‘Blind Spot’ by Myriam Tadessé: An Excerpt

Drawing on her personal experiences as a biracial Ethiopian-French woman and her family history, Tadessé explores the realities of life for mixed-race individuals in France through her searing and honest memoir.

Translated from the French by Gila Walker

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An Excerpt

There are words that have the effect of grains of sand in a shoe. Words that take you into a mine field, that, hardly have they been pronounced, trigger a series of explosions—cultural, political, philosophical, memorial and emotional.

Like this one: métis.

Nothing to do with the dubious use of the term métissage held up as banner ads mainly for commercial purposes. No, the word I’m talking about is métis, meaning the fact, the state, the person in flesh and soul, which also has nothing to do with the ‘cross-breeding of races’ in the dictionary.

If I tear race from métis as from a sticky bug tape, what would métis be the name of? at is what I’m wondering. At any rate, ‘that’ is what I’m interested in digging into. Seeing what, if anything, it has to do with me.

‘One’ cannot speak of the métis; there are as many métis as there are people and spaces. Only ‘I’ can do so. Fruit of a desire or a constraint, welcomed or rejected, visible or imperceptible, the state of being métis is one of disorder. And I would even say, of a crack. Most likely this is why it is so dizzying to try to think it through. Impossible to approach it from the assured categories of history and politics. It is the blind spot.

Something, however, is seeking to be said. Something lurking between the lines of books, of official history, always on the mar- gins, vanishing as soon as we try to look directly at it. Something related to métissage and that, rather than designating it, concerns us all.

I’ve seldom met a well-adjusted métis. Is this due to the métissage or to a humanity tormented by its demons?

How did I come to understand and realize that I was métis? Has it conditioned my way of being in the world and of perceiving it?

The fact of being a métis became a subject in the performance world, in the course of my philosophy studies and with my mother, a white Frenchwoman.

It is in light of these three closely intertwined worlds of show business, thought and family that I will try to say something about what it means to be métis.

For years I’ve been looking for a way to tackle this issue. At the end of the day, the answer is simple: right in its heart. It is not outside me since I’m inside it. So it’s from this inside, from this experience that I will conduct my reflection.

Being métis is not a subject for me. I am the subject of this story.