Tag Archives: racism

Black in France – the full 3 part documentary

If you missed this Al-Jazeera documentary when it came out a few months ago, it is now fully available to stream on their website.

Between one and five million French citizens claim African or Caribbean heritage. These numbers are, however, estimates, as population censuses do not recognise race.

For over a century, black immigrants, though never officially identified as different, were treated as ‘others’.

Even today, of France’s 577 members of parliament, only five are black.

This three-part series tells the story of blacks in France – a long history of segregation, racism, protest, violence, culture and community building – from the turn of the 20th century until the present day.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Catch the rest of the documentary on AJE’s website: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2013/08/201382894144265709.html

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Why it is difficult to explain racism

The Black Voices section of the Huffington Post, ran that article Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism earlier last week.

Mainstream dictionary definitions reduce racism to individual racial prejudice and the intentional actions that result. The people that commit these intentional acts are deemed bad, and those that don’t are good. If we are against racism and unaware of committing racist acts, we can’t be racist; racism and being a good person have become mutually exclusive. […]
Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional and highly adaptive system — a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources between racial groups. Because whites built and dominate all significant institutions, (often at the expense of and on the uncompensated labor of other groups), their interests are embedded in the foundation of U.S. society. While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group.

Yes, an individual person of color can sit at the tables of power, but the overwhelming majority of decision-makers will be white. Yes, white people can have problems and face barriers, but systematic racism won’t be one of them. This distinction — between individual prejudice and a system of unequal institutionalized racial power — is fundamental.

The article is very US-focused, but the mechanics would apply to many situations. The article allowed me to get my head around a few concepts that I saw and witnessed, but could not completely get my head around. The fact that is it written by a white researcher gives a different perspective:

Individualism: Whites are taught to see themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a racial group. Individualism enables us to deny that racism is structured into the fabric of society. This erases our history and hides the way in which wealth has accumulated over generations and benefits us, as a group, today. It also allows us to distance ourselves from the history and actions of our group. Thus we get very irate when we are “accused” of racism, because as individuals, we are “different” from other white people and expect to be seen as such; we find intolerable any suggestion that our behavior or perspectives are typical of our group as a whole.

 

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Individual prejudice & structured racism

British Rapper Akala discusses racism ahead of UK elections on Frankie Boyle’s show.

Akala discusses the different portrayal, and media treatment of white versus black & brown individuals, in Europe, America and Australia.

He makes extremely valid points, about how racism is not only about preconceived ideas and biased, but about an attitude that is deeply engraved in “western” societies.

Having lived at various points of my life in majoritarily “white” countries, this is something I have felt a long time, but struggled to explain to people around me. Racism is not only about the explicit acts of everyday’s life, the violence, the offensive language, or even the looks. The majority fails to understand that racism is ingrained in a lot of implicit behavior. Society’s expectations for black and white individuals are not the same. Society The majority expects the minority to act in a certain manner, to be inferior in every way, excepted arts and sports.

This creates a burden for the minority, something they have to live every day with. You feel like you are constantly on trial, as if the majority’s eyes are constantly on you. As if you have a responsibility towards everyone whose skin has the same color. As if you are responsible for the action of everyone who just has that one thing in common with you. The skin color.
Even in the work environment, knowing that you need to perform at much higher standards to expect the same outcome than your white counterpart is more than frustrating.

This is not getting better now, with right-wing ideologies making gains across France, Germany, Greece, Russia and to some extent UK and Italy. The solution does not lie in the scapegoating of an minority for all the ills in Europe. Rather, acknowledging inequality and inconsistencies in policies and treatment of citizens might be steps in the right direction.

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A far far away country where racism is still OK

France’s Home Security Minister Brice Hortefeux was charged yesterday by a court to pay a 750€ fine for racial insults.

The facts happened in September 2009, when he said the following during a political meeting (talking about a member of his party of North African origin):

“He doesn’t match the profile at all. You always need one of them. When there’s one, it’s okay. It’s when you’ve got more than one, that the problems start.”

After receiving the sentence, he got full support from the Prime Minister François Fillon, who talked about his “friendship and faith” towards Brice Hortefeux. I mean, why not a medal, while you’re at it ?

So after the alliance with extremist parties, the illegal and degrading conditions of migrant expulsion, the racist speeches, what’s next from the governing party in France ?

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