Monday, January 8, 2007

Racism in France -- Not Just A Soccer Problem

Racism Unfiltered in the French Conversation
If the problem of racism in American discourse is typified by the N-word outburst of comedian Michael Richards followed by his abject apology, the French variant is altogether more toxic.

The latest outrage came from second-string TV personality and self-appointed social commentator Pascal Sevran, whose recently published book included the obscenely racist idea that the "black [penis] is responsible for famine in Africa."

A month earlier, a Socialist political kingpin in the Montpellier region sparked fury --- and possible expulsion from the party --- by lamenting that France's national soccer team fielded "9 blacks out of 11" starting players.

That echoed a comment a year earlier by philosopher Alain Finkelkraut, who --- seeking to explain the 2005 rioting by youths descended from immigrants in France's suburbs --- made allusion to France's "white-black-Arab" soccer side that won the 1998 World Cup and became an icon of French social integration.

Even some black Frenchmen have joined the bigoted chorus: In November, the black comic known as Dieudonné made a conspicuous appearance at the annual congress of Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front party --- much to the pleasure of extreme-rightists looking to lose their racist stigma without changing their xenophobic positions.

For the last two years, the self-described leftist Dieudonné had outdone even Le Pen in Jew-baiting, delivering a series of brazenly anti-Semitic remarks, belittling the Holocaust and depicting Jews as racist persecutors of blacks and Arabs.

As in the U.S., France has seen an increase in provocative shock content in entertainment and commentary, whether for comic effect or political impact.

France rejects affirmative action as incompatible with its republican ideals of color-blind equality for all citizens.

Nice in theory, but that's not working in practice: discrimination continues, inequality is rife, and notions of color-blindness don't square with the rising chorus of racially loaded commentary.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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