America Gets Brexit, Will France Get A Barack Obama?

The world is in shock over the United States election. Tensions remain high over the election of non-establishment GOP candidate Donald Trump against traditional democrat, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The results are compared to Brexit by many. While Americans brace for the aftermath of the election, social leaders and scholars wonder if France will get its version of Barack Obama? A few days before the U.S. Presidential election on Nov. 8, social justice scholars and leaders gathered for Festival Albertine at the French Embassy on New York City’s Upper East Side to discuss race, politics, arts and culture. The free event lasted five days

The event, moderated by Ta-Nehisi Coates, controversial writers and New York Times bestseller, featured French and American journalists, artists and scholars. Among the most controversial panels, “When Will France Have Its Barack Obama?”. This panel included journalists Iris Deroeux, Jelani Cobb, and historians Pap Ndiaye and Benjamin Stora.

The panel discussed institutional racism and cultural insensitivity. French panelists applauded the American black movement for racial equality. The standing room only event was held at the beautifully designed French Embassy. The building has two floors, which were used for the event. There were high ceilings, marble trim and lots of books lined among wooden shelves. The embassy was prepared for the influx of people with big screens in the overflow areas too far away from the panel to grab a good view.

French members of the panel spoke of their love for President Barack Obama and his status in France as a pop icon. The French members of the panel also agreed that it would be hard to elect a black man in France since non-white citizens are often looked at as immigrants and outsiders.

Barack Obama’s presidency is coming to an end soon. The expensive ObamaCare health insurance premiums have become a hot topic in recent months among American economists. Job growth has also been sluggish. The panel only focused on President Obama’s popularity, keeping discussion of his political successes and failures to a minimum.

If panelists knew the outcome of the election, the conversation may have likely taken a different turn. There were discussions about Donald Trump. Some from France thought the GOP candidate was responsible for high racial tensions happening in the United States.

Just a few days after this event ended, racial tensions across the United States reached an all time high. Protests broke out by groups across numerous major cities with millennials and all those concerned after a year of media spin and a negative campaign season fueled by democrats and republicans.

The panels continued for the five days of the event. Other panels included “Blacklisted: From Hollywood to Paris”, “Europe and America in the Black Literary imagination” and “Art, Race, and Representation.” There was discussion on creativity from a black and French perspective. The women’s movement also became noted among discussion.

The discussion about cultural comic books during the “From the Margins to the Mainstream” panel was interesting. The panel bought light to the fact that adults of all cultures read comic books as well as children and that social issues can be highlighted in the genre without sounding boring.

The French Embassy did a great job of this event. Hopefully another peaceful conversation can continue to help heal racial relations worldwide and heal a broken America.

Albertine is a New York bookstore operated by the French Embassy cultural services department. The store has French and English books from 30 French-speaking countries. Festival Albertine was sponsored by The Recanati-Kaplan Foundation, Susannah Hunnewell, Air France, Van Cleef & Arpels, Institut français and individual donors.