'I thought I'd blend in': the naturalised Congo-born woman who adopted a French first name


Late in 2022 the far-right polemicist and former presidential candidate Éric Zemmour stood trial accused of verbal abuse of a racial nature. This followed a comment he made to television presenter Hapsatou Sy that African names such as hers were an “insult to France”; the verdict will be delivered in January. As part of a series about people who have suffered everyday hatred in France, Mediapart spoke to a young woman who came here from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 as a child and who herself later chose to adopt a more “French-sounding” first name - in her case, Caroline. At the time, she says, the far-right were knocking on the doors of power, she wanted to become a French citizen and she felt her new name would help her 'blend in' with French society. Instead, says Caroline, she lost her way. Lou Syrah reports.

Reading articles is for subscribers only. Subscribe now.

Up until that morning, Caroline thought that she had protected her daily life from the torrent of hate that spewed out on the nation's airwaves. It was the early spring of 2022, right in the middle of the French presidential campaign. As her French identity card showed, Caroline had just celebrated her 34th birthday.