The taste of Sunday’s champagne is still lingering in the back of my throat. My faint and hollowed voice acts as a testament to that day’s shrieks of orgasmic joy. Paris is still hungover from its biggest party since 1998. We really did it. For the second time in my life, France is on top of the world.
And yet, through the sheer happiness of my compatriots, a sour and repugnant rhetoric has gotten ahold of a good deal of the World cup coverage — a sort of racial backlash all too known in the politically correct whims of the United States, but usually much quieter in Europe.
On “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah did a segment Monday congratulating Africa on winning the World Cup
Khaled Beydoun, a law professor and ESPN contributor, not-knowingly resumed the demagoguery and cynicism perfectly in a tweet posted moments after France’s victory.
This myth that France’s world cup squad is not indeed French but “African” is both ridiculous and discriminatory. Everywhere on social media, race-baiters and agitators post about French players’ “African heritage” or “real country of origin” — as if being black means you cannot be French. “Kante is really from Mali… No French person can be named Ngolo… You are denying their heritage….”
This disturbing and unapologetically racist theory, mostly promoted by people who have never set foot in the hexagon, tries to apply skin pigmentation or religion to nationality, and strictly denies “Frenchness” to anybody Muslim, not white, or not named Jean-Pierre.
My name is Louis Sarkozy (hardly a French last name), I was born and raised in Paris, which is where most of my family still is. My grandfather arrived from Hungary hidden under a train during World War II, and yet if I was playing on the French national team, nobody would think of saying I was a product of Hungarian heritage, or that I was as much ethnically Hungarian as I am nationally French.
Ngolo Kante, our prized midfielder, was born in Paris. He was raised in Paris. He learned to play football in Paris. Most of his family is in France. He started his professional career in France. He represents France and is loved, cherished, and idolized by the French. But yet he is of African “heritage”? What is the only difference between Ngolo Kante and me? Apart from being a footballing genius and having an “African sounding name,” he is black, and I am white.
What exactly do these players have to do to be considered French? Change their skin color? Change their names? Out of the entire French squad, all but two were born and raised in France and all are French nationals. If that does not make them French, then I am myself not French either. If they are “issued from immigration,” so am I, and so is every other individual with at some point an ancestor coming from a different nation.
Why is it that only black players’ heritage comes into question? Nobody has questioned Lucas Hernandez’s “Frenchness” despite his Spanish name and ancestry. No one seems to think he is not entirely French. Again, the sole difference is skin pigmentation
As for their religion, those who would like nothing more than to see Islam become a divisive political topic once more would benefit from learning something about French laicite and the law of 1905. As much as it displeases some, the members of the team are French citizens first, Muslims, Christians, or Jews second. All along this awe-inspiring competition, it is the French flag they bore and represented so well and the French nation that cheered them on. Take a look at the social media of the players: “People of France, this is for you!” “Vive La France…. Vive la Republique!” It seems they adhere fully to their nationality, it is others who wish to strip them of it.
Noah, Khaled, and all others wishing to reclaim the spotlight from an exuberant, happy, and united France must be told calmly but firmly: Muslim, Jew, black, white, three-armed, or seven feet tall — 100 percent of the French team is French.
Louis Sarkozy is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a student in philosophy and religion at New York University. He is the youngest son of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.