It’s 1998. A French multi-racial team is in the final. We’re about to face Brazil and we’re just happy to be there. 3-0 later, for the first time ever, we’re world champions. We. Oui?

I still remember jumping in the car with my girlfriend, beating traffic to meet up with my best friend on the outskirt of Paris. It’s hot. It’s dark. Street lights are still orange. We’re all together. In France people don’t hug, ever. During that night it’s the opposite. We’re hugging en masse. I can’t forget that old, small white man hugging me and another brown person right after because that would have never happened in any other occasion, unless plastered to oblivion. I can’t forget the Louvre’s security guards waving their torchlights. My eyes were misty. 9/11 hadn’t happened yet. I still get emotional about that beautiful night. I know the dream.

It’s 2018. A French multi-racial team is in the final. We’re about to face Croatia and we know we can beat them. 4-2 later, for the second time, France is at the top of the football world. We. Oui? Nah.

I am watching the stream from my home in south LA. After the first half I am on my playground, shooting 3s. Knowing what the news are going to spit. How beautiful and diverse France looks like etc. I’m mad at the state of the world. A man died in Chicago the night before, shot by police. He was black. A man died in France a couple weeks ago shot by police. He was black. Both run away. Just in case.

But people will tell you that no, really, things are fine or getting better. Things don’t change, they barely mutate. That part where we’re black and brown and only appreciated and giving opportunities on sports fields. I live this shit. I see it with my own eyes, feel it with my own heart. I still fall short on my job applications. Despite everything. Qualified, over-qualified, recommendations, it don’t matter.

I believed things were improving during that first world cup triumph even though I could already smell the bitterness. The French corporate world has an absurd lack of diversity compared to life in Paris or around stadiums. It’s frightening. It’s as if France was as segregated as the US!

And then I became a migrant. I know I have no other choice but be legally perfect here because otherwise ICE will show up, put me in jail for weeks or months before sending me back to France. That’s real. But I can enjoy some black things with black people and then everything is peaceful as fuck. Clarity is succulent.

“but they’re French so YOU are racist if you say the team is African.”

French citizenship and blackness are not mutually exclusive. But we also know how it works out: you win a world cup, you’re French. You’re unemployed, you’re some African booty virus. I lived that too once I had trouble speaking French after a few years speaking English, the vibe wildly changed towards me in Paris. I wasn’t a French customer anymore, I was a nuisance.

France has the fantastic power of becoming collectively blind at will. France constantly denies, minimizes its colonial past and how it impacts its present. It’s very uncomfortable.

Yes, I talk about all that in my book.

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