I would like to explain a few things, about charlie Hebdo and about how things work in my country. It might feel insulting, but unless you are fascinated with french culture, have especially studied it or lived some time in France, you don’t know us. You don’t know our history, our politics, even our geography. That’s fine, I myself have a pretty sketchy knowledge of all these stuffs for many countries in the world.
Not knowing is fine. Spreading false informations, or giving your opinion about things you don’t know, is not.
It’s important to try to notice when you don’t know enough. Really.
You have no idea how much the french community on tumblr is feeling betrayed.
We stood by your side many times in the recent weeks, we educated ourselves about the situation in the US, we read, we learnt. Now, our country is suffering and I read everywhere that Charlie Hebdo was a racist journal, that they had it coming.
1. It was not. NO ONE, I repeat literally NO ONE in France ever considered Charlie Hebdo as racist. We might have considered the drawings tasteless, but NOT racists. For the very simple reason that WE FUCKING KNOW OUR POLITICS. So, when you see the covers of the journal out of context and without understanding french, you’re seeing maybe 10% of what there’s to see. I’m not going to explain them one by one to you, because other posts on tumblr do that very well, but just for the sake of example:
You see a black woman’s head on a monkey body. RACISM ! Except that every french person will recognize our french justice minister, Christiane Taubira, and the blue-white-red flame on the left. This is the logo of the Front National, the far-right party in France. And every french person knows that the Front National was under attack for having compared Christiane Taubira to a monkey in this:
Look carefully. The one just above is the real thing. The one above that is mocking the real thing. There’s a difference. It’s an important difference.
And, if you still haven’t got it, the title of the comic by Charb is “Rassemblement Bleu Raciste” which literally means “Blue Racist Gathering” and is a pun on the slogan of the Front National “Rassemblement Bleu Marine” (Navy Blue Gathering, in French the name of the Front National leader is Marine Le Pen, and Marine means Navy). So, this comic is actually an attack mocking the Front National and their bullshit. Is it tasteless ? Maybe. Is it racist ? No.
Then she explains how French secularism differs from the US variety.
Secularity is a system of laws intended to prevent any religious organization to interfere with the political life of the country. It means that everyone is free to practise their religion, as long as it does not interfere with other people’s life (be they of a different faith, or atheists) and the country’s. Blasphemy is legal. Drawing the Prophet is legal.
Most people in France think that it is not only legal, but a positive thing, to be able to make fun of every religion, every authority figure (and do your google research, Charlie Hebdo made fun of everyone and the pope was not spared):
Now that’s a good cartoon. It’s not pretty to look at, but it’s a sharp point. (Ratzinger is telling the sweating child-raping bish, “Make movies, like Polanski.”)
But, as much as we do love make fun and ridicule everyone, including our very secular politicians, we do have laws, and very strict ones, against hate speech. The Front National elected representative who posted the two pictures of Taubira and a monkey was prosecuted. Charlie Hebdo wasn’t, because they were not attacking Taubira, but the racist bullshit of the FN.
See? The photo with the baby orang next to the justice minister is racism. The cartoon mocking it is not.