Days Black People Not Re-Enslaved By Trump

Sunday, November 27, 2005

France Revisited

Ok, so I was having a Van Sertima moment here. Let me start off with a quote from James Baldwin's Nobody Knows My Name written 3 years before The Fire Next Time The latter was repeatedly quoted in articles sympathetic to the outbreak. I have often been more interested in Baldwins' prior writing. Perhaps he had a change of views between the two writings though it is entirely possible that the thoughts in both are complementary. I do hope so because then Baldwin and I would be on the same page in our overall view of the situation in France as it regards the Africans there. Baldwin writes in his essay "Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter From Harlem":

There is a housing project standing now where the house in which we grew up once stood... when we reach the end of this long block, we find ourselves on wide, filthy, hostile Fifth Avenue, facing that project which hangs over the avenue like a monument to the folly, and cowardice, of good intentions...I am talking about those who are left, and I am principally talking about the young. What are they doing? Many..are "moslems" by affiliation or sympathy, that is to say that they are united by nothing more-and nothing less-than a hatred of the white world and all it's works...Negroes do not own General Motors or RCA or the A&P, nor, indeed, do they own more than a wholly insufficient fraction of anything else in Harlem. There are those who are simply sitting on their stoops, "stoned," animated for a moment only, and hideously, by the approach of someone who may lend them money for a "fix." Or by the approach of someone from whome they can purchase it,one of the shrewd ones, on the way to prison or just coming out.

And the others, who have avoided all of these deaths, get up in the morning and go downtown to meet "the man."

The projects in Harlem are hated. They are hated almost as much as policemen, and this is saying a great deal. And they are hated for the same reason: both reveal, unbearably, the real attitude of the white world, no matter how many liberal speeches and made, no matter how many lofty editorials are written, no matter how many civil-rights commissions are set up.

The projects are hideous, of course, there being a loaw, apparently respected throughout the world, that popular housing shall be as cheerless as a prison. They are..colorless, bleak, high and revolting.

Harlem got it's first project, Riverton-which is now, naturally a slum-about twelve years ago...Harlem wathced Riverton go up, therefore, in the most violent bitterness of spriti, and hated it long before the builders arrived, they began hating it long before the builders arrived...And they had scarcly moved in, naturally, before they began smashing windows, defacing walls, urinating in the elevators, and fornicating in the playgrounds...Other people were delighted to be able to pont to proof positive that nothing could be done to better the lot of colored people, They were, and are, right inb one respect: That nothing can be done as long as they are treated like colored people. The people of Harlem know they are living there because white people fo not think they are good enough to live anywhere else. No amount of "improvement" can sweeten this fact. Whatever money is now earmarked to improve this, or any other ghetto, might as well be burnt. A ghetto can be improved in one way only: out of existance.

Baldwin continues with descriptions of the policing in the ghettos. Now the purpose for me bringing this up is that the NY Times posted an article entitled Revolting High Risesthat discusses the high rises that house most of the poor "non-French."

The Swiss architect Le Corbusier, as Francophobes have been more than ready to explain, bears some of the blame for both. His designs inspired many of the suburbs where the riots of October and November began. In fact, he inspired the very practice of housing the urban poor by building up instead of out. Soaring apartments, he thought, would finally give sunlight and fresh air to city laborers, who had been trapped in narrow and fetid back streets since the dawn of urbanization. But high-rise apartments mixed badly with something poor communities generate in profusion: groups of young, armed, desperate males. Anyone who could control the elevator bank (and, when that became too terrifying to use, the graffiti-covered stairwells) could hold hundreds of families ransom.

A goode example of this is the movie New Jack City. To show the accuracy of Baldwin's words the article states:

In the course of the October uprising, French observers called this slum-based sense of place a "nationalisme de quartier." It is a problem. Residents of some of the most dismal projects have often proved unwilling to relocate, even when the government has promised to move them into much nicer places. Perhaps they have grown attached to their dangerous homes and neighbors. It is more likely that they're leery about accepting the promises of any government that once stuck them in such a depressing spot to begin with.

Lets look at the real solution then. If the French are unwilling to let Africans be "French." And I don't expect them too, then it would appear that the residents of the "projects" will have to change thier attitude towards where they live. Clearly if in 1961 Baldwin can write that which is still true in 2005, then there needs to be a different response and that response needs to come from the leadership since the gut reactions of the people only lead them to do that which they think is new and effective. It is equally true in France that the French (and like it or not, French = white) build these buildings to separate out the non-French and it is equally true that the non-French own none of the major businesses in France and probably never will; then the African in France must do something different. In fact the African worldwide must do something different.

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