The French remain consumed by The Veil Thing:
Covering up your face with a full-face veil is a simulation, the pretense of an identity but one that prevents the onlooker from actually discerning it. In banning the face veil, the French argue, they are preventing Muslim women from posturing as individual citizens with singular identities without giving the onlooker the basis to interact with them at that level. Covered up, they are anonymous, observing and perceiving, pretending to exist but without being observed. Therefore, they create a precipitous imbalance of knowledge and power between them and their interlocutors.
Rafia Zakaria also notes:
Waiting at a bank in Paris, the same friend witnessed a scene where the cashier refused to buzz in a black man because he was wearing a baseball cap and she could not see his face. He had to remove it to be allowed to enter and be served.
I’m still figuring out how to feel about Muslim women and veils. I have the American desire for everyone to be “like me,” and share my particular ideas of what “freedom” is, as well as the American desire for everyone to just be themselves and do what they do. And of course a man of any race in a baseball cap, to me, is not “veiled.” Or at least I hadn’t thought so … hadn’t thought of it interms of a black man veiling himself, until I read this. I think of a baseball, especially a backwards, or gracefully tilted one as a sign of being of a hip hop culture, of or representing the glam that exists in ‘hoods. I picture it as peacocky and prideful. I see it as dash of dignity on a man with little else of monetary value. I see it as the mark of a fan. I do picture it also, usually, as beautiful. But then I can “see” the “identity” of a man in the baseball cap. Because I “know” who he is.
[I hate writing with all these quotation marks, but it’s easy to forget words have different meanings to different people in different situations. Without the marks, we just read over the words. With them, we remember that the words are vessels. and people carry different things in them.]
With “French” beauty consistently constructed to exclude migrant identities and notions of beauty, perhaps a visible simulation of exclusion is necessary to start a debate on the question of whether all Frenchwomen’s faces are equally beloved.
There is fear of Muslims “terrorizing,” fear of black men “robbing.” Must people be stripped down in order that the dominant culture may see? Do even “we” want to see more of everybody, as a free pass to pure “safety”?