Is racism universal?
It certainly exists in Europe. Did Europeans invent racism or is it older than their continent? Which European countries are more racist: those with or without “others”? How racist is France? But Paris is so wonderful!
Ah — Paree! It is so wonderful if you manage to stay way from the Parisians who wish you had never come to their city. I do like going to Paris, even the last time when I was forced to be there because my COVID vaccination card wasn’t enough for me to board my connecting flight to Libreville, Gabon. I needed a negative PCR test result. I was told by Air France ground agents I was welcome to sleep in the airport that night and wait 4 days to get another flight. That didn’t work for me. I went on booking.com and reserved a hotel room, got a taxi, and went into the city.
Although it was July, the weather was execrable and I couldn’t just stroll around; so, I found a restaurant near my hotel and treated myself to a scrumptious meal, the highlight of my 48-hour stay. There is always something French to redeem even a horrible stay in France. A saving grace. I ran into no railing racists and was on my way once I switched airlines and flew to Addis Ababa, then on to Libreville in 2 not 4 days.
Everyone is not so fortunate. A young man, having lunch in a Parisian restaurant comparable to the one I’d so enjoyed, was unable to appreciate his meal and the conversation he was having with a friend due to the yelping dog of a neighboring patron. This incident occurred at a time when dogs were allowed in restaurants. The young man was not French. The dog owner was a woman, a senior citizen. She humored her doggy, coddled and fed it unaware of any disturbance it was causing anyone. The young man, however, decided to ask her if there were anything she could do “s’il vous plaît, Madame” to quiet the dog a bit.
Her reaction was swift and glib. Perhaps she had used it before or maybe it was her stock answer to non français de souche(*): “At least my dog is French!” she snapped.
Well, if privilege applies to dogs, making them more entitled than human diners in a restaurant, I suppose racism probably does exist in some form or another in most places. This doesn’t mean all French, or all Europeans or even all humans are racist, but deep feelings, deep negative feelings are often expressed in the most offhanded ways. Random acts of racism happen all day, everyday. This woman knew what she was saying and why. Some people know neither, but they make statements, carry out acts and hurt others just because they view them as different, lower than their pet animals, even in Paris.
- Français de souche = French people whose ancestors were French as opposed to immigrants or non-French