What is behind the racist wave against Pap Ndiaye

As soon as he was appointed Minister of National Education, Pap Ndiaye received a volley of negative reactions, each more pathetic than the last. A racist wave that should put us all to shame. I won’t quote them here: these posts aren’t worth it; I hope the minister has not read them.

Let’s quickly skip the few scribbles that refer the minister to his position as a servant of the “macrony” (like others before him). Being appointed by Emmanuel Macron is enough to deprive him of his free will. Conversely, whoever will boast of refusing a position will see this courage greeted. It’s ridiculous, but that’s the way it is. So let’s put it neatly: the job was offered to him and he accepted it. Pap Ndiaye is able to choose, to decide.

Returned to “awake ideology”

Let’s see what the other posts say, those who see in this appointment the intrusion of wakeful ideology in National Education, the ending of a “Republican line”, the end of the school “of our ancestors -Ah! the good old days of the iron rule that struck with folded fingers – and who fear the “anti-white comments” of the minister, who has been guilty of attending a meeting in the bachelor party.

A vision of horror looms: “In the past, the children stood up when the principal entered the classroom. With Pap Ndiaye they will have to get down on one knee and apologize for being white” –no, I will not quote the author of these despicable comments.

Racism? It will be argued that this is not the case and that only ideas are targeted, not man. The argument does not hold for a second. Who believes that one can improvise specialist work by Pap Ndiaye in a few minutes? It is just as believable as a team of infectious disease specialists or military experts who post according to the news and blatantly display their ignorance laced with certainties.

Pap Ndiaye’s academic work has a good back. Besides, what were they worth in light of two video clips and a few rumours, which were enough to cause a wave of racism that we hardly dare to describe as unexpected?

A torturous and perverse racism…

However, it is important to indicate what racism is involved. It seems to me that Pap Ndiaye was not a victim of racism because he is black. Black-skinned ministers have already sat in government without being debated. They were entitled to glory, to anonymity or indifference, to success or failure. Just like everyone.

It also seems to me that Pap Ndiaye was not a victim of racism because of his ideas, because he wrote The Black Americans – Marching for Equality True The Black Condition – Essay on a French MinorityI firmly believe that his detractors have never leafed through any of these works.

Pap Ndiaye thinks, and thinks of himself, and thinks of us. And this thought, even before it is read, is perceived as threatening.

No, the racism that affects Pap Ndiaye is more perverse, perhaps more unexpected, than a simple rejection of a skin color or a “black” thought. The Education Minister has faced racist attacks for being black and has written books on the black situation. It is the combination of these two facts, this meeting between a body and a thought, that is unbearable in the eyes of many.

…which deprives him of his right to think

Ah! if he had stayed in place, that of the discreet academic! If he had deigned to take an interest in the theater of Marivaux, in the reproduction of crustaceans, in organic farming among the Guarani Indians or in the imbalance of Saturn’s rings, in TV shows and social networks, we would quickly praised his erudition and that was it.

But that he dared to question racism, the black condition, that he chose to study the historical and social character of his skin color, that is unbearable. Pap Ndiaye thinks, and thinks of himself, and thinks of us. And this thought, even before it is read, is perceived as threatening.

Although epidermal, this racism is stringy. He follows winding paths in us. It shows that we – I use this collective ‘we’ with care – believe that there are topics that should be reserved for some people and not for others. In this case, a black does not have to wonder about his own condition. A white would do it (better?) for him. Tragic intellectual house arrest!

Pap Ndiaye was a student and then a brilliant student. Outside the norms. He passed and passed the most selective matches. He has taught in prestigious institutions. He wrote and defended a dissertation. He published. He debated, argued, listened, reflected. He is an academic, an intellectual such as France regularly produces.

We’re willing to bet that almost all of the criticism comes from people who haven’t read his work. And who would wish they just didn’t exist. Well, it would be good if Pap Ndiaye hadn’t said or written anything. We like him as a silent intellectual.

Otherness crowds out our intimacies

As I write these words, the images of Christiane Taubira, represented as a monkey, come back to me. She too suffered from this racism, in a paroxysmal and hateful way. Once again, disturbing ideas were brought by a black-skinned person. Today, it is impossible to know whether the marriage reform would have gone smoothly for everyone if it had been worn by a white man. But we can ask ourselves the question, in our hearts.

I sometimes thought that Christiane Taubira’s personality, frail, divisive, had some responsibility in the force of denial that put a rather innocuous law at the bottom. But honesty forces me to recognize that politics is inherently divisive. Ministers often show arrogance, despise their opponents and skin color has nothing to do with it. Unconsciously, our collective “we” may have denied a black woman the legitimacy to carry this topic. She should have stayed where she was. Please manage the ministry calmly and do not carry out any project that harms the privacy of society.

Because for everyone, marriage yesterday or racism today digs deep into our intimacy, digs complex questions, questions certainties, brings about profound changes. Faced with our conservatisms are both the internal enemy of change and the external enemy of otherness. The interrogation has a face and it is all the more awkward that it embodies this interrogation.

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We are in 2022 and a great intellectual is Minister of National Education. His name is Pap Ndiaye and he is black. For our comfort, he should increase the salaries of the teachers and above all stop thinking and keep his mouth shut. It doesn’t work out and that’s a good thing: let’s bet he keeps thinking, writing and fueling the debate. Maybe he doesn’t even forget to educate the teachers.

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