With the implosion of the French national team this week at the World Cup, I found myself wondering about the role food plays in the consciousness of French identity and how that may have influenced the scandal and chaos.
For those of you who don’t know what is what: Raymond Domenech, the French coach, removed Nicholas Anelka, a team member, after Monsieur Anelka swore at him. In response, the team refused to practice. Subsequently, Patrice Evra, the team captain, refused to sing, Les Marseillaise,” the national anthem. And then! And then…the team lost to South Africa and was eliminated in the first round!
But wait…the real scandal, as evident in today’s NY Times piece on the unfolding drama, “Racial Undertones in Reactions to France’s Exit From the World Cup,” is how leading French politicians, thinkers, and government officials are saying that all this is happening because the team isn’t white.
From the article–www.nytimes.com/2010/06/24/world/europe/24france.html?ref=:
“The philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, who has often criticized the failures of French assimilation, compared the players to youths rioting in thebanlieues, France’s suburban ghettos. ‘We now have proof that the French team is not a team at all, but a gang of hooligans that knows only the morals of the mafia,’ he said in a radio interview.
“Fadela Amara, the junior minister for the racially charged suburbs who was born to Algerian parents, warned on Tuesday that the reaction to the team’s loss had become racially charged. “There is a tendency to ethnicize what has happened,” she told a gathering of PresidentNicolas Sarkozy’s governing party, according to news reports. ‘Everyone condemns the lower-class neighborhoods. People doubt that those of immigrant backgrounds are capable of respecting the nation.’ She criticized Mr. Sarkozy’s handling of a debate on “national identity,” warning that “all democrats and all republicans will be lost” in this ethnically tinged criticism about Les Bleus, the French team. ‘We’re building a highway for the National Front,’ she said, in a reference to the far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen.
I’ll tell you what I think: I think that if the French spent half as much time talking about immigration and racism as they did about gastronomy, none of this would have happened. Distracted by salivary glands, they continue to ignore the growing needs and skills of folks of color who are as French as Madame Le Pen. (What’s up with her, anyway? Why can’t she be pleasant?)
White boy with ball just prior to me coming upside his head: