domain of national politics.

3 Using recent audio-visual and print images, I will show the obvious inconsistencies, at least in my view, of ‘post-racial’ and ‘post-black’ thinking when one witnesses the ‘everyday’ racial injustices that percolate and collide against the fortunate raced-ones, who reach the summit of their professional careers.

  • 1 In the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009, Oscar Grant III, unarmed and lying face down on a subway platfo (...)

4Barack Obama’s election as the first black president of the United States challenges the idea that American racial injustices remain. However, the sanctity of white-on-black violence still holds sway as the (un) justified murders of an unarmed 17-year-old with no criminal record Floridian Trayvon Martin and the 22-year-old Oakland, Californian Oscar Grant III.1

5The Obama presidency does not deny the existence of the residue of racism as evidenced in the Birthers claims that Obama was not born in the U.S. This can also be seen in the Republican Party’s verbal violence against Obama, when he won the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

6The residue of racism is what the Afro-French (I use ‘Afro-French’ to connect Fanon to one of many African diasporas) psychiatrist Frantz Fanon describes as the ‘Blackness of Being’, as illustrated in Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s arrest, when he was entering his Cambridge home. Another miscarriage of American justice was the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old black youth, who was returning to the home of his father’s fiancée after purchasing items from a nearby 7-Eleven convenience store.

7In response to Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times who asked President Barack Obama to comment on the arrest of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. by sergeant Crowley, Obama acknowledged that racial profiling exists. Obama’s response is quite revealing and he will again repeat this uncomfortable truth. In 2009 he states, in reference to the Gates incident:

Now, I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts what role race played in that, but I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry. Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. And that’s just a fact.
As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in this society. That doesn’t lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that’s been made. And yet, the fact of the matter is that, you know, this still haunts us. And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently and often time for no cause cast suspicion even when there is good cause, and that’s why I think the more that we’re working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we’re eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody’s going to be.
(Graham 2011)

8In Obama’s estimation, he admits that racial profiling confines black and brown people to a criminal typology based on their physiognomy. His response to Lynn Sweet’s question on the arrest of Henry Louis Gates underlines the fact that America is far from the goal of a post-black/brown and post-racial world in which the thought or utterance ‘Dirty nigger!’ or simply ‘Look, a Negro!’ is no longer the first impulse, when recognizing features that deviates from the ‘white’ epidermal norm (cf. Fanon 1967: 109).

9After the Gates-Crowley ordeal, the South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson greeted President Obama with ‘You Lie! ’ when Obama convened the U.S. Congress to discuss the National Health bill. The congressional representative’s utterance and Crowley’s arrest reveal how Obama’s presidency and Gates’ academic fame provide no shelter from the storm of racism in thought and deed. Too many black Others remain outsiders regardless of their economic success, artistic talent, and academic accomplishments. The scholar Gates, Sgt. Crowley, Congressman Wilson, and President Obama are inextricably interconnected to ‘the fact of blackness’ and the many indirect ways to express it, as in Fanon’s ‘Dirty nigger!, ’ ‘Look, a Negro!’, and Wilson’s ‘You Lie!’.

10Conversely, President Obama throughout his presidency has resisted retaliatory violent-prone language against the Birthers and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. His governmental policy efforts seem to be met with rebuffs from the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. One need only recall Senator Obama’s presidential campaign to the White House that was welcomed with monkey imagery, questions about his citizenship, and his faith: Is he Christian or a Muslim? Moreover, his proofs of U.S. citizenship and Christian faith were met with a Joe Wilsonian ‘You lie! ’.

11Black achievements in industry, politics, entertainment, and academic life have not created a post-racial America. A post-racial America requires a post-racial world in which blacks and nonblacks psychologically and socially dismantle the Fanonian ‘fact of blackness’ wherever it rears its ugly head. Frantz Fanon’s critical race theory provides tools for analyzing the psychological aspects of institutionalized racism as it appears in art, world politics, and everyday social reality.

12The Obama Administration supports a philosophical stance that embraces ethnic diversity, gender equality, Federal health care guarantees, and same-sex marriage. These initiatives exalt the diversity of life and, if implemented, would support a post-race reality if race and civil rights were of a non-racist nature. It would advance the ideas of Antonio Negri, ‘One encounters a discovery, deepening, and development of another heritage of modernity; a heritage that, instead of hiding difference behind identity and repetition, exalts it through the diversity of life (Negri 2004: 74).

  • 2 Lucette Michaux-Chevry was the President of the Regional Council of the French overseas department (...)
  • 3 John Tagliabue, ‘France’s First-Round Presidential Ballot Takes Shape’.

13In the U.S., President Barack Obama and the Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina and third woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, are examples of this. In France, there is Harlem Désir who became the Secretary of the Socialist Party, the first person-of-color to attain such a position in a major French political party (elected on 8 October 2012). Before Harlem Désir, there were several French females-of-color that held, or hold, French ministerial positions.2 Here, I do not wish readers to confuse my interest in the so-called left and right politics of these choices; I am solely interested in the attempts at inclusion and the reactionary fallout. I admit there are substantial differences between the Sarkozy and Hollande administrations as we can see how both administrations treat the Roma, the ‘nègres’ and the ‘bicots’. There were two French Ministers of Justice. Rachida Dati was the first French-born of Algerian and Moroccan roots under President Sarkozy to hold this position. French-born Christiane Taubira (French Guiana), and the first black candidate during the 2002 French presidential elections3, holds this same ministerial position under President Hollande. In addition to Dati, President Sarkozy appointed several other women-of-color to major positions in his government. Case in point, Rama Yade, a Senegal-born French woman was the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, and then for Sports, under the Sarkozy presidency (May 2007-2011). Nonetheless, transnational illustrations of Western European racist residue are still present as illustrated by the anti-homophobic criticisms directed at Rama Yade and Christiane Taubira for their support of same-sex marriage.

  • 4 The above poster depicts France’s Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who is black, as a King K (...)

Figure 1 – Poster depicting Christiane Taubira4.

  • 5 ‘ [Je suis] cohérente par rapport à mon combat sur l’égalité des droits [...] Je suis donc favorabl (...)

14 In a Nice-Matin January 18, 2013 interview, Rama Yade expressed her support for gay marriage as, [author’s translation] ‘consistent with her combat for equality for all’ and she went on to say, ‘I support what I consider is a natural evolution in Western countries’. During the Sarkozy presidential administration, she affirmed that she was considered ‘the most gay friendly administrator’.5 I might not totally agree with Yade’s use of ‘a natural evolution’ thesis, but I do agree that the continuity of the Civil Rights Movement is inclusive of LGBTQ rights. The term ‘natural evolution’ is Darwinian, whereas Civil Rights requires individuals and groups to ceaselessly interrogate and resist forms of discrimination.

  • 6 Nicole Winfield, ‘Cecile Kyenge, Italy’s first black Cabinet minister, exposes racism’.
  • 7 BBC NEWS, ‘Italy racism row: Cecile Kyenge compared to orangutan’. (...)

15This same racist residue (in France, homophobia, anti-Semitism are racisms; in the U.S. this is not the case; however, both should be seen as similar types of racisms and prosecuted when such utterances or acts harm LGBTQ, Jewish, and Arab Americans) is also apparent in recent comments that were directed at Cecile Kyenge, the Afro-Italian Minister of Integration. On April 17, 2013, Cecile Kyenge, a Congo-born Italian, became Italy’s first black cabinet minister (Minister of Integration) appointed in Enrico Letta’s (Left-center-Right-center) government. Letta’s ‘post-racial’ cabinet appointment was received with much racist commentary. Mario Borghezio, an Italian politician and European parliamentarian for the Northern League welcomed Kyenge’s appointment with, a ‘bonga bonga’ slur and warned, in an interview with Radio 24, that Kyenge would try to ‘impose tribal traditions’ from her native Congo on Italy.6 Roberto Calderoli, another Italian senator from the anti-immigration Northern League said ‘that the success of Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge encouraged “illegal immigrants” to come to Italy’. Calderoli’s racist inferences continued in a 13 July 2013 speech to a rally in Treviso, a northern city. He stated: ‘I love animals—bears and wolves, as everyone knows—but when I see the pictures of Kyenge I cannot but think of, even if I’m not saying she is one, the features of an orangutan’.7 As stated above, Frantz Fanon describes the reaction ‘Look, a Negro! ’ as the first impulse when one recognizes aberrant racial characteristics that deviate from the white norm (Fanon 1967: 109). This norm maintains a racialized privilege that inadvertently connects those racialized Others to a transracial political consciousness as demonstrated in Taubira’s and Rama Yade’s support of same-sex marriage.

16Members of the hyphenated African diaspora in the Americas and Europe are undergoing a critical reassessment of their racial, religious, gender, and sexual identities in an effort to embrace a more plural identity that is performed in relation to their respective national and cultural modes of being and place. Still, forms of racism, misogyny, and homophobia remain in the everyday modes of national, racial, gendered, and heterosexual privileges.

17Borghezio’s ‘bonga bonga’, the Italian fascists’ calling Kyenge a ‘Congolese monkey’, and similar utterances made in the U.S. directed at President Obama indicate that little has changed. It signals a kind of transnational fascism as explained by Antonio Negri:

The multitude can become fascist only when it has been emptied of its specificity [...] Just like evil, fascism is always a negation of power, a withdrawal from the common Being. The fascist encourages hatred of the other, sanctifies violence as the remedy for the vices of the world, obliterates differences, and exalts the order of a bygone world. Fascism—all fascism—reacts destructively against the movement of life, against the joyous and multiple manner in which it invents itself [...] Fascism is terrified, then, by the emergence of differences; scandalized by interbreeding, exasperated by alternatives to sexual pseudonormality.
(Negri 2004: 73–74)

18In the U.S., President Obama receives continued disrespect from a few but very vocal white Americans in the U.S. Congress. This was equally exemplified during the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings (13-16 July) that questioned Sotomayor’s Latina pride. Additionally, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in writing on his blog said: ‘Imagine a judicial nominee said “my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman”. Wouldn’t they have to withdraw? New racism is no better than old racism’ (Barr 2009).

19Gingrich viewed Sotomayor as a racist based on her remark that ‘A wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life’. Sotomayor said this during a 2001 lecture at the UC-Berkeley’s annual Judge Mario G. Olmos Law and Cultural Diversity Lecture:

  • 8 ‘A Latina Judge’s Voice: Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s 2001 Address to the “Raising the Bar” Symposium at (...)

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.8

20Gingrich’s ridiculing a Latina for stating something that is based on both her cultural, educational, and gender experiences reflects the wide range of indifference that chauvinistic people circulate when they encounter the racial-gendered Other. After lengthy discussions, the Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor on 6 August 2009, and she was sworn in two days later.

21There exist many other racist examples of post-Civil Rights and post-soul incidents that indicate how the United States and its Western allies are far from any post-racial and post-black landscape. Postcolonial and post-Civil Rights acts of racial profiling, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny are interconnected to forms of anti-humane thoughts and practices, as recognized by Rama Yade and Antonio Negri. Terms and utopian beliefs in a ‘Post-Racial’ and ‘Post-Black’ era seem utterly preposterous and, at worse, a virulent form of class and race privilege, by those who are far from the present bleak social reality. Admittedly, there are reasons for optimism that the dawning of a post-racial world is on the horizon in certain Western nations because Obama was the elected and reelected, and President Sarkozy and President Hollande, for whatever reasons, appointed French people-of-color to ministerial positions in their governments. Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s appointment of Cecile Kyenge’s to his government marks a first for an Afro-Italian citizen.

22 Nevertheless, such racial progress is met with counter-progressive moves in each respective Western nation. There are always racist, misogynist, and homophobic comments from the fascist sidelines. Additionally, while American artists, politicians, citizens, and their post-Obama European counterparts receive fame and fortune, many do not. The residue of the ‘Blackness of Being-ness’, as experienced by the impoverished, unemployed, and ‘justifiably’ murdered Others should not be ignored, so the very few can celebrate a ‘Post-Racial’ or ‘Post-Black’ arrival. Optimism should be intermixed with the pessimistic dark real-politics that still reigns. President Obama’s and President Hollande’s progressive gestures toward same-sex marriage, inter-ethnic and religious ecumenical communion do not erase the decades of anti-black, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ hatreds and misunderstandings.

23In contemporary African American and Afro-European cinema, the subject and issues that concern the residue of the ‘Blackness of Being-ness’ in many of the sociopolitical situation above discussed are cinematically dramatized. The film by Lee Daniels The Butler (2013) was mostly admired by young male spectators who found the three main characters—Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), the bored stay-at-home mother Gloria Gaines (Oprah Winfrey), and their militant son Louis Gaines (David Oyelowo)—believable and merited Academy Award nominations. America is a myriad mixture of political, ethnic, and racial audiences and in the southern city I live and teach in, the audience at my screening was composed of mostly white senior citizens, and they applauded at the film’s end. For myself, a black Chicagoan and adolescent admirer of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, I found Louis Gaines the most appealing to my sense of justice. I also found that the father-son relationship was very real to my experience except that my father was also born in Chicago and fought against racial discrimination and police brutality. Racially charged films, like Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station (2013) that is based on the murder of Oscar Grant III, and Lee Daniel’s The Butler that is loosely based on Eugene Allen, the butler for eight American Presidents, are necessary and serve a special purpose during a period when young unarmed African-American men, such as Oscar Grant III and Trayvon Martin, are being murdered. Across the pond, there is Rachid Bouchareb’s 2009 film London River, which dramatizes the religious and racial bigotry that occurred after Britain’s first suicide bombings of 7 July 2005.

24 Bouchareb’s London River uses the 7 July 2005 subway and bus bombings as the backdrop for the setting of his film. Britain’s first suicide bombings are the catalysts that bring together Elisabeth Sommers (Brenda Blethyn), a Brit from Guernsey and Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyaté), an African worker from Paris. The two individuals are of different race, religion, language, and nationality. In London, they haphazardly meet while seeking the whereabouts of their children. Ousmane rents a hotel room and Elisabeth stays at her daughter Jane’s apartment that Jane once shared with Ousmane’s son Ali. Ousmane knows little about his son whom he left with his wife in Africa, when Ali was six years old, and he has not seen him in fifteen years. Similar to Ali, Jane did not know her father William who died in 1982, during the Argentine and British battle over the Falklands. Jane grew up on a farm on the isle of Guernsey and Ali, her African lover, grew up in an unnamed French-speaking African country.

25The spectator is given, in different photographs of Jane and Ali together, information on British Jane’s and African Ali’s physicality, cultural interests, and romantic love. Though the audience neither meets them in person nor hears their thoughts, the photographs present an imposing psychological force on one’s ability to bridge differences of nation, ethnicity, language, and religion. Michel Foucault’s panopticon is helpful here. In Discipline & Punish Foucault writes, ‘The panoptic schema, without disappearing as such or losing any of its properties, was destined to spread throughout the social body’, and explains that ‘its vocation was to become a generalized function’ (Foucault 1977: 207). He further states that ‘We are neither in the amphitheatre, nor on the stage, but in the panoptic machine, invested by its effects of power, which we bring to ourselves since we are part of its mechanism’ (Foucault 1977: 217).

26In London River, the panopticon is generated through photographs and police surveillance of London streets and public transport. For instance, the two lovers are framed in an Arabic language class-group-photo that was taken at the local mosque. The students in the photo represent diverse ethnic, racial, and gender identities. As Elisabeth and Ousmane discover, through their children’s photographs, that Jane is converting to Islam, her mother is bewildered. In discovering that Jane is studying Arabic, Elisabeth asks the brown-skinned female teacher ‘Who speaks Arabic?’ Without skipping a beat, the teacher replies, ‘We all do’. Elisabeth counters with an all-too-familiar colonizing ‘I don’t’.

27 The film’s narrative comments on individuals and groups who maintain dehumanizing and ignorant ideas about Muslims and Islamic cultural practices. The Muslim as the Other is restricted to a realm that renders their community, language, and culture(s) a homeless, displaced, entity that creates anger, distrust, and violence. Since England has not been able to assimilate Muslims into Christian Europe, the Christian majority paints them in broad brushstrokes as terrorists, or potential terrorists. David Cameron’s England, Angela Merkel’s Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy’s France, and Silvio Berlusconi’s Italy have already followed this mode-of-fear-production.

28 London River challenges these ready-made fear-discourses that mirror the racist phrasing and caricatures that England, France, Germany, and Italy once circulated against Jews and presently recycle this against communities they deem Other. The film’s narrative strategy is a type of neo-liberal humanism. It balances two images of religious practices in its initial scenes. The first occasion is set in a Protestant Church and the other is set in a French field, where Ousmane performs his Muslim prayers. The two images occur in parallel sequences. Elisabeth Sommers attends a Protestant Church service that is predominantly composed of whites. The pastor tells his congregation to ‘Love your enemies’. Admittedly, the pastor’s words reflect the habitual rhetoric of forgiveness. Protestant Elisabeth married William Sommers, a Catholic; this marriage between Catholic and Protestant mirrors the minister’s words. Considering the long history of Britain’s inter-faith wars with Catholic nations and possessions, it is easy to assume that Jane’s parents overcame religious intolerance and the fixed binary gaze of the Other—Protestant and Catholic. Similar prejudices are still held by Christian Europe towards their Muslim citizens—Pakistani, Turks, and North and sub-Saharan Africans. The First World praises itself for its liberty, its tolerance, and its democratic ways. However, there is popular resistance to the State-sponsored multi-cultural programs, such reactions threaten liberal leaning politicians who try to appease the bigots by stifling the immigration of certain Others. It is the return of what had been repressed for several decades of ‘liberal’ immigration policies toward black, brown and Othered migrant diasporas. At this particular moment, the dominant classes, the status quo, and those who identify with them felt secure—physically, emotionally, and economically.

29For instance, we see this in Elisabeth’s unpleasant reaction to the multi-ethnic neighborhood where her daughter lives. Her facial and verbal clues express fear of the migrant Other. She sneers at the brown-skinned Arab butcher, until she discovers that he is Jane’s landlord. Additionally, Elisabeth shows little gratitude when Ousmane shows her a photograph of his son and her daughter. Selfishly, she escapes with his photograph. The briskness of her departure is provoked by her fear of the unknown Other, who is as easily knowable as Ali and Islam was for her daughter Jane. Elisabeth will soon discover the feared Other is within herself.

30Elisabeth and Ousmane are from different geographical places— Guernsey and Paris via Africa, respectively. They travel to London to seek their children Jane and Ali. Inclusive of different races, religions, and linguistic communities, London is the urban space where they seek knowledge of their child’s wellbeing. Eventually, they develop a trusting friendship. Small-town, Christian Elisabeth develops tolerance and trust toward Ousmane, in just enough time before they both return to their respective homes. Unfortunately, during the two years that her daughter spent at university in London, she did not feel comfortable enough to introduce Ali to her mother. If Jane had made this courageous revelation, her mother might have been more trusting and friendly to Ousmane and other people like him. Still, her daughter Jane surmounts multiple forms of fear—religious, racial, and linguistic—to fall in love with Ali. In parallel semblance to Jane, Ali transcends the historical distrust that postcolonial people have for their former colonizers. The film tends to repeat the Protestant minister’s neo-liberal evocation of ‘Love Your Enemy’. Roland Barthes perceptively instructs, ‘Vivre-Ensemble: seulement peut-être pour affronter ensemble la tristesse du soir. Être des étrangers, c’est inévitable, nécessaire, désirable, sauf quand le soir tombe’ (Barthes 2002: 176).

31We never discover who and what is the enemy that we should love. Nor do we know the crime committed by the nameless enemy that warrants this altruistic gesture of love. It could very well be that the European colonizers were, and possibly remain, the enemy that requires love, forgiveness, rather than the ‘terrorist’ Other, or the unassimilated ‘Muslim’, that the film indirectly suggests. However, London River never reveals whether Ali and Jane’s love soured into a terrorist aggression against Londoners of all races, classes, and religions. Wisely, the film avoids definitive evidence about whether the missing Jane and Ali were involved in the suicide bombing, or just two of its fatalities. Finally, who benefits from acting upon a ‘love your enemy’ type perspective? Is it a praxis uniquely for the already disempowered, unassimilated, hyper-Other, or it also for those of the assimilated Other and the status quo? What are the losses and gains for the absorbed communities of the Other?

  • 9 Stevens Lee Myers, ‘Putin, After Silence, Condems Twin Bombings in Volvograd’, New York Times, Dece (...)

32The King’s Cross tube station and the number-ten bus represent a nexus of ‘the system of social conditions’, that Pierre Bourdieu and other theorists refer to as the Habitus ‘that makes a particular way of being or doing possible’ (Bourdieu 1990: 15). The dead and maimed London transportation passengers, including the ‘terrorists’, are the collateral damage of different types of global wars in First World cities, as New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, and most recently, Moscow.9 Pierre Bourdieu argues from a different perspective than ‘love your enemy’ and its variants. He writes: ‘ [T] he sociologist discovers the necessity, the constraints of social condition, and conditionings, right in the very ‘heart’ of the subject, in the form of what I have called the habitus. In short, he reduces the absolutist humanist to the depths of despair’ (Bourdieu 1990: 15).

33Similar to the closeness their children Ali and Jane share, Elisabeth and Ousmane will eventually share Jane’s and Ali’s apartment but in separate sleeping spaces. The Jane-Ali relationship morphs into a platonic loving relationship between their parents, Christian Elisabeth and Muslim Ousmane, who practice their respective religion. The film ends with Ousmane returning to France and on his way back to Africa with the kora, a musical instrument, that he gave his son fifteen years ago. Elisabeth returns to her Guernsey farm. She is filmed in two scenes; one is set at her husband’s tomb that is next to where she built her daughter’s memorial. In the last scene, Elisabeth prepares her soil for planting. This last scene indicates the film’s message, that people from different nations, races, and religions, must prepare their soil for migrations beyond boundaries of race, religion, and nation.

34Racially charged films remind America and the world that we are far from a post-racial mountaintop. Additionally, films like The Butler, Fruitvale Station, and London River remind us how the African Diaspora and people of color in Western nations survive with pride and sometimes in humility, as in the experiences of Mr. Eugene Allen, the unnamed African-American maids in white homes, and their contemporaries Sonya Sotomayor, Rachida Dati, Rama Yade, Christiane Taubira, and Cecile Kyenge.

35Yes, there will be both white and black resistance, but when has this never been in the sociopolitical world?


Works Cited

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Tagliabue, John. ‘France’s First-Round Presidential Ballot Takes Shape’ Accessed 14 August 2014.

Winfield, Nicole. ‘Cecile Kyenge, Italy’s first black Cabinet minister, exposes racism’. NEWS05/305050024/Black-official-highlights-Italy-s-race-problem. Accessed 15 May 2013.

Yade, Rama. ‘Rama Yade à Nice-Matin: “J’ai péché par Sarkozisme excessif”’ (18 janvier 2013). rama-yade-a-nice-matin-jai-peche-par-sarkozysme-excessif.1116328. html. Accessed 15 May 2013.


1 In the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009, Oscar Grant III, unarmed and lying face down on a subway platform in Oakland, Calif., was shot in the back by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer. The incident, captured on video by onlookers, incited protest, unrest and arguments similar to those that would swirl around the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida a few years later. The deaths of these and other African-American young men touch some of the rawest nerves in the body politic and raise thorny and apparently intractable issues of law and order, violence and (accessed 12 July 2013).

2 Lucette Michaux-Chevry was the President of the Regional Council of the French overseas department of Guadeloupe between 1992 and 2004. She is the mother of Guadeloupean UMP politician Marie-Luce Penchard. (accessed 15 August 2014). From June to November 2009, Marie-Luce Penchard was ‘Secretary of State for Overseas Territories’, before becoming a Minister from November 2009 to May 2012. During that same period, Brice Hortefeux (June 2009-Feb. 2011), then Claude Guéant (Feb. 2011-May 2012) were given the role of ‘Minister of the Interior, Overseas Territories and Territorial Collectivities’. George Pau-Langevin was appointed ‘Minister of Overseas Territories’ on April 2, 2014. See Lau Afronoya, ‘Le blog afronoya’. (accessed 15 August 2014).

3 John Tagliabue, ‘France’s First-Round Presidential Ballot Takes Shape’.

4 The above poster depicts France’s Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who is black, as a King Kong-like giant ape, overrun by the demonstrators from the ‘Manif Pour Tous’, the main group opposing same-sex marriage in France. On Monday, a flyer calling for demonstrations against LGBT rights blew up on the French Twitterverse, outraging many even as it was retweeted repeatedly. Accessed 22 August 2013.

5 ‘ [Je suis] cohérente par rapport à mon combat sur l’égalité des droits [...] Je suis donc favorable à ce que je considère comme une évolution naturelle dans les pays occidentaux. À l’époque, j’avais été désignée comme le membre le plus gay friendly du gouvernement’ (Yade 2013).

6 Nicole Winfield, ‘Cecile Kyenge, Italy’s first black Cabinet minister, exposes racism’.

7 BBC NEWS, ‘Italy racism row: Cecile Kyenge compared to orangutan’. (accessed 15 July 2013).

8 ‘A Latina Judge’s Voice: Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s 2001 Address to the “Raising the Bar” Symposium at the UC Berkeley School of Law’.

9 Stevens Lee Myers, ‘Putin, After Silence, Condems Twin Bombings in Volvograd’, New York Times, December 31, 2013. (accessed 23 August 2015).

Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1 – Poster depicting Christiane Taubira4.
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