The fires were in my neighbourhood too. Mr Sarkozy, the interior minister at the time visited us in our hometown, screaming at random families that he would get rid of the "thugocratie”. He even added that he would get rid of the thugs using the popular vacuum cleaner Kärcher if he had to. The brand’s sales increased massively.
Mr Sarkozy openly said what most people were thinking, and still think. That the “thugs” were just animals confined in unsanitary blocks of flats who didn't have the right to express their rage, and were obviously not worthy of respect. The thugs were never white.
We fiercely debated at school about the riots. The divide was clear: the middle class kids thought the rioters were scum who had too much time on their hands. The kids from the cités understood their rage.
My hopes and illusions were shattered. Meritocracy was a lie. Being a “good black girl” didn’t restore my humanity. For most French people, there were no differences between me and the rioters because I would always remain, first and foremost, a black girl from a cité. Never French, always the “Other”. This label would stick with me forever. It was up to me to accept it, after all, everyone else had already made the choice for me.