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Welcome To France: The Egalité Myth

By Chippla Vandu

During the French riots of October to November 2004, I chose to keep silent preferring instead to listen to what the mainstream media and other bloggers had to say.


As usual, views were diverse--from those who believed that the French republic was solely to blame for the situation that gave rise to the riots, to others who thought that minority communities in France had done too little to integrate into mainstream society.


This, in the opinion of such people, accounted for their low social status, which robbed them of job opportunities.

President Jacques Chirac however appeared to understand that the bulk of the blame could not be placed on the minority communities.


His speech to his fellow countrymen and countrywomen was one that called for soul-searching. After all, France is a country that views itself as modern, cultural, democratic and progressive, as well as a nation that canvasses for the respect of human rights and good governance.

The Washington Post
presents an article that calls into question the fabulous concept of egalité in modern France.


Yes, egalité does exist but to enjoy its fruits you must be lily white!


A golden, brown or dark brown skin is enough to shut you off certain jobs especially in the service industry. Having the requisite skills is simply not sufficient, one must also have the right skin color.


According to the report, which questioned an employee at Adecco, an employment agency:


"…clients that refused to accept black employees for their most visible service jobs included some of the city's best-known hotels, restaurants and department stores, as well as local government agencies and the Foreign Ministry."


According to an Adecco spokesman quoted in the reported:


"Discrimination is a reality in the labor market in France. It is clearly the reason why we have this action plan [segregation of applicants based on skin color]." The President of the French Human Rights League is quoted as saying: "The official position of France is that we're all equal. The problem is that it's not true. French businesses and the French people are not yet used to diversity."

To appreciate the depth of the allegations against Adecco in
France as well as an inevitable lawsuit, following a discrimination complaint, one needs to go through the Washington
Post article.

Next time one hears the Western European media complaining about how the
United States treats its minorities, you may just as well choose to trash the article. As the French example shows, Europe is not any better. In all likelihood, it is even far worse.


Chippla Vandu is an academic and writer. Based in Holland, he blogs at http://chippla.blogspot.com 


I spent a semester in Paris. It was enough time to dispell the myth of French "egalite". There is this invisibility that cloaks black bodies - people just look right through you. I was shocked when one of my black friends told me that he had to send in his picture with his resume. I asked, "for what?" He smiled and didn't reply. Of course he couldn't find a job - he still hasn't found one. It is one hundred times worse of French people of Arab descent. People just assume they are criminals once they see the name.

There is nothing like racial equality in France. It's myth - a cognitive dissonance.






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