Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Riots Ahead?

Will riots again break out in the banlieues? Sudhir Venkatesh thinks so:

I am struck at the resonances between the voices of young people in contemporary France and the cries of those who rebelled in U.S. inner cities in the 1960’s — arguably the last time we had nationwide un-civil unrest. French youth in the suburbs are mostly North African in origin — or from other parts of Francophone Africa. They are also mad as hell. Decades of poverty and social exclusion have created a growing cohort of teenagers and 20-somethings who feel no investment in their nation.

The indifference of the French government toward such frustration is truly remarkable. The state of national denial is best exemplified by the refusal of the French government to allow either private or government bodies to gather statistics based on race or ethnicity. The French tell us that in their “republic,” everyone must be content to be (simply) a “citizen”; acknowledging attributes like race or ethnicity — or religion — would affirm differences, foster inequality, and thereby lead to threats against the national ideal of a brotherhood of Frenchmen.


David in Setouchi said...

Maybe this time they'll get smarter than in 2005 and burn stuff up in the Faubourg-St-Honoré and the 16th arrondissement instead of burning their next door neighbors cars.

OscottLocal said...
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OscottLocal said...

As a Brit I sometimes wish we took the same approach as France (not in terms of housing but in terms of census and data collection). The overuse of race and eqaulity schemes has caused massive resentment amougst the white majourity and amoungst minourites who feel excluded by not being on the census sheet. We have a bit of a row going on over whether Kashmiri should be a seperatly listed grouping! It just feels a bit silly and over the top sometimes. I long to be just a 'citizen' instead of 'White British'

David makes a valid point, don't riot in your own patch go cause trouble amoungst the middle classes, change will come very quickly.

David in Setouchi said...

I had a debate with a French person recently (well, I'm French too, but quite Americanized) and I really don't know which one is best.

I understand how acknowledgment of minorities can lead to ridiculous situations (he'd argue that if we recognize the specificities of North Africans, Western Africans, etc, why deny the recognition of Basques, Alsacians, etc.) but pretending we're all the same like it's been done in France forever is definitely one of the reasons we have these tensions in France today (and that regional cultures have been wiped out for the most part too)

Apart from that, the areas that I mentioned are not the middle class but the seats of power and of the upper classes. They need to be scared on their own turf, and maybe then they'll take the suburbs seriously. Maybe.