“On the phone, I’m insulted, I’m called a racist. I received about forty death threats calling for my throat to be cut, to be burned. My storefront has been tagged,” breathes Michael Taylor, proven boss of the Senza Nome. Since May 18, this restaurateur based in the heart of Poitiers (Vienne) has faced in spite of himself an “unleashing of hatred” caused by “blackface”, a racist practice – popularized then fought in the United States – consisting in making up one’s face. in black.
Coming to celebrate a bachelor party with friends, a client dressed up that evening with a Creole outfit, her features made up. “She mentioned her Martinican origins, a sort of tribute to her grandmother, and said that it was not racist”, advances Michael Taylor who immediately sensed a skid. He remembers the media storm linked to Antoine Griezmann. In 2017, the footballer disguised himself as an American basketball player, made up from head to toe as a black man, before apologizing.
“It caught my attention, so I asked him the question”, assures the 30-year-old who also inquired about the opinion of other customers: “Martiniquans who came to visit Futuroscope! I asked them if it bothered them. Apparently not…” Michael Taylor therefore resumed his service before an altercation began on the terrace. It was a passer-by from Poitiers, offended by the scene, who denounced this “blackface”. A video was shot, immediately posted on social networks: for the restaurateur, the beginning of a nightmare.
Supported by SOS Racisme: “This restaurateur has nothing to be ashamed of”
“Some have assured that it was an event organized by my restaurant to amuse the group, that I had made up a waitress”, chokes Michael Taylor who has seen more than 2,400 negative opinions on Google and almost as much on TripAdvisor. The comments denigrating his establishment have since never ceased. “I opened in October 2020, almost two years of screwed up work,” he says, annoyed: “I recognize a lack of judgment and accept my wrongs. But the client should take responsibility…”
SOS Racisme supports Michael Taylor. “This restaurateur has nothing to be ashamed of. His attitude was exemplary,” insists Cheikh Diaby, the president of the Poitevin committee, who points to the client’s only gesture: “This attitude can only be a source of disorder. If the goal is to make fun of an accent, skin color or origins, it constitutes a racist offence. Mayor of Poitiers, Léonore Moncond’huy also contacted Michael Taylor to support him. The elected official did not wish to speak publicly on the subject or respond to Parisian-Today in France.
In France, only acts and remarks of a racist nature are punishable by law. Considered as such, “blackface” is however not formally prohibited by any text. Cheikh Diaby proposed to Michael Taylor to “work hand in hand” and to set up “before the summer holidays” awareness workshops against racism and discrimination for hotel and restaurant professionals. The restaurateur, he now works “with the ball in his stomach” but does not intend to close: “It would be a failure and would amount to proving them right…”