Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Exceptionally French Riots

Here we go with the riots again. French exceptionalism is going to allow the country to live its own Watts riots, which, considering the social climate here, are unavoidable.

Reading articles in the press both in France and in the U.S., there’s little mention of the ubiquity of racism here, except for Sarkozy’s response to the riots in 2005 of which this is now a re-enactment. Yet a major factor in the man’s election is that his response typified that of the average French man (person, really, but men speak their minds on the subject more readily than women, who tend to veil their views). Though I realise that racism is still rampant in the U.S., albeit cloaked under a blanched P.C. sheet, there are fewer qualms about expressing disdain here. Say what you will about how civilized the French are, they are filled with at least as much racism as resveratrol, and their resulting bile is probably as instrumental in their longevity as the much touted molecule found in red wine.

The result of this prejudice – beside having made for many a distasteful dinner topic – is that their are no jobs available to minorities (read Arabs and blacks) here. In an experiment designed to bring attention to the problem, C.V.s were sent out with or without names attached. With the ethnic sounding names, there was not a single call-back for an interview. (Interestingly enough the experiment was also done with visuals where results were similar for extremely unattractive and/or overweight people – not to mention the handicapped). Is it any wonder that social unrest is at an explosive level now?

What’s (not so) funny about the situation is that the guilty deny being racist. There’s no room for discussion because according to them, the problem just doesn’t exist. Never mind all the racial stereo-typifying, the slurs and the discrimination, for a majority of the French, it’s the unavoidable result of the nature of the people against whom discrimination is directed. I was too young during the events in the U.S., but I don’t see how change can be brought about here. The anti- discrimination laws already exist. It’s motivation that’s lacking, something that would bring about a change of mentality. I’ve heard my mother-in-law tell of her early years as an Italian immigrant here and how she suffered from prejudice. The hostility against the lowly Italian race has been purged for the most part now, but wouldn’t you know it, she and others like her are the most vociferous racists now. What new ethnic group could be invited here to displace the ones chosen to take the brunt now?

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