The best (and almost unique) illustration of the announced “fresh start” in the second term of office of the French President is the new Minister of Education and Youth: Emmanuel Macron succeeded in electing the historian Pap Ndiaye, whose father is from Senegal a surprising and symbolic coup as he loves it.
The scientist, who was born near Paris in 1965, is the counterpart of his predecessor Jean-Michel Blanquier, who waged an intellectual war with universities, which he accused of having a dangerous left-wing ideology of understanding Islam. University Minister Frédérique Vidal even had the research projects of the universities checked.
The professor of Afro-American history at the elite Sciences Politiques university, whom Macron appointed director of the “Immigration Museum” in 2019, speaks of structural racism in French society and also sees a pattern in police violence against certain population groups. However, the scientist would not describe himself as “woke”, but rather as “cool”.
But it is clear that Macron wants to appeal to left-wing voters and intellectuals with the appointment in the run-up to the general elections in June – because Blanquier and Vidal had mutated into their enemy images, which made any cooperation impossible.
Since his appointment, Ndiaye has also been attacked with racism and slandered by the political right: He is “obsessed with racial thinking and an opponent of the police,” claims the chairman of the right-wing extremist Rassemblement National, Jordan Bardella. Marine le Pen calls for protecting youth from the “worst ideologies”. One can only hope that the man, who is said to be calm and even-tempered, can handle it.
He is married to the sociologist Jeanne Lazarus, with whom he has two children. His sister is the well-known writer Marie NDiaye, who received the Prix Goncourt in 2009 for her work “Three Strong Women” and had lived with her family in Berlin for many years.
But the attacks from the right are not the only challenge for the career changer, whose only political experience is advising Macron on dealing with colonial history. He is supposed to mend the broken relationship with teachers and unions and implement educational reforms. Quite a few other people in this ministry have failed because of this. The post is now considered a “mission impossible”.
If Ndiaye has to expend too much energy explaining his position on racism and minority politics in the political frenzy of the right, his appointment might no longer be a trump card.