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‘Joe Biden is surrounded by Africans!’ – Rama Yade, Atlantic Council

By Clarisse Juompan-Yakam
Posted on Tuesday, 4 May 2021 22:48, updated on Wednesday, 5 May 2021 04:54

Rama Yade is director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre. DR

Rama Yade, who served as a secretary of state under French President Nicolas Sarkozy and who is now director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre, spoke to us about George Floyd’s death, single-race meetings and US-African policy.

Yade is an Afro-optimist, who believes that African countries are today where China was yesterday. For the world to succeed, she argues, Africa needs to succed.

While she admits France can appear intolerant from the outside, it is ‘salvageable’ — pointing to the Paris that welcomed writers like James Baldwin, themselves escaping a judgemental era in the US.

In the US, police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. Will there be a before and after?

Rama Yade: This trial made headlines in the media. The NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People] rallied, so did the Black Caucus. In the streets of Washington, where I live, houses still have “Black Lives Matter” signs up. George Floyd’s death has touched US society greatly. Nothing will ever be the same again.

However, such a trial would never have taken place in France. We still believe in this myth of a colour-blind society, despite the fact that there is rampant discrimination in housing and employment, and that little has changed since I entered politics 14 years ago.

Do you understand why in France some people want to organise same-race meetings to discuss these issues?

I understand this need, I like the comfort that comes with meeting as a community. In these types of meetings, one gets to be among people who have had similar experiences to themselves, it’s great to not be a minority for once, not to have to worry that people might look at you in a strange or aggressive way, who might even racist, it feels really good!

However, I love humanity too much to lock myself into a box. We must encourage exchange and discovery of the other. Rather than vilifying those who prefer single-race meetings, let’s try to understand why and finally take effective action against discrimination and racism. These meetings will then, in time, be a thing of the past.

Don’t some of the problems stem from cancel culture, a form of ostracism that is very popular in the US?