Following Trump election in the US last November, Place to B has decided to launch a new project called “Inside Out“. Often times when actors are interior to events, both accuracy and perspective are compromised by being too close to the action; and sadly, often the inverse also holds as well. With Inside Out, we will exit single issue focused, objective, reductive reporting and try together to create a new type of journalistic narrative that takes us beyond the binary. So – perhaps this double Inside Out, Outside In approach would be something you would like to explore with us, to create a journalistic voicing that rises above the deafening solo barrage from our current polarized liberal vs conservative reporting. We hope this interests you and you will help us to create a space for a renewed narrative; and a different, and perhaps more accurate, story.
Please find below the first article of this project by Cécile Chandran from Montreal, Canada.
My first encounter with the name Le Pen goes back to my childhood. I was 8 or 9 and on a playdate with a friend whose parents owned a bakery. Saying I was thrilled is an understatement. Every kid’s dream is to go crazy in a bakery without any adult supervision, because in two words : free candy. Oh! The dream! My friend told me I could fill a small bag with everything I wanted, which I happily did. When her mother arrived, she found us chatting and doing our homework, while relishing on delicious candy. Right away, I knew something was wrong : she wasn’t pleased and looked at us a little angrily. I assumed I was in trouble because I didn’t ask her permission to get my hands on those delicious candy (and I knew my mom would probably have said no), but my friend said it was ok! What could I do? Not get the candy? Are you insane? Eventually, her mother didn’t reprehend us and we finished our homework in silence.
Later, my mother came to pick me up and had a small conversation with her. I tried to listen but the only thing I could see was that my mother was not pleased. I was definitely in trouble, and since I couldn’t possibly throw my friend under the bus, I had to face the consequences of my love for those blue rope candy. But on the way home, I quickly realised I was in the clear. She wasn’t angry at me. She was angry at my friend’s mother, who was unsettled that her daughter might have a brownish friend like me. She had told my mother that she was reassured to see I had a white mother, because she didn’t want “those type of people” in her house. She was a Le Pen supporter (the father).
She wasn’t angry at me.
A few years later in 2002, the face of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jacques Chirac filled the screen of our TV. The frontist candidate had his ticket for the second tour of the presidential elections. I remember vividly my mother’s face decomposing. The anxiety that got to me. The helplessness. I was 15 at the time and I marched for the first time with my friends and a lot of angry strangers in the street. By then, I had come to learn that the name Le Pen meant more than politics as usual, but was synonym with fear. It was also synonym of the realization that sometimes, random people would dislike me because of my origins. And the funny thing is, I’m Eurasian. This means that because my ethnicity is not clearly written on my face and shape, nobody can tell “what I am”. It’s often a problem for racist people : what are you? Should I like you or hate you? I’m like an unsolvable problem for them.
But that also mean that I’m one of the lucky ones since I’m not a Muslim. In my opinion, that’s why I was protected and mostly spared by the hate. Of course, “incidents” happens sometimes. One customer at my work called me a “racaille de banlieue” (i.e. suburban thug). One cop at the airport tried to deport me because she thought I had escaped from a group a deportees. Guys would hit on me saying stupid stuff like “you’re so exotic, explain to me what you are”. I have experienced racism just enough to feel the anger and disbelief it causes, but not enough as to lose my mind. I can’t imagine what others less fortunate go through to be honest.
This means that because my ethnicity is not clearly written on my face and shape, nobody can tell “what I am”
Today, it’s happening again. Like many, many others, I’m filled again with fear. But this time, my fear is stronger because people are not in the street chanting together against Le Pen. They are on Facebook and Twitter complaining about the “system“, ready to give up. People are less afraid by her name. But please, even if you don’t fear Le Pen, vote anyway. Vote because a lot of us fear her. Maybe you’re lucky and you live a life of privileges, even if you don’t feel like you do. Maybe you don’t know anybody who is afraid, or maybe you never even witnessed this fear. A lot of my friend haven’t, and are surprised to hear about my stories. And like I said, I’m one of the lucky ones, I don’t have that many stories. I’m fine.
But make no mistake, Trump proved to be immediately the danger that we suspected he was, and Marine Le Pen will prove it as well. That’s why you should vote. Vote for the families who will be stuck at the airport. For those who will be humiliated again and again by border agents. Vote for the LGBTQ community who will lose their rights. Vote for the women who will lose their abortion right. It’s not about politics. It’s about an immediate and uncontrollable danger. You may think that Macron will destroy your life, that he’s a corporate evil, a young wolf out to get our money. All that might be true and I don’t have any love for him. But he’s not made from the same evil, and those two evils don’t compare.
So let’s get one thing straight : I will be safer in his France than in Marine Le Pen’s. So will you, so will your friends, your family and your loved ones.
So if not for yourself, vote for me, vote for us.