It’s interesting to be in a new country for many reasons but one that I wasn’t expecting has to do with race and prejudice. As white man in American I am responsible for the slaughter of the Native Americans, slavery, the subjugation of women and the cancellation of “Arrested Development”. (For the record my great grand parents were growing rocks in a tiny field in rural Ireland and I religiously watched Arrested Development). The beauty of being in France is that the problems of racism, sexism, genocide of indigenous populations are not my doing, I’m just a war mongering, condescending, loud, ugly American- a title I can live with.
Move to France and it all changes- I am no longer responsible for all the ills of the country. I didn’t mistreat the Algerians or refuse a job to someone because they are African*. Hell, if anything I’m the victim- they made me sign a piece of paper saying I wouldn’t work and oooh how I long to work. I am, as are my black American brothers in Europe, just “the idiots that voted for Bush…(wait for it)… twice”.
This whole sordid thought came about a few weeks ago as stood outside the American Church in Paris. An African American told a “black joke” to 4 white Americans. Everyone was uncomfortable when he said “What do you call two black…?”, everyone, that is except him, which I suspect was the point of telling the joke.
What do you call two black homosexuals in a bar? Answer: Gay
OK- it’s kind of funny – I enjoy a good twist to a joke but I couldn’t help but think, “leave that shit in America.”
The more I thought about it, (anything worth thinking about is worth over thinking) it occurred to me that maybe I ought to leave that shit at home. Maybe he was just telling a joke. Maybe the joke immediately put me on the defensive and caused me to look at the differences between us instead of the similarities. Maybe I need to lighten up and not him. Maybe if we bomb Iran I wouldn’t have to think about these things.
*Suggestions for Africans looking for work in Europe: Tell the interviewer that you are an African not an AfriCAN'T- just watch those job offers roll in.