Racist nitwits…

We have plenty of these in the US, and if you have any European friends you’ve no doubt been lectured once or twice (or thirty times) about how awful the racism of America is. So, it’s actually somewhat refreshing to be reminded that some of the biggest racist nitwits in the world live in Europe.

Case in point – [tag]Jean-Marie Le Pen[/tag]. Le Pen is a fixture in French politics as the leader of the right wing, fascist-tinged [tag]National Front[/tag] party. In 2002 he ended up in a run-off with [tag]Jacques Chirac[/tag] for the Presidency of France, which tells you a little bit about how broad-minded the French polity is. They ended up choosing a President who comes from the businessman’s section of the right-wing over someone who comes from the ignorant and unschooled day-laborer section of the right wing.

Jean-Marie Le Pen’s (and right here I have to point out that for a guy who talks so tough he sure has a girly first name) latest attempt to draw attention to himself came prior to the French team’s victory over Brazil in their quarterfinal match of the [tag]2006 World Cup[/tag]. Le Pen was recycling comments he’d made in 1998 after France won the championship that the French people really cannot rejoice in their team’s victories because there are too many black players on the squad.

I’ll stop here and let you ruminate over that for a second.

Now I will repeat his assertion – because there are quite a few black players on the French team it is difficult for French people to be truly proud of their victories. He also suggested that the French coach ought to put more white players on the field so that the team will be more reflective of French society.

This man wins the award for nitwit of the month of June.

First, he’s just plain dead wrong about the composition of French society. I haven’t been in France for several years, but the last time I was in Paris all the available hues of humanity were in abundance. France is one of the more racially diverse countries in Europe and has been so for quite a long time. Historically speaking, when black American soldiers were stationed in France during WWI and WWII they found a society that hardly noticed their color. Many ended up choosing to stay there rather than return to the US and deal with the racial inequity here. Others who returned home did so with a vision of what America might be like if the racial barriers were to come down and they threw themselves into the civil rights movement here.

Secondly, as wonderful as the acheivements of the American civil rights movement have been it’s been my opinion for quite a long time that diversity on the playing fields of our professional sports has done more for racial harmony and acceptance of diversity in America than any other single force. Think of it this way – lots of white boys grow up with posters of great black athletes on their bedroom walls. [tag]Michael Jordan[/tag], [tag]Barry Bonds[/tag], [tag]Tiger Woods[/tag], [tag]Donovan McNabb[/tag], etc. have adorned the walls of a whole generation of kids by now. Prior to that group you’ve got [tag]Magic Johnson[/tag], [tag]Dr. J.[/tag], [tag]Willie Mays[/tag], [tag]Hank Aaron[/tag], [tag]Reggie Jackson[/tag] and so on.

If you grow up worshipping someone because of his skill on the field, even though he doesn’t look like you, you’re more likely to grow up judging people by what they do in this world, not what they look like, and that is how it should be. My guess is that the French national team have done the same thing for French kids since at least 1998 when they won the whole shebang. I’m quite sure that there were tears of joy throughout France when they beat Brazil the other day, and Le Pen and a few old coots were probably the only people who gave even half a thought to what the ratio of pink to brown to black was on that field.

Fortunately, it would seem that France’s soccer players are quite a bit smarter than the nation’s politicians are. [tag]Lilian Thuram[/tag], one of the star players on the French national team had this to say about Le Pen’s comments:

“When we take to the field, we do so as Frenchmen. All of us. When people were celebrating our win, they were celebrating us as Frenchmen, not black men or white men. It doesn’t matter if we’re black or not, because we’re French. I’ve just got one thing to say to Jean Marie Le Pen. The French team are all very, very proud to be French. If he’s got a problem with us, that’s down to him but we are proud to represent this country. So Vive la France, but the true France. Not the France that he wants.”

[tag]Vive la France[/tag] indeed.

Now stick it to those dirty cheating Portuguese!

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