Monday, November 07, 2005

Paris is Burning

By now, hopefully many of you have heard about the riots that have been taking place during the last two weeks. France has a big problem. But it’s no different from the issues that have been facing the US for many years. It’s not new…in fact it has been brewing since colonialization….

There were two types of colonialization practices of Africa performed by the Europeans. Indirect Rule and Direct Rule. Under the indirect rule practiced by the British and Dutch, Africans were placed in charge of their own governments. Puppets of course, but inclusion into British society was never an option. English and Dutch Africans remained on the periphery of these societies.

France practiced Direct Rule. This was unique in that France claimed that they were accepting the Africans into their society. French was immediately established as the official languages in their colonies, and French practices were held in the highest esteem amongst the people. The Africans truly believed they were French.

After WWII, when France was demolished by Germany, they then invited many of the French Africans (From North Africa and lower), to come to France to rebuild their country. (Also done by England with the Caribbean natives) France constructed approximately 300 tall housing structures in different communities in the suburbs of it’s major cities, including Paris, to house the new immigrants of Moslem and African descent.

Herein lies the problem. Is this starting to sound familiar to anyone?

THEY BUILT PROJECTS…STUCK THEM FOLKS IN IT AND LEFT THEY ASSES THERE! (sorry I had to say that in plain old English)

The first generation immigrants were content with the living situation it seems. They had jobs, access to education and technology that was unavailable in their natives countries in Africa. These people had children, and then their children had children. All cooped up in these ghettos that had been formed for them. The jobs previously held by their parents, for the next generation had dried up. The rebuilding long past, and with that the unemployment rates for the Africans in these communities is now at a whopping 40%. That means nearly half of the inhabitants of these ghettos do not work. The males of these communities are the hardest hit by this statistic. In America, we are all too aware what happens to minority men when they are left with no jobs or a way to survive. In French ghettos, there is also high crime, drug dealing and youth are exclusively listening to rap music and assuming gangsta mentalities.

France has further deepened the problem by neglecting to provide training programs for the youths in these ghettos. They haven’t upgraded these projects since they built them back in the 1940’s. It is not hard to imagine what these projects now look like. In addition, there are no afterschool programs or Pre-K or K classes. The children are poorly educated and as a result have no hope for continuing their education or obtaining jobs that pay enough for them to leave the ghettos. The French Interior Minister (who has a great chance at becoming president) calls these children "Scum". Instead of rectifying the racism, he intends to propogate it by sending in more police. Did he not learn anything from America's bouts with the water hoses?

For all of France’s posturing that racism and discrimination doesn’t exist in French society, it is all too apparent that ignoring the problem does not make it disappear. These 2nd and 3rd generation French Africans do not feel included in French Society at all. Even though there are 5 million Muslins in France, yet there are no Muslims in French government. At all. When these people go to apply for jobs, they are turned away because of race or religion. We cannot forget that very recently the French banned religious head coverings in all public venues, such as schools and work areas. For some Muslim women, this forces them to uncover themselves when trying to carry out the normal activities of their day.

The current riots began on October 27th. That’s right. 2 weeks ago. Three youths thought that the police were chasing them, they ran into a relay station and 2 were electrocuted. It was only on Saturday that CNN, FOX, and MSNBC began running regular coverage on the story. 2000 cars have been burned and the incidents are not limited to one area. Violence and arson is popping up quicker than a California forest fire. France however, clings to its belief that once newcomers arrive, they are officially French and do not need special treatment to guarantee equality. This is a serious mistake.

I have been following this story for over a week. I knew it was time to make sure that I included my political thoughts…as well as all these personal ones. Taking “Post Colonial African Politics” in the summer, also opened my eyes to the effects of colonialization.

That’s why my next piece will be about the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). It is deeper than they want you to believe….

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