George Floyd protests stir a difficult debate on race in France
By Norimitsu Onishi
Luc Pechangou had never joined a protest before, not even when his own neighborhood just outside Paris was convulsed with anger over the violent arrest of a young black man from the area in 2017.
It was instead the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis that led him to join an anti-racism rally and, he said, see things more clearly in France, his own country.
“It was the shock that I needed to finally wake up,” Pechangou, 20, said. “White privilege is real. Whites have access to employment. They’re not stopped by the police. They don’t have to worry about what they’re wearing or if they have their ID cards.
“But we, as blacks, have to worry every day,” said Pechangou, who was born in Cameroon, a former French colony in central Africa, and lives in Hector Berlioz, a sprawling subsidized housing complex in Bobigny, just northeast of Paris.
“People look at us suspiciously. They ask us what we’re doing. When I take public transportation, I have to show what’s in my backpack. It’s not right to have to live like that.”