Race relation in France
Racism is a rampant social phenomenon in France despite the efforts to combat it.
The demographic state of the modern world has characterized migration all over the world. The foreign policies have further intensified this migration as it has granted freedom of movement. People from all over have traveled, settled and assimilated with others in new places. However, this has not come up without some shortcomings. Among them is the rampant racial discrimination evident in both the civilized and uncivilized world, also in the developed and undeveloped world. People have become conscious of their difference in race color and culture leading to existence of such discrimination. They have ignored the fact that our natural racial diversity should be our strength. In France, racism is one of the current rampant social issues. This paper seeks to explore the state of racism in France.
Racism in France has been characterized by its immigration history. France immigrants originated from Africa and Europe. Initially in the 19th century, the aim of immigration was to economically empower France through provision of labor. Towards the First World War, immigration was characterized by the need for people to work in French army. World War Two led to the end of immigration for labor need but later this need re-evolved. After the end of these wars, France immigration policies preferred Europeans workers over African workers. The post war immigration policy was limiting African immigrants by emphasizing on economic orientation in inward immigration. In 1960 the emphasis was transformed into political issue by immigrants from Africa continent. This immigration increased the immigrant population into the French society which led to the French government banning inward immigration. This action limited African immigrants. There was need to re-unite with their families but the French government later in 1980s restricted that claiming that those immigrants belonged to French society. During those periods and 1990s, the French immigration policies were restrictive but recently they have accepted cultural diversity making her a contemporary multicultural society. However, she still needs to loosen the existing restrictions in cultural diversity (Giquel, A)
Recently, immigration in France have been characterized by short term interests like education, economic interest, tourism, visiting of relatives, diplomatic interest among others. However, permanent immigration still exists for instant through marriages and visas. These immigrants have suffered racism a challenge they have lived in for a long time.
The rate of racism in France has attracted a lot of international interest including the United Nation. There are calls to the authority to curb this inhumane and increasing social phenomenon. Gay J McDougall, a UN independent Expert on minority issues have noted that racism in France is living and upon the minorities’ immigrants. It is denying young people the freedom to fully realize their potential from their color religion and surnames. She noted these minorities have been marginalized in ghettos and denied job opportunities. She was concerned about the political leaders’ statement which he termed “unwelcoming at best and racist at worst”. She called for the authority to live by its constitutional vision of equality which in the real sense is not being practiced. Most of these discriminated minorities feel its not welcoming to be a French citizen unless through a forced assimilation that would live no traces of their identities. “Only when a way is found to shed the color of their skins, hide the manifestations of their religion or the traditions of their ancestors, then will they be accepted as truly French” McDougall said. (Indian Express Newspaper)
While it is true that the French authority are working towards combating racial discrimination, they are yet to be successful as every new day there are headlines on racial discrimination among its people. They enacted a hotline to assist victims of discrimination in 2001 which in its first five months received an overwhelming 13,933 different calls from victims. With such statistics, it is surprising how racism had been assumed until 2001. Ever since, the European Union and the political agendas have started addressing the issue yet not much have been accomplished. The French government has in the past used criminal law against racism which is not a convenient and reliable measure against this. Studies have shown that in the French race policies, racism victims are supported by non governmental groups while they put no effort in ethnic monitoring. These moves are effortless in curbing racism. (Bleich, 6-11)
Over the years, France labor market has been characterized by discrimination in respect to ethnic background, place of resident and surname of job seekers. Surnames, especially in multicultural society, can tell a lot about oneself racial or ethnic background. The marginalized minority have been denied job opportunities irrespective of their qualifications. In many companies, the immigrant minorities have been underpaid and used as a source of cheap labor. In addition, they have been discriminated from promotion irrespective of their performance and senior positions which in most cases are held by native French. Racial inequality in the past has been characterized by racism. (Viprey)
Despite the moves that the France government and labor authority has made to fight this racial discrimination in work place, a lot need to be done. It is evident from 2004 that France companies have committed themselves in fighting against racism. 35 French companies in 2004 signed ‘diversity chatter’ against racism in work place. In 1998, the government had taken a strong critical stance on racism at work place through an affirmative policy against issues undermining French democracy. Mr. Bebear a racism critic also presented a report to the Prime minister countering racism in the labor market. Other efforts of antiracism in workplace have included those from the Court of Auditors, General Confederation of Labor, the French Democratic Confederation of Labor, French Christian Workers’ Confederation and the National Federation of Independent Unions. Despite their efforts, racism is still charging in France even today. (Viprey)
Assimilation of the immigrants in the French society has had an influence in reducing racism. However, they have had a lot of challenges in their assimilation. In their daily activities, they have been discriminated upon their racial backgrounds. You will be surprised to board a bus in France and when a black man boards too, everybody gets out of the bus. This is so humiliating to any person.
In an article by Jennifer Brea on July 30 2006, she narrates her personal experience while she and her sister bonded a train from Paris to Limonges. A long the way an African woman, carrying an extra luggage than her allowance tried to board but the train conductors yelled at her. He insulted her for five minutes shouting “who do you think you are, stupid African woman?” He even went ahead kicking her luggage’s spreading them wide open. She was clearly humiliated. Unfortunately, nobody questioned the conductor. In fact they all seemed to agree with him. Brea further cannot count the times her non-French friends’ claimed over negative attributes from their French tenants, workers and the like. She notes that racism is live and kicking in the modern French society. Though she is French, she feels that racism is a social humiliate and is not worth in the society (Brea)
Many French citizens have accepted cultural diversity as a human kind strength like Brea. They have found themselves in racism incidents but have done less to solve those incidents. Like Brea, they have befriended foreigners with no hard feelings while some have taken anti-racism as an individual responsibility. Apparently, some like the train conductor need to change. Any racial superiority feeling over another person should be avoided.
Religious discrimination is one factor that cannot be isolated from racism in France. France initially was dominated by Christianity. However, cultural diversity has emerged other religions in the French society. Algerian immigrants and the Middle East immigrants have been related emerged Islamic religion. Indians immigrants have also been associated to Hinduism. The diverse beliefs among these religions have created a feeling of superiority. The native French have hindered efforts of the Muslim to transmit Islamic to the next generations as well as the Hindus. The Muslims dressing cord has influence their discrimination in almost all social structures like schools. In fact, in some schools they are restricted to wearing ‘hijab’. Islamic extremist reputations have influenced racism in France. Law enforcers and the native’s French perception have caused wrongful accusations of Muslim minorities in France. It is ironical that the French constitution emphasize on freedom of worship while contrary they have marginalized the minority religions forcing their followers to live even in ghettos where poverty is the order of the day (Fetzer & Joel 152-156)
In the recent times, media firms across France have had some of their headlines relating to racism. Racism is so unfiltered in French society. There have been riots on the streets of her major cities condemning racism. Some races have been victimized. Their civil rights have been abused. They have been associated with crimes like robbery violence drug trafficking and the like. They have found themselves under racism manipulated justice. Therefore, they have been jailed or penalized wrongfully.
While it is true that there have been wrongful accusations, some immigrants have turned to illegalities as a means of survival. Unfortunately, France life is demanding and if underpaid or without money, pressure can lead them to crime like robbery, drug trafficking and the like. In fact, racism frustrations can lead to drug abuse.
France is a member of the united nation a body that has been in the fore front to challenge its members against such social vices. It should make extra efforts in addressing racism in France. Civil rights movements should also be in the front line to address this issue. There are many non governmental movements in France and which I believe have a role in challenging the government against negligence or violation of its constitution. On the other hand, the French citizens at large should avoid this humiliating behavior. Racial diversity in mankind should be strength and cultural wealth. It is by empathy that we can learn to appreciate one another irrespective of our racial backgrounds and make the world a better place for everyone to fully realize his/her potential.
Giquel, A. French Immigration History. Retrieved on Thursday, November 27, 2008 from http://homepages.uel.ac.uk/u0106050/FrenchImmigrationHistory.htm
Indian Express Newspaper. Wide Spread Racism Among against immigrants in France: UN Expert. 2007 Retrieved on Thursday, November 27, 2008 from http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Widespread-racism-against- immigrants-in-France-UN-expert/224386/
Bleich, E. Race Politics in Britain and France: Ideas and Policymaking since the 1960’s:
Cambridge University Press, 2003; 6-11
Viprey, M. New Initiatives of fighting discrimination in work place: France. Eironline 2005. Retrieved on Thursday, November 27, 2008 from
Brea, J. Racism in France.2006 Retrieved on Thursday, November 27, 2008 from http://jenbrea.typepad.com/world_is_round/2006/07/racism_in_franc.html?cid=14 0500760#comments
Soper, C ; Fetzer, J.S. Muslims and the State in Britain, France, and Germany: Cambridge University Press, 2005; 152-156