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Instapundit pointed to this post which anecdotally elaborates on the European tendency to ignore the non-racially-European Europeans in their midst. So now I must unveil my own anecdotal gloss on this decisive point. I believe mine is the clincher, the Bull-Connor-attack-dog-and-fire-hose of anecdotes, the one that will shame all of Europe, and France especially, into some long overdue mirror gazing and soul searching. And probably win me some kind of medal in the better Europe that emerges.
It's the early 90's, call it '92. I'm in the hyper-marche in La Defense, the mega-mall and giga-office-complex at Paris's western edge (it's where the Arc de Triomphe's flashy young grandson, the Grand Arch, resides.) I'm strolling the aisles checking out the merch and the mecs when this little black kid turns the corner. He's maybe six years old and he's sobbing. He's as oblviously lost and distraught as it is humanly possible to be. My French is (at best) more literary than practical and written than verbal. I don't really have the words to address a child and calm him down and help back to where he belongs, so I just kinda smile and say hey. He needed more than that (just as everyone I ever try that on seems to need more than that), so he just gives me a look (a look I'm used to) and keeps walking and crying. Now I'm following at a distance to at least keep an eye on him while I try to think of some French phrase that might be more effective. (It was amusing to see him turn into an aisle of toys at one point, something caught his eye on the shelf and for five seconds he forgot his desolation as he picked it up, but, like me, the toy was insufficient in the circumstances and he started bawling again.)
All the while he is slowly wandering through a store crowded with white-skinned French people who do not even give a second look at this openly crying and confused child. Their indifference was total, it was like the lost boy existed in some other dimension that only I could see. This gets me as caught up in observing that frostbitten spectacle as helping the kid out, so now I'm mutli-tasking. After ten minutes of me trailing the crying kid there was an announcement on the store PA of a lost child. I got the gist of it, so I knew my little pal was on the radar and all I had to do was lead him to a store employee. I said hey to him again, this time with more confidence, and he walked with me till I saw a guy stocking shelves and said something like, "Bonjour monsieur, c'est le gosse perdue", which was close enough to meaning something that he understood my drift and started to take the boy with him. At which point my new friend looked back at me with real trepidation. I reached deep inside me and came up with "It's ok buddy, go ahead, he's alright." The kid's English must have been better than he was letting on because he found strength in my words. I followed them both to the front of the enormous store where his family was waiting for him. He gave me a tell-tale look as the employee handed him off, and his family realized I was somehow involved in the daring rescue so they started merci-ing me with abandon. And I "It-really-was-nothing,-mesdames"-ed them back with both barrels.