Saturday, November 05, 2005

Vive la difference?

Thinking about the riots in Paris and now throughout France in recent days, I am struck by my lack of surprise. Years of underfunding, separated indeed segregated housing, but more importantly policies which refuse to recognise and celebrate the differences have led to my sense of being under whelmed.

There are many who believe the rioting in recent days is just thuggery. Some indicate its about general crime, even drug turf wars. The French Government does not know how to handle the situation or thinks it knows how but only to create greater divisions.

Sociologically the banlieue and migrant youth provide rich grounds for research, and might indeed be over researched by white liberal sociologists. Functionalists also have a field day citing the all the faults of the ghetto and blaming race as the problem rather than racism, and the failures of multi-culturalism. The statistics are very stark, health and housing problems, higher mortality rates, and although there are plenty of education opportunities, the life post education is another matter altogether. One in four graduates of migrant origin in areas such as Clichy-sous-Bois do not have a job compared to one in 25 graduates in the rest of the population.

As a former youth activist I have had another perspectives in terms of learning about activism in French migrant society (this term does not exist officially probably and that's half of the problem - but I could be corrected!)

I have watched and listened to non-migrant politicians and commentators over the years explain that everyone should be together, there is no difference, everyone is integrated, there are minorities disadvantaged ok but they are in the minority.

My experience working and speaking with migrant youth from France in the mid 90's indicated to me that there was no celebration of the difference then and very little now as the ban on religious symbols in schools and other policies continues this.

In 1996 whilst watching politicians in a meeting in Toulouse talk about how wonderful everything was with everyone I watched the body language of the migrant youth representatives telling me otherwise.

Indeed the migrant youth said that they could not and would not take the floor whilst the politicians were in the room. They were fed up being integrated and ignored.

There were also incidents of the good migrant. This was a young person who achieved well in education and entered politics or civil life and was held up as a model citizen. (I have heard similar terminology being used regarding Travellers, the settled Traveller as a term referring to 'good' Travellers who live like everyone else in a house and therefore 'behave'.

A friend from France emailed a list I am a member of today and summed up the situation thus today:

The Minister for the Interior called rioters 'scum', the Prime Minister cancels his trip to Canada and meets some young people from the effected areas (not a regular occurrence!) and the French 'elite' navel gaze through the crisis.

It all seems a long time since the much triumphed World Cup winning team of 2002.


At 12:36, Blogger Cadavre Exquis said...


At 12:46, Blogger Suzy said...

oops yeah lets not mention France in World cup 2002 will we...

At 22:00, Blogger EWI said...

There were also incidents of the good migrant. This was a young person who achieved well in education and entered politics or civil life and was held up as a model citizen.

In other words, as a European? i'm no Steyn-like racist hatemonger, but there's a very serious problem when immigrants refuse to integrate into their adopted country.

I've seen it in the Netherlands, where a lot of Turks and Moroccans don't learn Dutch, don't adopt the Dutch sense of civic pride, and fetch the next generation's spouses from the home countries in arranged marriages.

The killing of Theo van Gogh - the anniversary of which was Wednesday - is only a sign of what's to come, unless leaders on both sides (Dutch and immigrants) can hammer out a workable arrangement.


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