Collectif des Raciné.e.s: In the Name of Gender, Race, Religion & Sexual Orientation

COLLECTIVE (adj):

A group of entities that share, or are motivated by, one common issue who work to achieve the same, or similar, objectives.

That is the case of Nesrine*, a 21 year old French Algero-Moroccan based in Lyon, one of the founders of Collectif des raciné.e.s. Their goal is to campaign against all forms of oppression, with their motto being “our anti-racism is political and our feminism is decolonial”.

The collective was created after a spoken word event on Intersectional Feminism, where Nesrine and two of her classmates bonded, realizing they shared similar opinions on several topics. Thus, a radicalized queer feminist movement was created.

Nesrine’s definition of colonial feminism is ‘‘a type of white feminism; one that only includes white, cisgender, straight women”. She also expressed that “if you are a minority, white feminism may seem attractive to you, but the women who are a part of that movement will never engage you or really care about your everyday problems.”

“Decolonial feminism isn’t just about sex or gender, but racism as well. The racism that comes from white women is real and often takes form as islamophobia. In France, white women have this savior complex towards women of color, especially Muslim women. They don’t care about the institutional racism we face. They don’t care that we are often unable to find jobs, houses, or have the same opportunities as them. In fact, they contribute to it.”

In order to combat this, Collectif des raciné.e.s tries to deconstruct the stereotypical image France has created of women of color, by showcasing the struggles they face. They recently organized a showing of the Algerian film Tes cheveux démêlé cache une guerre de 7 ans. This was followed by a debate, whose guests included Fatima Sissani, the film’s director, and renowned sociologist Rachida Brahim.

‘“Homophobie, transphobie, c’est dans les quartiers chic aussi”

For Nesrine, Pride in France is seen as a big party where straight, bourgeois white people come to have fun. It is no longer a place of resistance, but a place where the truly political associations are put in the back so as to not disturb the peace.

She states that while homophobia absolutely exists in communities of color, the stereotype is that only people of color are homophobic while all straight white French people are perfectly cool and open minded. Nesrine categorically refutes this, stating that there are plenty of homophobes all around, while white queer movements tend to be racist and elitist, refusing to help LGBTQ+ people of color.

“We try to make our voices heard as much as possible. We participated in La Marche de la Dignité where we protested against certain government referendums. We are not represented at Pride. As queer people of color, we have to deal with homophobia, transphobia and racism. When we talk about our experiences to white queer people, we are often met with ‘ah, you’re very oppressed in….…’”

“All of that is true, and we must talk about it. But most of the time they bring this stuff up to justify their own racism towards us and our community. In reality, France has always been, and still is, homophobic. This lack of representation has motivated us to organise our own festival for queer people of color in Lyon.”

“Beurettocratie”

Collectif des raciné.e.s also organized an event for Maghrebi women, called Beurettocratie “It’s political. It’s a reclaiming of the word beurette. We’re appropriating it. We’re taking something that is meant to degrade us from racists and sexists alike, and turning it into something good. There is nothing wrong with being a beurette.”

The collective recently received a lot of attention, when they released a petition calling out a bar in Lyon for exploiting, and profiting from, the abuse and humiliation people of color were subjected to during the colonial era. The petition garnered more than 2000 signatures in 6 hours.

They also organized a very successful funding campaign in order to help fund their Queer festival, as well as their multiple workshops.

When asked if she ever considered taking her collective to her region of origin, Nesrine was quick to say no, “It’s not really the same thing as race isn’t as much of an issue there. I’ve also never lived, nor been, there so I can’t really show up out of the blue and be like ‘oh, this is how it should be done’. I believe that, from an institutional point of view, things do need to change. There are collectives that already exist though, and they’re run by people who know the community and the situation better than I do. I absolutely support them, but it would be wrong of me to bring my collective to them, or tell them how to run things.”

Despite the organisation’s recent successes, she noted that militant movements are often reserved for the cultural and intellectual elite and that, by being a university student, that automatically makes her part of it, whether she wants to be or not. Her wish is to include everyone in this movement, especially the underprivileged, with the collective’s ultimate goal being to maintain respect and visibility for all minorities in Lyon.

*Name changed to protect identity

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