At the end of October, eighteen students from America and France met over Zoom to discuss current events of 2020, a year certainly like no other. Even on different sides of the world, it was evident that there were striking similarities of circumstances between both countries and that everyone felt a lack of comfort and safety for the past six months. Out of all the topics that were discussed, two that definitely stood out were the conversations on coronavirus and racial injustice in each country.
Although both countries are suffering immensely from the current pandemic, America and France choose to approach COVID-19 in different ways. While Ridgewood students have the luxury of choice when deciding to either do hybrid or virtual schooling, the French students explained that they are still forced to attend school, even in increasingly unsafe conditions. One student explained that even if their school gets new cases for COVID-19 every day, they are still forced to go to school. Fortunately, there are safety rules enforced, such as the use of masks and hand sanitizer. Unlike the students, adults in France are given more choice, being able to decide whether they want to go to work or work from home.
A fascinating conversation that took place between the French and American students was about the Black Lives Matter movement and its significance in each country. Although the death of George Floyd further exposed the systemic racism of America, news of Floyd’s murder had also affected France and caused many French to reflect on examples of racial injustice in their own country. “When the movement of Black Lives Matter was viral,” sixteen-year-old Zoé Lebrun from Lille explains, “French people decided to do a big demonstration in Paris to show their support for the movement because they have also experienced racial injustice by the police in their country, like the death of Adama Traoré”. As Floyd and Breonna Taylor are symbols of racism in America, Traoré’s murder that took place almost 4 years ago still serves as an example of racially-charged police brutality in France. Like in America, the French also spread awareness of racial injustice through social media platforms, such as Instagram and Tiktok.
To view current issues on a global level, it is critical to know their effect on other countries as well. Once this is achieved, the extent to which topics such as coronavirus and racial discrimination affect the world can be evaluated. The meet was undoubtedly a great success, and the French club has agreed to repeat this experience in the near future.
Arts & Culture editor
Graphic: Tarun Kalyanaraman