The Atlantic recently published a conversation in which Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sat with Ta-Nehisi Coates and the magazine’s editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg to discuss race relations and American politics. Titled “The Intolerant Left,” the conversation began with Adichie revealing an encounter at Paris Airport with a hostile staff.
Here is an excerpt.
Jeffrey Goldberg: Let’s start with something that just happened at the airport. You said you kind of had a bad experience coming into Paris. Chimamanda Adichie: So I present my Nigerian passport, which is all I have. I have an American green card, but a Nigerian passport. And the man, the immigration man—in that sort of haughty thin-faced French way—looks at the visa and says to me, “This is for Spain. Why are you here?” And I said, “Well because I’ve been to Spain and it’s a Schengen visa. I can use it for France.” And he says, “Where is your return ticket?” He doesn’t ask me why I’m here. So I give him the return ticket. And at this point people are watching us, because other people had spent a minute [getting through] and at this point I had been there for 10. So in total I was there for 30 minutes, standing there, and he would ignore me and turn around and mumble something to his colleague and then turn back to me and I’d be like, “Is something wrong? Can you tell me what’s wrong?” And he would completely ignore me and then make that really annoying Gallic gesture, sort of the shruggy thing. But really for me it was a power play. What he was saying is, You’re not welcome here. And he didn’t have a reason for saying that because I had everything. I had a valid visa. I had everything I needed to have as a person coming from a country that doesn’t have resources, which means that we are seen as people who will stay on in countries like this. But I also remember thinking, I have an American green card. Why the hell do I want to stay on in France? Goldberg: Are you ever tempted to say, “I won a MacArthur Genius prize.” Do you ever want to play the “don’t-you-know-who-I-am” card? I mean, it’s obnoxious in its own sense. But you are a woman of achievement and, I’m just curious, is that ever tempting to you?
Adichie: No, I think maybe part of my pique and my rage, maybe it comes from my sense of privilege, which is: Oh, nobody treats me like this. I just feel that I don’t have to be somebody to be treated with dignity, right? Because I’m thinking, Why can’t you just be polite? Why can’t you just answer my question? Why can’t you do your damned job? But there’s a long history of people coming from Africa, who in Europe are treated like this. So I don’t think I’m unusual.
Read the full conversation HERE.