Paris massacre: 60 years on, France must face its colonial past

Second-class citizens

At the time of the 1961 massacre, the French used the term “Algerians” to refer to French settlers in Algeria, who were also known as “pieds noirs” (“black feet”) for they were the only ones who wore black leather shoes in the French colony at the time.

An impossible reconciliation?

When I was born in 1980 — the first of my family born in France — racism against North Africans was still widespread. My father avoided speaking Kabyle in public (and even at home) and my mother told me how, when we had moved to the Parisian suburbs in 1981, our neighbours had tried to dissuade the landlord from letting us live in the building. Despite the March for Equality and Against Racism — or “Marche des Beurs” as it was known in the French media, using a slang term for Arab often applied to those whose parents or grandparents were born in North Africa — in 1983, conditions never really improved and the French authorities mostly avoided discussing the Algerian war and its legacy.

‘Lasting colonisation’

This month, French historian and specialist on Algeria Malika Rahal declared that she had been censored by the weekly magazine L’Express after the content of an interview with her was deemed too controversial. “After asking me for an interview on Macron’s words about Algerian history, a few days ago, L’Express made the editorial choice not to publish it,” she wrote in a message posted on her Facebook page.

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Melissa Chemam

Melissa Chemam

Freelance journalist/writer, I’ve reported in 30 countries for the BBC, CBC, DW, magazines, on African-European relations, social change, arts, music & politics