Nicolas Sarkozy, Speech in Senegal (2007)
It’s incredible that such blatantly racist people like Sarkozy not only feel entitled enough to share their bigoted opinions with the world at large, but that they are even in those positions of power in the first place. This quote and the speech it comes from, spits in the face of Africa’s incredibly rich and diverse history from the pyramids of Egypt to the gold-rich kingdoms of Mali and Ashanti. It’s all the more funny because Africa is the cradle of civilization, the place where antibiotic properties were first discovered and utilized and the home of countless inventions critical to human life today, but I guess, from the perspective of people like Sarkozy none of that holds any value simply because they are “African,” rather than European. This speech is truly disgusting and appalling, and Sarkozy went the extra mile in having the gall to deliver it in Africa to Africans, while proclaiming himself to be a “friend of Africa” who “respects Africa and Africans” but was simply coming to tell us tough truths that only a true “friend” can tell another.
But beyond all of this, I also find this quote, and the larger speech it comes from, fascinating because it provides such stark look into the minds of people like Sarkozy who, at the end of the day, fundamentally don’t see us Africans or our history as having any more value than a pile of dirt. We are nothing to them, and simply are, as the illustrious poet Rudyard Kippling puts so well, “half devil and half child.” That is what we are up against and acknowledging those truths provides one with the perspective to mobilize both justifiable rage and action. Because it is people like Sarkozy that currently use their institutionalized power to define the narrative of Africa and Africans in spite of our actual truths and lived experiences, and narratives are powerful tools that can be used to destroy (like in this case) or to build up communities and restore agency.