Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ou est la France?

I don't know where to begin or end. I will say that the two Parisian residents (one past, one current) that I've spoken to have both emphasised that they've seen clear and unashamed manifestations of racial prejudice by gendarmes in the city: strip searching Arabic men publicly in a train station, and the kind of aggressive 'routine check' of guys of African descent that still probably happens in the UK, but maybe not in quite such a brazenly public way.

An interesting development today is that bloggers have been accused of inciting some of the violence.

Weirdly, I bought La Haine on DVD about a week before the riots started. When it hit the cinemas in the mid 90s it made such a stir that the French PM convened his cabinet for a special screening of the film, an action that implied (i) that they had no idea what life was like in the suburban slums of their big cities, and (ii) that they were subsequently going to do something about it.

(ii) obviously hasn't happened. You just have to hope that it will now. If this is France's Brixton '81 (as in the pic above), and greater racial integration, regeneration projects, and crucially a massive attempt at reform within the police force is to follow, then there's some reason for hope. It is just hope though, nothing more.


Blogger John said...

There was an interesting article in the Guardian that stated that because the French are son keen to enforce equalite, they don't recognise ethnicity or other cultures at all and are just keen to enhance Frenchness, causing an identity crisis among young, poor ghettoized ethnic youths.

I am pretty ignorant on this subject, but I had this kinda inkiling that this happened because (i) La Haine PROVED that there were ghettos and inequality and (ii) muslims aren't allowed to wear bhurkas or wahtever (marvellous little englander turn of phrase that hey). My client thought it happened because all the gendarmerie are racist and they've been trying to shoot girls in head-dresses. But perhaps that requires a pinch of salt.

4:50 PM  
Blogger dan hancox said...

yeah, they do like their assimilation the frenchies. i admire the fact that they've had a secular state since the revolution, and that they're still so passionate about preserving their core values, but y'know: idealism never shod a foot or fed a kid.

there's a big argument still going on in this country about whether we should abandon multiculturalism and go for a french-style 'everyone here is british, no matter where they're from originally or when they got here' sentiment. it's good that the debate is happening, but it also kinda makes my head hurt.

5:17 PM  

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