My name is Ralph Amoussou and I've been an actor for 15 years. Sadly, like most people who look like me, I have stories to tell - stories I tried to bury until now. But I'm starting to realise those stories may eat me from the inside if I don't speak up.
I grew up in Paris, France. If anything, I consider myself lucky to live in a country where most civilians are not allowed to walk around with a gun.
The discussion I want to have is a brutal one. Writing this has been hard, especially as I'm considering fatherhood. I'm wondering what kind of world I would want to bring a life into. As far as I can remember I've been randomly checked by the police. Most days on my way to school between my 13th and my 17th birthdays. Sometimes by the same cops. Often by the same cops, actually. When I felt brave enough, I would ask: Why? Some of them would say: "just doing our job, son, don't be difficult, you don't want to go down that road."
At school, my math teacher would go for months without saying a word to me. Sometimes she forgot to grade the tests of the few non-white pupils in the class. When confronted by some parents, she put on a smile and said: "those students usually forget to do their homework so I don't expect much from them."
At age 15 I got my first acting role during the summer break. When I returned for my first day of high school, I realised that my file wasn't in the school system due to "a missing stamp".
At 19, I was nominated by the Cesar Academy as Most Promising Actor. On my way to the interviews prior to the ceremony, I was randomly stopped by the police as I apparently fitted the profile of someone they were after: a man who had been stealing the hood ornaments off expensive cars. I was wearing a Dior Tuxedo. The ceremony invitations in my pocket were not enough for them to let me go. And the Dior Tuxedo ended up raising even more questions because according to my income information and, thus, social class, they wondered how a man like me could afford any tux, let along a Dior one. Needless to say I missed the interviews and barely made the ceremony.
When it comes to acting, and the poor range of roles for black actors, I have heard multiple things from people in the industry (producers, directors, writers and sometimes actors) - things that always go along the lines of: "people just aren't ready." Often, these people do not look like me. And they all seem to hide behind what I call an 'alibi actor': the one and only colored actor they know who plays all kinds of roles (in France anyway).
Being your own man, and building who you are is hard enough as it is - imagine doing so while having to deal with your ID being checked every day. Imagine doing so while being questioned every day by the people who are there to allegedly protect and serve you while all they are actually doing is reminding you that you will never belong. And yet, this system was allegedly created so that everyone could have the opportunity to build a better life.
I'm writing this note as testimony, I've read so many stories like mine from people all over the globe. I don't expect much from writing my story.
To be honest, I've become quite cynical about the situation. I know there is hope somehow but as time passes by all I see is talent wasted, time consumed and injustice spreading.
Let's see if there is an aftermath. Let's see if we can all learn and rise above the hate.
Ralph Amoussou is a French actor known for the Netflix show Marianne, Missions and The Dream Kids.