This is not a round-up of all the meetings I had, films I saw, or cards I collected while at my first Cannes Festival; rather it is a moment that I would like to take just to record how saddened I am by my vivid and direct experience of racial and ethnic tension in Provence-Alpes Maritimes. I was singled out to be stopped, searched, and ID-d at least once on every day of my stay.
I sat next to a French-Moroccan man on my flight back and asked him if things were that bad for him. He told me that he struggles to get a table at a restaurant, enter a night club, live a normal life and is routinely ID-d or searched – especially in the last six months. If Al Qaida wanted to ruin our dream of hybridity and tolerance, they’ve done a very good job. They’ve walked straight into the arms of every xenophobe and racist around, and given people an alibi for their prejudices. And genuinely, it is the diaspora who pay the long term price.
I used to be proud of my accentless French, but now I find people treat me with more respect if I speak with a heavy English accent like a rosbif – I guess at least that way they know I am a tourist. But that is cold comfort for French Arabs who want to lead normal lives.