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these French people of African origin who have chosen to return – Jeune Afrique

Diversity, a French hypocrisy

There is Ina, who was refused the rental of an apartment because her file was “too good to be true”, according to the owner, who saw fit to add: “We know the scams of Africans. Or Aminata, who has painful memories of the many police checks she attended as a child, when she walked the streets of Paris with her father.

Each of the people we meet has this type of anecdote to tell, these “little” so-called benevolent remarks, these acts of ordinary racism that end up weighing. Born in France or in their country of origin, these black French women ended up being tired of always being “the other” in their own country.

Driven by a desire to undertake, to change things, to reconnect with their family or with their roots, they have chosen to (re) come and settle on the continent. A decision sometimes resented or misunderstood by their own parents, who themselves had left everything to offer them a chance to succeed. All of them also confide in the cultural shock that surprised them in their new country, which they sometimes joined with a little naivety. However, they do not plan for anything in the world to return to France. Meeting with these ex-Afropéennes who have chosen to return.

• Ina, 36, in Bamako since 2015: “Our parents left to succeed, we come back for the same reasons”

“It was when my first child was born that I wanted to leave. As a child, the racist micro-aggressions marked me a lot, I didn’t want my children to grow up in the same context. I refuse that they can tell themselves that blacks are inferior to whites. When you’re young, you just want to be like everyone else. Racism and Islamophobia continue to worsen in France. My husband is very religious, and I know he would have been considered an Islamist if we hadn’t left. To teach Islam to one’s children is to take the risk of being accused of sectarianism, of communitarianism. Practicing your religion in France when you’re a Muslim, having a beard, going to the mosque, means taking the risk of being put on S. It’s scary.

My parents arrived very young in France. My mother didn’t understand that we wanted to go home. She told me: “I made my career here, I overcame discrimination, you can do it too.” But we no longer have the same mentality. Today, we want to assert ourselves as people, we don’t want to be constantly referred to our skin color.

It’s the best for my children

Our parents left to succeed, and we return for the same reasons. We are a lot of very qualified young people who want to undertake, contribute to the development of the country, and who know that they will have better living conditions there. It’s sad compared to the project of our parents. Is this a form of headlong rush? Maybe, but I’m sure it’s best for my kids.

I set up an association of Franco-Malians: we help them to settle, we encourage them to get involved in the consular elections. It is important to keep this link with France. When we lived there, we thought we were Malians, when we arrived here, we realized that we were really French! You have to know how to find your balance between the two cultures. If we had to leave Mali, for security reasons for example, we would go elsewhere: we would not return to France.

• Awa, 44, returned to Senegal six years ago: “The day after the November 2015 attacks, the Islamophobic atmosphere seemed unbearable to me”

Awa Ly, communications director of a multinational. © Sylvain Cherkaoui for JA

“Born in Senegal, I left the country with my parents when I was 2 years old. I grew up between Val-de-Marne and 11e district of Paris. I did good studies, I had a job that I liked, a nice apartment in Bastille, I earned a good living. However, deep inside me, I always knew that I would join the country of my parents. In the aftermath of the November 2015 attacks, the Islamophobic atmosphere that gripped France seemed unbearable to me. And I wanted my children to immerse themselves in the “real Africa”, not the one they would see on French television. I quit my job overnight, sold my car and left.

When I arrived, I created “Le club des nouvelles blédards”, because I realized that there was no space here for people like me. The Senegal of our holidays and the one where we are settling are two different countries! Adapting to habits and customs, learning to decipher people, it takes time. I often go back to France: it’s there that I recharge my batteries now! And then there are very good things in France, a certain framework, the Vitale card… But I don’t think I’ll settle there again. The presidential campaign seems distressing and delirious to me. None of this will fix the problems that the country does not want to face up to.

This return movement is growing enormously, we feel a bit like pioneers at the time of the conquest of the West. We want to help build the Africa of our dreams. Despite the problems, we are driven by an energy that does not exist in France. We feel that this is where things are happening, and now. »

• Aminata, 30, in Dakar since June 2019: “I feel at home here”

“My first confrontation with racism dates back to my childhood, when my father, a Senegalese-Bissau-Guinean, suffered racial profiling from the police. He arrived in France very young, as a Guinean refugee, and always told us about the difficulties he had encountered. He fought so hard to be able to emigrate and to assimilate that initially he was shocked that I wanted to leave the country. Today, he is happy; it must do him good that I’m proud of my origins.

Finally, I left because I felt it was time. My place was no longer in France. The feeling of diversity and mutual aid that I experienced in the suburbs of Paris, I understood that it did not necessarily exist elsewhere in the country. I had never set foot in Senegal, and yet, here, I feel like at home. I created my own cosmetic box, to magnify textured hair. The hair is the reflection of our identities, and we must be able to become aware of its value.

I tell my friends to do like me. Not because some French people ask us to, but because you have to know how to leave when you are not well somewhere. »

• Anouk, 27, living in Senegal since 2017: “France doesn’t have much to offer me anymore”

Anouk, government affairs manager at Microsoft.  ©  Sylvain Cherkaoui for JA

Anouk, government affairs manager at Microsoft. © Sylvain Cherkaoui for JA

“I gradually opened up to my Africanness. Born in Congo and adopted by French people, I have always been curious about where I came from. It was through my meeting with the one who was to become my best friend, a Gabonese woman, that I began to act within an Afro-feminist collective. I was able to put words to the micro-aggressions I was the victim of, which made me feel less alone. My parents tended to minimize what was happening to me. But today, it is more and more obvious: even white people can no longer deny that there is a lot of racism in France.

All these years of studying to have my CV thrown in the trash, no thank you!

When, as a student, I started looking for work, without success, I wondered if there was a market for me. In 2017, I took a one-way ticket to Dakar to meet my best friend there. I said to myself then: “It is useless to try in France.” All these years of studying to have my CV thrown in the trash, no thank you! Here I found my first job in just a few weeks. Amazing speed!

And then, in Senegal, I am no longer “the only” Black. It makes my daily life less violent. Not having to ask yourself certain questions is a real relief. Since the last presidential [de 2017], I also feel less concerned about what is happening in France. This uninhibited racism that we see on television sets is depressing, and makes me deeply uncomfortable. Returning to France, what for? France no longer has much to offer me.

“Diversity, a French hypocrisy” :

• Monday February 28: “We did not choose France out of masochism”, the joint interview between Elisabeth Moreno and Kofi Yamgnane

• Tuesday March 1: [Décryptage] Equality, fraternity, racism: France, Republic of paradoxes

• Wednesday March 2: French presidential election: where is Africa hiding in the candidates’ programs?

• Thursday March 3: [Fact-checking] Racism in France: “great replacement” and other clichés about immigration put to the test

• Friday March 4: Diversity of elites in France: the essential reform of the Grandes Ecoles

• Saturday March 5: Maboula Soumahoro: “It is not enough to declare oneself a universalist”

• Sunday March 6: [Reportage] Back to basics with the “repats” of West Africa

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