Posted on July 16, 2018

France’s World Cup Win Is a Victory For Immigrants Everywhere

Peniel Joseph, CNN, July 16, 2018

France’s electrifying 4-2 World Cup win over Croatia represents a victory for Africa and immigrants everywhere.

The team’s success is particularly noteworthy because of the way in which anti-immigrant sentiment, especially against migrants with African roots, has roiled French society over the past two decades. {snip}

{snip} Immigrants with African roots populate all parts of French society, particularly the areas that require hard, at times poorly paid and dangerous labor. Many of these immigrants — and citizens — are connected to France and the larger European Union’s colonial past.

France’s championship-winning World Cup team features no less than 15 players with African roots, including the dynamic 19-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe, who is descended from an Algerian mother and Cameroonian father. The team’s pan-African make-up goes a long way toward helping the world — including European soccer fans who have chanted ugly racist slogans against black players — reimagine the most popular sport on the planet and what it means to be a citizen.

France’s at times toxic debate over immigration anticipated America’s contemporary global debate over immigration, one that scapegoats the most vulnerable populations as thieves, rapists and murderers. {snip}

{snip} Donald Trump’s increasingly vitriolic denunciation of immigrants became the hallmark of his stunning presidential election — a victory that represented a decisive setback for those who argued that racial, ethnic and religious diversity strengthened, rather than harmed or disrupted, democracies.

The immigrants who prove Trump wrong

The racial and ethnic diversity of the French World Cup team offers another, more optimistic, lesson about immigration, globalization and citizenship. While the entire team will be hailed as heroes in France, those of African descent still face discrimination based on the color of their skin. Countless numbers of African immigrants, including those fleeing war zones, face daunting prospects of gaining entrée into France for themselves and their families.

The French people’s warm embrace of African sports icons should be extended to the large numbers of immigrants from across the African and Caribbean diaspora who are seeking a refuge against man-made and natural disasters in their country of origin.

And we can look to the French support of Mbappe and his fellow teammates for guidance. From Mbappe’s Parisian suburb of Bondy and beyond, French citizens — young and old — have proudly hung French football banners, worn Mbappe jerseys and shouted words of encouragement for the team’s players.

In short, the World Cup champions remind us all that, in an era of globalization, racial and ethnic diversity represent an enduring strength at all levels of society, ones that build cultural and political bridges within and between countries, nation-states and neighborhoods.

For millions of soccer fans around the world, Africa, in effect, just won the World Cup! {snip}


We can no longer afford to pretend that immigrants entering any nation on earth are not fellow citizens seeking the opportunity to thrive and become citizens of a reimagined world community. France’s World Cup team demonstrates to all how immigration, at its best, holds the key to a liberated and more humane future for us all.