FRANCE: After a right-wing lawmaker insisted that a high school named after the Black US leader Angela Davis change its name, a dispute broke out in France.
Valérie Pécresse, head of the greater Paris Île-de-France area, testified that racism does not apply to France and is harmful and polarising for French pupils. The Lycée Angela Davis in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, was named in honour of Angela Davis in accordance with French custom.
In response to criticism from the left this week, Pécresse refrained from requesting a vote in the regional council and instead asked the education ministry to investigate the legality of the high school’s name.
The controversy has not yet been addressed by France’s education minister, Pap Ndiaye, a renowned historian and authority on US minority rights and the history of racial relations on both sides of the Atlantic.
Pécresse argued that Davis was too radical and combative to have her name on a French school, despite her work for dignity and equality.
She argued that racism was pervasive in her thought, but this is untrue in France, where French republican universalism is being attacked by minority groups.
She made the implication that because the French republic promised “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” which said that everyone should be treated equally and freely, systematic racism was not a problem in France.
Pécresse criticised Davis for writing an opinion post in 2021 in support of French academic research on racism and colonialism and suggested the school should be renamed Lycée Rosa Parks in honour of the activist who sparked the US civil rights movement.
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