Momadou's bravery, humanises the dehumanised


When the Malian refugee, Mamoudou Gassama, scaled the outside of a tower block to rescue a dangling child in an extraordinary act of bravery, France, and indeed the wider world viewed an African refugee/migrant, for a short time at least, as a human being.

In the 30 seconds it took this powerful young man- dubbed spider man- to scale the four floors he went from a despised, dehumanised and disposable African, to super-hero, worthy of being a French citizen, ordered no less by the French president Emmanuel Macron.

Gassama’s life, with no legal documents and uncertain future, forces him and many others to live in a sometimes sinister and dangerous underworld that is surrounded by an affluent Parisian world. For him at least, that world is now over The fame and hopefully riches he might now receive no one would begrudge. But what of the broader question of other refugees/migrants? Why does one of the wealthiest countries in the world - France - continue to dehumanise hundreds of thousands of people who look like Momoudou?

Do they all have to be superheros to be seen as human beings, or worthy of being a French citizen? I hope that the extraordinary act by this young man opens up a national debate in France that begins: ‘The way we viewed people like Momoudou has been nothing short of shameful; we look down on people like him as our inferiors, and yet they are just like us. Imagine, how much better we would be as a people and as nation if we dropped our air of superiority and showed greater humanity and equality?’

But don’t hold your breath, history has shown that by elevating individuals, whilst ignoring the broader reality, that act of elevation becomes pseudo proof that ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ still reign strong in France.

Simon Woolley