Thursday, May 22, 2008

Out of the mouths of French people

I’ve just got to rant a bit. Like I said at the beginning, that’s part of why I’m blogging. You may think that French people are enlightened and intellectual (and go around wearing berets in smoky cafés), but I’ve heard some things that really shock me. That make me think, hey, isn’t this the country of human rights, as they so like to say? Of liberty, equality and brotherhood? You wouldn’t think it by some of the comments these seemingly rational people make. Most of them I can’t even fully type here because they’re so ignorant and plain mean. Plus I’m afraid it would get my blog flagged by the FBI by some weird keyword search. But I’ll give you an idea of what I’ve heard.

Unfortunately there are some folks who think if you aren’t white and French that you’re basically in France to mooch off the system, come from some uncivilized country where they kill kittens for breakfast and insert your own insult here! Of course, this means you will not be referred to as a person from X country but all sorts of racist terms. Now, as I’ve said before, I’m no saint, and I can succumb to stereotypes, too. But I try to keep an open mind. And I think using these racial terms is just making things worse. Because you’re not treating these people as such but more like animals. And I really want to shout at the folks who are making these comments that they probably haven’t met enough people from these countries or ethnic backgrounds to even have a real knowledge of them or form a real opinion.

But I have a feeling it would fall on deaf ears. My little heartfelt speech would probably go like this: Well, now, you know, you really need to meet people to know them. And treat them as individuals. The stereotypes aren’t always true. There are some French folks who aren’t trustworthy, and there are some non-French folks who would give you the shirt off your back. It really all depends…

But I’m coming to see that people are hard to change. Especially French people who (excuse me for saying so) seem to be particularly stubborn about their opinions. And it’s pretty ironic ‘cause recently while talking about the US elections with my students, I said that Obama was a mixed-race man. They raised their eyebrows because “race” has a bad connotation in French. Here it’s used to refer to different animal breeds and thus sounds like something a certain German dictator would say. Never mind that I later found English articles on the Internet that used this very same term, so I know I’m not making it up.

Well, I guess I’ll keep carrying on my little meek battle to show these (ok, just certain) French folks the light. Can’t we all just get along?

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