There’s a great article in the New York Times that I highly recommend this am.

Folks in the U.S. didn’t pay much attention when Aimé Césaire, French poet, politician and philosopher died a few months ago in April. But it was a big deal in France (and for those of us around the world familiar with Césaire’s pioneering philosophy of Négritude which was a literary and political movement in part by the Harlem Renaissance):

Négritude and Césaire are back. When Césaire died in April, at 94, his funeral in Fort-de-France, Martinique, was broadcast live on French television. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and his rival Ségolène Royal both attended. Just three years ago, Mr. Sarkozy, as head of a center-right party and not yet president, supported a law (repealed after much protest) that compelled French schools to teach the “positive” aspects of colonialism. The next year, Césaire refused to meet with him. Now here was Mr. Sarkozy flying to the former French colony (today one of the country’s overseas departments, meaning he could troll for votes) to pay tribute to the poet laureate of négritude.

Now the rise of Barack Obama has engendered in French folks of African descent (just as the Harlem Renaissance did in the 1920s/30s) a desire to talk differently about the role of race in their culture. More from the NYTimes article:

When Youssoupha, a black rapper here, was asked the other day what was on his mind, a grin spread across his face. “Barack Obama,” he said. “Obama tells us everything is possible.”

A new black consciousness is emerging in France, lately hastened by, of all things, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States. An article in Le Monde a few days ago described how Mr. Obama is “stirring up high hopes” among blacks here. Even seeing the word “noir” (“black”) in a French newspaper was an occasion for surprise until recently.

Meanwhile, this past weekend, 60 cars were burned and some 50 young people scuffled with police and firemen, injuring several of them, in a poor minority suburb of Vitry-le-François, in the Marne region of northeast France.

Americans, who have debated race relations since the dawn of the Republic, may find it hard to grasp the degree to which race, like religion, remains a taboo topic in France. While Mr. Obama talks about running a campaign transcending race, an increasing number of French blacks are pushing for, in effect, the reverse.

It will be interesting to see the impact of Barack Obama’s Hope on people not just here but everywhere over the course of this campaign season — and beyond.

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