“But Nobody Has White Skin!”

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A page of Mark’s colouring book

I won’t vote in the second round of the 2017 French presidential elections.

After all that drama, you won’t show up?” you may ask.

That’s right. I won’t go vote.

If the polling stations had been set up better, I would have gone and leave the ballot blank, or rather drop an empty envelope in the ballot box to show that I did care about the election but none of the two candidates was an acceptable option to me. But I’m not a masochist and I don’t want to queue for hours just to make a useless point.

I refuse to vote for a candidate or a party I don’t believe in. I do not trust M. Hail Corporate and I hate Mrs. Mein Kampf. It’s an impossible choice.

When the first-round results came out last Sunday, I wasn’t particularly surprised. In the 1990s, when Le Pen (the father) started to win around 10% overall support, everybody was shocked. In 2002, when Le Pen (the father, again) made it to the second round of the presidential election, French were floored and outraged. Fifteen years later, the question is no longer whether the Front National will be in the top two or three parties, but how high exactly its score will be.

21.30% of French are voting for a far-right-wing party promoting hate, racism, xenophobia, extremely backward values and the darkest pages of French history. This is a fact, whether we like it or not.

Now, media and politicians are urging voters, once again, to block Le Pen’s route to power. Like in 2002, the motto is “anyone but her.”

Of course, I don’t want to see her leading the country. But there is an issue we are conveniently avoiding: almost ¼ French voters believe in a hateful party. How do we deal with that? These voters and their ideas aren’t going anywhere. The beast will always be lurking for its chance to seize power.

I’m tired of hypocritical, last-minute desperate calls to “block Le Pen.” It’s disturbing, as if French was schizophrenic—righteous indignation by day, extremist vote by night.

I know not all Front National voters sleep in a Waffen-SS uniform and chat online with their KKK friends across the pond. Some voters feel like they’ve been cheated by “mainstream parties,” that an “unconventional leader” may take a radical approach and “change things.”

At some level, I can understand the rationale. However, I simply cannot understand racism and extremely conservative values. I cannot excuse using “immigrants” and “foreigners” and anyone different as scapegoats. I cannot follow this meaningless rhetoric because the “facts” aren’t “facts” at all but twisted interpretation of stats, news and trends.

I’ve argued with “fachos” (fascists) before. It’s a very frustrating exercise because you are arguing against at worst lies and at best ignorance.

Arguing is useless. I wish everyone could experience what it feels like to be a minority. I wish everyone could travel and discover other cultures. I wish I could tell people that it’s okay to be proud of who you are, that other people are proud of what they are as well, and that it’s not mutually exclusive. I wish I could say that social change is natural and if you don’t feel like embracing it it’s fine as long as you let those who do live their life freely. I wish I could explain that hate, fear and distrust don’t make anyone happier.

Yesterday night, just as I was completely discouraged after reading racist Tweets, this beautiful moment happened.

Mark was working on a colour-by-number book—you’ve probably seen those, each area has a number and a corresponding numbered colour to use.

For those who don’t have kids, colouring within the lines is a surprisingly hard skill to master, so Mark was very proud to show me his work.

“Oh, good job!” I said with as much enthusiasm as I could muster with a cold and fever. “You did very well. But look… the face didn’t have a number, you didn’t have to colour it.”

Yeah, I’m a French parent, I point out mistakes, I don’t just shout, “OMG, YOU ARE A GENIUS, SNOWFLAKE!”

Mark looked at me, surprised. “Well, that’s silly,” he stated. “Nobody has white skin. I don’t have white skin, you don’t have white skin, daddy doesn’t have white skin, Zaïd doesn’t have white skin, Lucas doesn’t have white skin and… nope. Nobody has white skin.”

Take that, Front National. Our multicultural four-year-old kid understands the world better than you do.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

23 Comments

  1. …..the motto is “anyone but her…..

    —/

    My gosh, this what “be friend with people who doesn’t speak the same language” quote is all about!
    have you read The Jakarta Post? What you have written in this post has similarity to what happen in Jakarta (and Facebook, and whatsapp group!) really! Including those being minority!

  2. Martin Penwald on

    I agree with the feelings here.
    The thing with the FN is that a part is pure facho and, like you say, another part is just casual racists who “want a change”. And I have a strong problem with these people voting for Le Pen. I call them stupid because Le Pen IS in the system they despise.
    Seriously, look : Le Pen help elected offices since almost 20 years. Before that, she was a lawyer for 4 years but seems she was not successful. Before that, for 2 years, she was lawyer associate in a daddy’s friend cabinet and before she was law student, which is essentially frequented by people in the high percentiles of revenues. Moreover, Le Pen’s family is very wealthy, she never had to make sacrifices to put bread on the table. She is as much in the system than Macron, Filllon, Hamon, Hollande and for this reason she suffers from the same alleged flaws her voters find in the others candidates. The fact they are blind to this tells me they are stupid or dishonnest.

    After that, Macron — who worked for Rothschild — is indeed the same kind of social-traître than the entiere PS, and we see that there is a strong reject of neoliberal policies (it is as well Mélenchon than Le Pen and small parties votes). The way European Union has been build is a wet dream of neo-liberals for whom everything has to be governed by laws of the market, screwing people by making citizens of each country be in concurrence at the European scale. As long as political parties refuse to acknowledge that, Le Pen (and Farage, Wilders … ) will do high scores in elections.

    I remember seeing a “Poles go home” in U.K during the Brexit campaign, which is the exact problem : EU rules made it possible to have workers from another country to work according to the law of their country in another country. Let’s face it, salaries in Poland are lower than in U.K, and same for social costs. So the competition is unfair for locals, because this foreign workers are there temporarly and win a high salary compared to their home country median. But it is not their fault to accept these jobs!
    I am pro-European, but what if each worker had to be paid according to local rules, and not homeland rules? It is simple, but completely at the opposite of the neo-liberal agenda which is to drain wealth from the bottom to the top (with the low rise of GDP since 40 years, it is the only way to become wealthier). Le Pen’s idea to launch a Frexit is stupid : seriously, it is what Putin wants, and a weakened Europe will be even easier to screw for Trump’s U.S.A. But in his program, Mélenchon adressed correctly the issue. He didn’t do almost 20% for no reason.

    • The Front National has a terrible track record when administering cities. On top of promoting backward values and spreading lies and hate, of course. It’s just so frustrating to argue with these voters… so much ignorance :-/

      As for the neo-liberal agenda, I despise it but it’s harder to fight because it’s so prevalent in many parts of the world.

  3. Martin Penwald on

    Prejudice against skin color in learned, not innate. It is funny how dark looks your skin in the picture on the top right you put of your last vacation. The contrast with the white and yellow wall reinforce your tan.

    It reminds me an experiment I’ve seen on TV. Small toddlers (I think they were between 6 monthes to 12 monthes old) were grouped together once with T-shirt of different colors and once without T-shirt. As good tribal little pricks, they had a tendancy to play with toddlers of the same T-shirt color. But when this sign was removed, there was no barrier to communication, skin color didn’t play any role in their choice of playmate.

    So, yeah Mark! Good job!

    • I have several examples with Mark where I realized he didn’t notice people have different skin colours. He just… doesn’t see it. It’s fascinating and really cool.

      We did the test: when I’m tan (I tan very easily, Mediterranean blood!), I’m much darker than Feng. Skin colour is completely irrelevant to me.

  4. I just wanted to say this whole post is so beautifully written.. You absolutely need to have your book(s) published and I see you writing a nice column in a paper as well.

    But for now thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece with my morning coffee 🙂

    • This is very sweet and I’m blushing like crazy. It’s a pretty good feeling to imagine anyone reading with interest, while taking a break 🙂

  5. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH
    I almost cried…
    I read your blog posts from time to time (as a fellow French girl living in Canada 🙂 ), not really easy for me to comment these days but…
    I just love your boy’s comment.
    Now I can I hope for humanity again, thank you. 🙂

    • Allô/bonjour! 🙂

      This was purely anecdotal but I truly hope in a little while, we will all be super casual about our different cultures and lifestyle. For instance, my grand-parents’ generation probably wasn’t used to seeing two men or two women together (obviously, homosexuality existed, it was just hidden…) but for me it’s completely normal to meet a couple of husband & husband or wife & wife.

  6. Give Mark a kiss and a hug from me – beautifully done! It’s good to know there will always be those of us fighting the good fight in this world!

  7. But you are aware that voting blanc or not voting is voting for Le Pen? Her fanatic voters will show up to vote, and if the French chose not to vote against her, France will have Le Pen just like Uncle Sam with Trump. Worst of all, the French will have to pay for her pension for Life and be tarnished with the image of being an extreme right country.

    I really don’t understand the French mentalities. There is this young men who tell you that he’s going to change the system, to give equal right to the all pension / get rid of the special pension which is not fair to the private sector employees, to give unemployment benefits to all people which was previously réserve to only private sectors employees (this allow people who wants to go for entreprenariat to have a safety net, agriculture who is fed up with their job to change a new job), to give training people to adapt to the constantly changing job market. To give a stable financial system to France to attract company to invest in France… and people choose to believe in JLM who thinks of Latin American as his social models… promising utopies that cannot be fulfill and bring the entire country into difficulty by asking for Frexit…

    Macron sounds sincere and honest, he has worked in the private and govt sector, he understands the difficulty and he wants to get rid of bureaucracy. The French are whining and complaining all the time, now you have a chance to gamble with this young man… and people prefer to stick to their comfort zone. Either calling him a banker so he must be a bad person (imaging if Mark is a banker); saying that he has been in the system but he actually suit the govt because they don’t follow his advice, he can’t bring in the change necessary to revitalise the country; say that he likes money ( frankly if that’s true, he should stay in Rothschild. The French pay peanuts to their president. My VP earns more than him with less stress and responsibility) All excuses are allowed because they are afraid of CHANGES.

    I admire his courage, this is an ungrateful job, Damn if you do, Damn if you don’t.

    Giving France to Marine Le Pen, the country is condamned. She will bring out all the unwanted behavior which was previously hidden… raciste, xenophobic, islamphobic, …. and worst of all an immediate hit on the country’s economy. Everybody is waiting to see if they should continue to invest in France. France needs courage to renew its old self to survive in the new ruthless economy.

    • I understand your point. No, I truly do: I’ve been arguing with Feng whose position is like yours: give Macron a chance. Honestly, his ideology doesn’t bother me the way Le Pen’s beliefs and program hurt my core beliefs. I just… don’t believe in him. I do think France needs to change but I’m not sure it should take the super liberal path. I see how fucked up things are in North America, where the liberal models has been in effect for years. I feel schizophrenic: because I live in Canada and I’m used to the liberal model, I’m generally more liberal than most of my left-wing friends in France. I don’t think making money should be taboo, for instance and I do think a few “exceptions françaises” are just ridiculous at this stage. However, because I grew up in France, I also have certain principles and expectations I just… can’t explain rationally. For instance, his promise for change sounds empty to me. I don’t think he has a good track record in terms of economic decision.

      It would have been the first time Le Pen makes it to the second round, I think I would have gone vote Macron. But this is the second time in happens (cf. 2002 with her father) and I think it will keep on happening again and again and I just can’t believe in democracy if I vote by default for the less evil of the two.

      • No, it is not a vote by default. You’ll be voting against somebody who doesn’t share the French Republic value. You may not want to vote for Macron, but your vote for Macron will allow France to keep her démocratic system.

        I meet a lot of people like you in my company, they are completely lost. They cannot explain why they have difficulty to vote Macron, they choose to attack him on his career: banker; his education: ENA; his program, saying that he has no program when they don’t even bother to read it but choose to believe fake news or say that he is holland déguisé. A completely irrational approach. For me, they are simply afraid of changes.

        We have to be realistic, facing Marine Le Pen and the economic situation in France, do you really think that by not voting is a solution? This is our last gambling chips, if Macron fail to reform and improve the country, we’re condamned to have Marine Le Pen in 2022, do you prefer to gamble NOW with your last chip or you prefer to let her win without fighting?

        I always find that the Right or the Left wing politicians won’t do what’s realistic and necessary but stick to their left or right to win votes. Quoting Deng Xiaopin’s, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice”. We have to take the best of both worlds. Macron has a pragmatic approach, you have to be lighten the code of travail if you want to attract investment to create jobs, but a liberal system will bring about job instability because everybody thinks that company will fire without hesitation. But if you job is necessary, will they fire you, its like crippling yourself, non? A company needs to be agile to face challenges. Macron promise training to people who needs new qualification to find new jobs. And of course people didn’t like what he says because you can no longer refuse more than 2 jobs if they are decent and reasonable. Frankly, I was on unemployment for 2 years, pôle emploi wasn’t even capable to propose jobs to me. At the end, I found a job myself. I was lucky because i had recommendation from ex-colleagues. I think if a company was able to fire me easily, they would not have hesitation to hire me to take a risk.

        The world has changed and it is evolving constantly. If France wants to keep her advantage, we have to adapt and not being as an ostrich. There’s so much injustice and inequality between the public and private sector. 30 years with the left or the right, nothing has changed. But there is a new kid on the block, give him a chance and give the people who is ready for changes a chance. It’s our last chip to get rid of the old and corrupted politicians who are here for their own profits and not for the French. If he loose the election, we will be the losers. Macron will go on to do other things and we’ll be stuck with Marine Le Pen. The country will go into complete chaos…

        • Around me (i.e. people who mostly voted Mélenchon or various left-wing parties), there is a debate about the upcoming second round. I’m sure it’s the same in France right now. Some of my friends will vote for Macron to block Le Pen, other won’t vote for the same reasons as mine. I think both positions are perfectly fine. We all do what we think is right and it’s okay to agree to disagree 🙂

          Like I said, my position isn’t so much a disdain for Macron but rather exasperation because I even if we block Le Pen this time, she isn’t going anywhere. Her ideas spread, almost 1/4 support her. How long do we have to “block” the FN like this? It’s not an accident she made it to the second round. We all knew she would. From there, what do we do as voters? Betray values and vote “practical”? I have a hard time doing this.

          Deep down, I don’t think Macron will change anything in France. I won’t cry if he is elected and given the current situation, obviously I’d rather have him than Le Pen. But I still won’t vote for him.

        • Martin Penwald on

          > Macron has a pragmatic approach, you have to be lighten
          > the code of travail if you want to attract investment to
          > create jobs, but a liberal system will bring about job
          > instability because everybody thinks that company
          > will fire without hesitation.

          Unfettered capitalism : The exact reason why Le Pen makes such big scores. We are in a society where there is not anymore enough jobs for everybody, and automation, before immigration, is the reason of it. As long as Macron and his ilk (I include les Républicains and le PS in it) won’t accept to this fact, Le Pen will keep doing high scores.
          To increase jobs offers significantly, the best solution is to have a 2 digits “croissance”. Good luck with that.

          • Martin.

            Accept Marine Le Pen, and what do we do after? Please enlighten me with this approach.

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