Students at elite French uni decry casual racism

Joshua Melvin
Joshua Melvin - [email protected]
Students at elite French uni decry casual racism

A powerful internet campaign started by a group of black students speaking out about their experiences of casual racism at Harvard University - and quickly spread to other universities around the world - has been taken on at France’s most elite university.


Just because they managed to get into a school that produces France’s top leaders, ethnic minority students at the prestigious training college Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) in Strasbourg, aren’t immune from casual racism, it seems

And so these students have joined an online campaign on the blog site Tumblr, begun by black students at Harvard University which recounts casual and institutional racism and discrimination they encounter on daily basis . The French version is called ‘I, too, am ENA’ just as its predecessors were "I, too, am Harvard" or "I, too, am Oxford" and so on, at prestigious universities across the US and Europe.

"By compiling expressions heard by a few Afro-descendant ENA students, its main purpose is to denounce the latent ignorance that lies within each of us," the students wrote when introducing their posts. "With this project, we express the fervent wish that people begin to think more about their statements, avoid generalizing and take the time to truly see a person before their color or presumed origin."

The power ENA has in French society can’t be overstated with the alumuni of this graduate program literally going on to run the country. President François Hollande is a graduate, as are seven recent prime ministers.

But in recent years the program has been criticized for admitting too many well off students. Since 2009 the school has had a positive discrimination program that seeks to accept more working class students onto its courses.

Here are the type of somments that black students at ENA have been subject to.

Translation: "Why are you going to ENA. Do you want to be the president of Africa?"

Translation: "Where are you from? Germany. Um, well, I wouldn't have thought so."

Translation: "Awesome! Not only do you speak French well, but you don't have an accent."

Translation: Do you speak Djiboutian?


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