Thomas Alexander Dumas, father of Alexander Dumas (author of the Three Musketeers and the Count of Monte Cristo) was famous for centuries as the the highest ever ranking soldier of African descent in a European Army. But he was born a slave. Thanks to a decree by France's King Louis X that outlawed slavery within continental France, when Thomas-Alexandre's father brought him to France in 1776, the lad became a free. That same year, the founding fathers of the United States, despite buying, selling and holding other humans as property, decided that they had right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Two hundred forty years later, I am gearing, with deep dread, to return to the land where #BlackLivesMatter is still social media tag and not a reality. I have almost grown accustomed to finally feeling like an American. I have only felt this while living in France. The catch? Well sadly, while in France, I can't be both American and African.
In France, the accent on my English and survival French works like a A+ Hogwarts spell, changing the speaking tones and facial expressions of surly French people in seconds as they realize that despite the way I must look to them, I am American. As if humanity is determined by one's passport.
Often, I meet immigrants from Eastern Europe who brazenly make nasty and racist comments about Africans and North African immigrants around me. When I express my outrage, they seem shocked, as if I could not possibly feel any connection, or kinship with people from the Mother Continent.
Perhaps they think my light sandy brown skin, tightly coiled hair, and wider nose is really part of a person suit and underneath is a creature of red, white and blue?