“In France, the appointment of Pap Ndiaye raised suspicions, while in the UK, the appointment of Rishi Sunak was celebrated”

vslook for the error. In France, Emmanuel Macron’s appointment of the first black person to the post of national education minister in May sparked a deluge of criticism and insults. “ A scary choice », attacked Marine Le Pen. Served by “ deconstruction of our country”, “racist”, “indigenous”, “Islamic-leftist” : the verbal stoning of the historian was of rare violence. His views, both universalist and sensitive to issues of inequality and discrimination, have been caricatured, falsified, his attachment to the republic called into question.

It is not an academic’s astonishing irruption into politics that has sparked debate, but his purported relationship to race, nation and the republic. As if the accession to the presidency of Jules Ferry, the most emblematic position of the Republic, as a Frenchman of mixed race, a Senegalese father and a French mother, was a misdemeanor. As if France’s achievements in terms of “diversity” were terribly fragile.

In the UK this is “diversity” was loudly celebrated on 24 October with the appointment of the first British Prime Minister of Indian origin, Rishi Sunak. That a purported Hindu is taking the reins of a country that has ruled India for nearly two centuries and the country is congratulating itself on its ability to open up to the world. A welcome self-celebration in a kingdom in turmoil. that Times greeted“extraordinary change of attitude [du pays] with regard to race, barely tempered Sajid Javid’s emphasis. For this former minister of Pakistani origin, Britain is nothing less than ” the most successful multicultural democracy in the world”.

Also read: “Anticops”, “Islamo-leftist”, “black communitarian”… The far-right attacks on Pap Ndiaye

While the appointment of Pap Ndiaye raised suspicions, the appointment of Rishi Sunak was celebrated. The contrast appears all the more striking as both have points in common: They were born in Europe and received an education in elite institutions (Lycée Henri-IV, Ecole Normale Supérieure and the University of Virginia for one; institution, Oxford and Stanford for the other second) and each personifies the success of meritocracy. But the cultures of their respective countries make them present themselves differently: “I am deeply British (…) but my heritage is Indian”says the Briton. “There is no more Republican than me”says the Frenchman.

Persistent discrimination

While egalitarian France claims to be blind to origins and contests the idea of ​​race, the United Kingdom is often presented as “communitarian” and highly divided. The reality, more complex, is that in France the taboo of “race” does not prevent, among some, a real obsession with skin color. Having dark skin leads to being suspected of republican disloyalty and called upon to defend against it. In the UK we are comfortable with the ‘ethnicity’ taken into account in official statistics. The praise of racial diversity, which is the subject of education in the school environment, is both more explicit and more common there than in France.

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