Two commenters on Twitter have raised the spectre that the French bid to hold the Worldcon in 2026 might be harmed by the political backlash in France which followed revelations last month that a left-wing student union, called UNEF, organizes meetings that are “off-limits to white members”.
The UNEF leader’s description of the purpose for these meetings was quoted in Al Arabiya’s report “French student union under fire for organizing ‘non-white’ meetings”:
…The admission by UNEF president Melanie Luce that the union organized meetings that were not open to white people comes at a time of fraught debate about racism and how to combat discrimination in France.
Speaking on Europe 1 radio on Wednesday, Luce said the meetings were held “to enable people affected by racism to talk about what they have experienced”, comparing them to women-only discussions to discuss sexual discrimination.
That such restricted meetings might not sound exceptional to many Americans is a fact in itself that adds fuel to the French political controversy. Politico’s analyst noted in “French left tears itself apart over ‘non-white’ meetings”:
…The clash over non-white discussion groups has reignited a debate in France about the growing influence of U.S.-style identity politics, and how it challenges the country’s existing political traditions.
…For many on the left, the universal values of égalité, fraternité, liberté should transcend religious or ethnic alliances, and more integration and assimilation, not less, is needed in the fight for social justice.
Criticism of restricted discussion meetings was to be expected from France’s right-wing parties but the division on the left indicates how common the reaction is throughout the country.
And this week France’s Senate amended proposed legislation aimed at curbing “Islamism” by adding a ban on restricted meetings and the UNEF reports the New York Times:
…On Thursday, the Senate endorsed banning the group and others that organize restricted meetings, attaching a “Unef amendment” to President Emmanuel Macron’s law against Islamism, a political ideology the government blames for inspiring recent terrorist attacks. The National Assembly, controlled by Mr. Macron’s party, still needs to ratify the bill, expected to be one of the defining pieces of legislation of his presidency….
The person who tweets in French as Murakami was the first to see implications for the French Worldcon bid: [Translation follows.]
Uh… Excuse me, I woke up in 2022 and [Marine Le Pin] is in power? Or are we in 1940? BUT ARE THEY AWARE OF WHAT THEY ARE DOING? My full support to all racialized people who will see this message.
FYI, normally I help out with international science fiction conventions (in other countries). All of them, without exception, have exclusively-BIPOC or exclusively-LGBTQIA+ sessions. This is a perfectly normal thing.
I guess we won’t have to worry about holding Worldcon in France!
[First tweet via Google Translate. Second tweet translated by JJ.]
The French fan from Nice who tweets as The Middle Shelf agreed:
How common such meetings have been at Worldcons over the years is not easy to research, however, the last in-person Worldcon, Dublin 2019, listed the POC of African Descent meetup in the official schedule. (For Chris Barkley’s account of the 2019 event see “Special Irish Worldcon Edition, Day Three”.)