French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday declared his full support for the fight against racism, but refused to let his country take down statues of controversial, colonial-era figures.
Macron publicly acknowledged that someone’s “address, name, color of skin” could reduce their chances to succeed in French society. He called for assurances that everyone could “find their place” in society, regardless of origin.
Regarding calls to remove statues representing France’s slave trade or colonial wrongs, though, Macron said, “the republic will not erase any trace, or any name, from its history… it will not take down any statue.”
Hundreds of demonstrators gathering on the Champs de Mars as the Eiffel Tower is seen in the background during a demonstration in Paris earlier this month. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)
The calls echoed similar demands in other countries, such as in the U.S. and United Kingdom, to remove statues of slave traders or Confederate soldiers who fought to preserve slavery.
“We should look at all of our history together” including relations with Africa, with a goal of “truth” instead of “denying who we are,” Macron said.
Following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, protests against racism and police brutality spread around the globe. The protests have since focused more on national concerns regarding both topics, and France in some ways has struggled to cope with it.
A demonstration against police brutality and racism in Paris this past Saturday. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
As a measure to show a commitment to reform, France passed a national ban on the use of chokeholds and vowed to stamp out racism among police. Many members of the police force responded angrily, claiming such statements and actions painted officers across the country as white supremacists.
French police unionists demonstrating with a banner reading, “No police, no peace,” on the Champs-Elysee avenue near the Arc de Triomphe this past Friday in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
The officers then staged protests of their own.
The French culture minister recently denounced the decision to cancel a Paris showing of the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind” as contrary to freedom of expression. He also criticized attempts to remove a piece of African art from a Paris museum dedicated to works from former colonies.
Sibeth Ndiaye, a close ally of Macron and a prominent black figure in current French politics, published an essay in Le Monde that called for France to rethink its colorblind policy, which was said to ignore race in an attempt to encourage equality.