African Diaspora, black france, Black Paris

3rd and final part of Al Jazeera’s Black France documentary

The last episode of this series focuses on the extreme racism and discrimination black immigrants faced during times of economic hardship and through political shifts in post-World War II France.

The 1973 oil crisis quadrupled the price of oil. The Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) embargoed oil exports to countries that supported Israel in the War of Yom Kippur. France, like many other western nations, was hit hard by the price increase and plummeted into a recession.

Immigrants became the band-aid solution to France’s economic problems. The government set a goal to encourage 500,000 foreigners to return to their countries. African immigrants who stayed were forced from slums into hostels where they were further segregated and ghettoised.

Opposition to immigrants festered and, by 1977, more than half of France’s citizens said they wanted to see immigration numbers decrease.

But Africans joined workers of other nationalities in protest. A four-year rent strike spread across the country’s hostels. And then in 1981, the newly elected President Francois Mitterrand promised to regularise 130,000 undocumented workers. The government shifted its focus from mass migration of unskilled labour to skills training in the former colonies.

But many questioned France’s paternalistic attitude towards the independent African nations. And despite some change, racism and hate crimes against black people escalated.

From protests and marches to music and dance, this is the story of how black people born in France fought for equality in the face of discrimination and how they used culture as a tool to empower generations.

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