[Marxism] White Supremacy on Display in Paris

Greg McDonald gregmc59 at gmail.com
Thu Jan 15 09:40:43 MST 2015

A FB friend wrote the following intro:

"one of my fb friends, a french academic, returns to france and posts:
“upon arrival, immediately noticeable: what an atmosphere here of all kinds
of white supremacist nationalist collective emotions out of control.” later
she explains: “50 recorded islamophobic acts in france, including 20
recorded acts of islamophobic physical violence (burnings, physical
attacks, grenades, etc) and more than 30 recorded threats of violence
(letters, direct harassment)." meanwhile, my european friends continue to
preach free speech and their hatred of “obscurantism” while decrying my
posts as being racist towards europeans because i dare mention europe’s
colonial, genocidal history, which carries on to this day, many times via
european settler colonies. there is immense denial here that helps
construct an impeachable image of the so-called west as “human
civilization.” it’s mind-boggling. muslims are constantly asked to look
inward and reform their societies from within (decry terrorism, extremism,
violence, misogyny, apathy, sensitivity, lack of the right sense of humor
or the right taste in clothing, etc). i think the time has come to ask
europe to look inward and accept its violent past (which was also, btw,
enormously profitable and helped build the wealthy societies we see today)
as well as its violent present which continues to thrive on harshly imposed
(and closely policed) inequities. here is a brilliantly eloquent piece by
ajamu baraka:

The Je Suis Charlie slogan like one of those mindless advertising themes
meant to appeal to the unconscious and the irrational, nevertheless, has to
have cultural reference points, culturally embedded meanings that evoke the
desire to want to buy a product, or in this case to identify with an
imagined civilization. It does not matter that the supposed superiority of
Western civilization and its values is based on constructed lies and myths,
it is still the basis of a cross-class, transnational white identity. The
white identity is so powerfully inculcated while simultaneously
invisibalized that identification is not seen as the essentialized identity
politics that people of color supposedly engage in, instead it is just
being “human.” And as we witnessed this weekend and throughout the colonial
world, identification with whiteness is not limited by one’s racial or
national assignment.

It is not necessary in this short essay to even address the contradictory
nature of the European self-understanding, how that self-perception is
utterly disconnected from its practice, and how many people in the world
see the 500-years European hegemony as an interminable nightmare.

However, for those folks who believe the simple assertion that black lives
matter and that “racial progress” will be realized through progressive
legislative reform derived from a better understanding of the harmful
impact of racially discriminatory practices, the unfiltered expressions of
white solidarity and the privileging of white life should be a wake-up


The humanity and cultures of Arabs and Muslims have been denigrated in
France for decades. Full recognition of the humanity of Arabs and Muslims
has always come at a cost – Arabs and Muslims are required to “assimilate,”
to mimic French lifestyles, embrace the language, adopt the values and
worldview of their cosmopolitan patrons. Older generations of fully
colonized individuals subjected themselves to that degrading ritual, but
later generations see this requirement as the colonial assault on their
being that it is and have resisted.

It is the arrogant lack of respect for the ideas and culture of
non-European peoples that drove the French ban on the wearing of the niqab
and other traditional veiling clothing for Muslim women, just one example
of the generalized discriminatory treatment of Arabs and Muslims in France.
In this lager context, Charlie Hebdo’s blatant disregard and disrespect for
another religion, shielded by an absolute commitment to freedom of speech
that gives them blanket immunity, is now compounded by the “Je Suis Charlie
campaign,” orchestrated in the name of upholding the values of liberal,
Western civilization.

What it means for many of us in the Black community is that Je Suis Charlie
has become a sound bite to justify the erasure of non-Europeans, and for
ignoring the sentiments, values and views of the racialized “other.” In
short, Je Suis Charlie has become an arrogant rallying cry for white
supremacy that was echoed at the white power march on Sunday in Paris and
in the popularity of the new issue of Charlie Hebdo.

A shared ethical framework under the system of capitalist/colonial white
supremacy is impossible. Deeply grounded in the European psyche and in the
contradictions of its “humanist” traditions, who was considered fully human
always had qualifications, and equality was always a nuanced concept.

The contradictory ethical framework that informs the world view of
Parisians is grounded in the colonial division of humanity that emerged out
of the liberal humanist movement of the 18th Century. This tradition
allowed for humanity to be divided into those people who were considered
fully human with rights that should be respected and those peoples
consigned to non-being. Those non-beings became eligible to have their
lands taken, to be enslaved and murdered at will."

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