Last week, France’s women’s rights minister Laurence Rossignol, used the term “negre,” a French word which translates to negro. This “slip of tongue,” as Rossignol explains, landed the minister in hot water. It also started a debate on its n-word, reigniting attention to the sensitive subject of race in a country that presents itself as impartial and colorblind. France does not recognize race on its census; it has a removed “race” and “racial” from its penal code in 2013.


Racism is very much an issue in France, even though it is rarely addressed. This is a good time to revisit the realities of being black in France. Race and experiences of it in Europe are not often topics of discussion. In France in particular, constitutional racial equality does not necessarily translate off paper. In 2014, Al Jazeera produced documentary “Black France” attempted to shine a spotlight on the realities of being black and French.



The three-part series traces the two from history to this day, from the first generations of Africans in France who launched the struggle for equal rights in the 18th century to the West African tirailleurs — soldiers were conscripted to fight for France in the first World War. Today, immigration has become another contentious part of what it means to be black in France, where segregation is a real issue.


Black French citizens are still fighting for equality, perhaps the first step towards that will be addressing the use of words like “negre.”


Does France have a race problem? How often do we hear black French voices? Let us know your opinions by leaving a comment below or by tweeting @rafeeeeta