June 16, 2008


There's a very interesting article about African immigrants in France, something I'm particularly interested in because I have several Malian students who grew up in Paris. The article describes both Obama's rock star status and his effect as a catalyst for conversations about race in traditionally race-blind France, as well as the growing movement among black immigrants to France to address race.

Personal note: My students have said, very clearly, that it is better to be African in Paris than in Philadelphia. My mother's response to that was: the deepest racism in France is against Arabs.

The article is worth reading not only for its fascinating look at race somewhere else - where race officially does not exist, but where far-right xenophobes were second in the 2002 presidential election - but also because it contains some excellent snippets.

For example, a summary of the trouble with ignoring race:

"The idea behind not categorizing people by race is obviously good; we want to believe in the republican ideal," he said. "But in reality we’re blind in France, not colorblind but information blind, and just saying people are equal doesn’t make them equal."

France does not have particular trouble with educational inequity, but economic inequality persists:
The percentage of blacks in France who hold university degrees is 55, compared with 37 percent for the general population. But the number of blacks who get stuck in the working class is 45 percent, compared with 34 percent for the national average.

And for sheer color:
Youssoupha ... [a Sorbonne-educated Congolese French rapper] was nursing a Coke recently at Top Kafé, a Lubavitch Tex-Mex restaurant in Créteil, just outside Paris, where he lives. Nearby, two waiters in yarmulkes sat watching Rafael Nadal play tennis on television beneath dusty framed pictures of Las Vegas and Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. A clutch of Arab teenagers smoked outside.

That's right, a Lubavitch Tex-Mex restaurant just outside Paris. Beat that! (No seriously - what does beat that?)

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