In a first post, I would like to share with you, Dear Reader, my first experience in Brussels - where I got the fantastic opportunity to meet other bloggers interested in European elections. All my posts will be related to the connections between these elections and what some may qualify “a European identity”.
I must mention at that point that I happen to be a brunette with the following attributes: French birth place, black eyes, Moroccan grand parents, Islamic education and culture, left political affiliation, London living place and a complex - but openly and happily recognized - identity.
This apparent obviousness was not easy to accept for two of my blogging colleagues though. The point is they did not find I really “looked European”. According to one of them, it even seems I was… Persian! Hopefully, no one took any measures of my skull to make sure of it.
Living with their time, my blogging fellows actually used the word “Iranian” but I so much like Montesquieu, in spite of his eighteenth-century orientalist bias that I would like to pay a modest tribute to the father of The Spirit of Laws by using the “Persian” outdated word.
Talking with these two thinkers - whose lights were probably switched off - sounded quite surreal. I still cannot tell you, Dear Reader, if it was the Belgian air - native land of Magritte and Scutenaire - or mere common prejudice that affected our conversation.
The man asked me first where I was originally coming from. I replied: “ France ”. This is true, Dear Reader, please do not alert any of your borders police! I am a French national, born in France . French is my first language and is affecting my accent when I speak English - or even Arabic. I have a French ID card. I used to love camembert and croissants before I went vegan - that what often happens when a French vegetarian moves to London , but this is another story.
Anyway revenons à nos moutons - mais pas ceux égorgés dans les baignoires - as we say in French. So, this man kept looking at me as if something was going wrong, and eventually dared asking the same question again - about my parents, this time. Again, I replied “French” - which is true: both of them actually are. The guy was not satisfied though and instead of getting another Kir and relax, he kept on questioning me about my really exciting genealogy. At least, exciting for him. I felt embarrassed because no one among my friends around was asked the same kind of persistent questions. What the hell was he looking for?
So I said: “my grand-parents are Moroccan”.
He seemed relieved. Mamie (Mamie means Grandma in French), Gede (Gede means Granddad in Arabic): you really saved my life!
Maybe, my hair was too black or my eyes were too dark. How can she be French - European?
A girl who shared the same inquisitive attitude finally added the magic sentence: “The way you look… I thought you were Iranian!”
Mmmm. Right. Please pronounce it, even mentally, with a long punk Rrrrr, only as Johnny Rotten - or Arno, the Belgian singer I am in love with - could actually say it. Full of joyous and desperate consciousness!
One objective reason that may explain this pretty stupid judgment though is that among the Thinkers, no one was Black or Asian. I simply refuse to use here (and any other place) the appalling expression “people of colour” - because it makes it sound like White is not actually a colour, but a standard - which as a consequence does not even need to be named.
This story raises a big and important question: how do you actually define someone as a European? By the way s-he looks? The religion s-he practices - or does not practice? His or her race?
Dear Reader, a Persian girl needs your European lights!