France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

January 20, 2009

Yes he is

Well, it may be a transformational moment for the U.S. of A. today but the France Culture radio guest analyzing it this morning fell right into the old French race trap.

Everything was going well until, fielding a question from the program’s token female commentator about the role of Michelle Robinson Obama Princeton ’83 or ’85 (comme moi), Bernard Manin said that one thing she brings him is that she’s African-American. “He’s not.” Come again? (tr.: Comment ça?) Supposedly, Mr. Marin teaches at New York University, but I guess he makes his race calls from his white French prejudices. Refresher to the professor: Obama’s father was African. He was born in America. Et voila: He’s African-American.

The professor did accurately if unwittingly respond to another reflected question that the election of the first AFRICAN-AMERICAN president has posed to France: Could it happen here? Not as long as those of Arab or African descendance — no matter how many generations they’ve been here in France — are STILL referred to as Arabs, Maghrebians, Africans, and Blacks, and not just simply French.


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