Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
The days of anarchy in France finally came to an end after more than two weeks of street rioting precipitated by the fatal electrocution of two young African immigrants supposedly pursued by the police. Beyond the actual death of these young men, was the general discontent of the immigrant population of North African Muslims stemming out of years of racial profiling and discrimination. The riot has come and has gone but the scars remain with France and her neighbors suffering from the hangover of previous centuries when the rights of ordinary immigrants was never the priority of the ignoble European aristocracy.
Indeed, it was the response of the French government, and her Neo-Nazi right wing allies that dominate the European political space that leaves most foreign as well as local observers disconcerted. Also remarkable was the conspiracy of silence of the global media and the speed with which bad news about this pride of Arian heritage disappeared from the kaleidoscope of news men across the mainstream media: this is interesting considering how regaled the same news people are with any bad news emanating from the continent of Africa.
In three weeks, while about nine thousand cars burned, numerous bodily damages inflicted, public buildings destroyed, and police attacked left and right by irate youths, the rest of the French population fiddled. The riots were never brought under control until about fourteen days into the urban insurrection. The first signs of denials emerged in the early days from the rising star of French politics Interior minister Sarkozy, a man known for his populist streak. In expressing the mind of most French people (I suppose), he called the rioters “scum” and “hoodlums” and vowed to clean out the suburbs with a power hose. Despite protests from suburban community leaders, Sarkozy’s approval ratings remain at 57 percent. If this is not revealing of the anti-immigrant feeling that dominate the French political space then I don’t know what will.
The African immigrant population is 7 million strong people of Northern African origin, with little economic opportunity and head room for prosperity in French society that have deliberately stifled fair competition, allowed racism to eat to the core of their society (Chirac talked about resumes and applications tossed into the thrash simply because of the name) and have continuously denied the existence of these inequalities in their society. Any first time visitor to France will admit that there are only two nations that have more racist individuals in Europe: Austria and Germany. The French society is deliberately racist especially towards people of African origin but has deliberately chosen to deny this streak of hate by ignoring the disease and treating the symptoms. Quartering these young immigrants in suburbia welfare system is not the answer, providing good jobs and opportunities to the backwaters of French society and empowering them economically instead of giving them handouts is the answer.
The French republic model of assimilation (without insulation) is contrast to the pragmatic American system that recognized the inequalities in the society with the enactment of the Civil Rights Act that took deliberate steps to correct them. Even the United States that have faced up to her ugly past is still struggling with the realities many years after a la Katrina, but the French in their infinite wisdom and self absorbed demeanor will rather sweep the problem under the table. The problem of course is that it will boil to the surface in form of violence and anti-social behavior that will harm the French society many years to come. The absence of immigrant representatives in the French legislative body is nothing short of disgrace. Even Britain with not so many of them can boast of a sizeable number of Northern African MPs as well as other members of parliaments representing the diverse immigrant population of Britain.
The clowns that control the French state have deliberately persisted to foist on public opinion the idea that an affirmative action model like the one practiced in the United States is not the answer. It took the courage of the Prime Minister and his Minister of Social Cohesion to call the French President Jacques Chirac -who is out of touch with the realities of the modern French state and indeed the world (when it comes to the fight against extremism and international trade) – out of his shell of ‘wise oracle’ when he rejected the idea before even subjecting it to public debate or critique. It is this one-man politicking of blackmail that pushed the French to this point at critical point in their history starting from the De Gaulle model of suppressing African nationalism (a la French brutality in Algeria) and Mitterrand brand of socialist denial!
As if this outrage was not enough, one French minister in the last week posited that rap music was responsible for the three weeks of horror in France. This is at best a comment from a wise crack and at worst ignorance at the higher level. It is unbelievable that in modern times when the frontiers of free speech should be expanded the wisecrack of people like Sarkozy was not subjected to censorship, yet the lurid lyrics of a poor French immigrant (having decided not to remain unemployed since Chirac has no job for him in the France of today) is the subject of hostility by two hundred ignorant legislators!
The extreme right wing (using religious/ethics cover) today dominate French politics because the French people like the people of Austria, Netherlands, Australia, Germany and United States among many other western nations wish to confront the emptiness and loneliness that years of prosperity without godliness and sharing have imposed upon their soul. In a world dominated by hunger and poverty, most western nations give a paltry one percent of their GDP to poor nations and even lesser amount to the poorest of their society. The only problem is that you cannot find godliness and peace in hate as many of these voting elect
orates will realize in coming years either by hook or crook. The moral debate of the 21st century will eventually go beyond the fundamentalist and the moderates, it is slowly but surely evolving to a confrontation between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.
The French riot is by no means emblematic of just a French problem. Perhaps, it was payback by the Most High to the French lack of empathy for the cause of the oppressed globally either in the EU/WTO trade negotiations or the Paris Club debt cut-back exercise (it is on record that the French were one of the most hostile along with Austria to a comprehensive settlement for Nigeria – offering shylock terms that have made Nigeria 12 billion dollars poorer). Attempts to cut the European agricultural subsidy that have subjected millions of Africans to perpetual poverty and hunger is also an area where French support has been non-existent.
In any case, it is a warning to the Afro-phobic Europeans that are today reaping the benefits of inglorious bloody past that subdued and plundered foreign lands for the benefits of their own population. The sooner they take drastic actions to address the real problems the quicker they will get out of the hole they have dug for themselves. More so, if the leaders of Africa will stop begging around the world and concentrate on the development of their countries there is no doubt in my mind that most of the discrimination will either not exist or be inconsequential. It is the lack of pride that has made even the African Union sterile in the face of injustice in France and made them fail to raise the issue in their last champagne drinking summit that took place couple of weeks after this injustice.
It is often easier to become outraged by injustice half a world away than by oppression and discrimination half a block from home.
Carl T. Rowan
Join the discussion