France’s Racism Problem

Last week a post on a National Front party candidate’s Facebook page compared France’s black justice minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey.  The post included a picture of Taubira next to a picture of a dressed-up baby monkey.  More racist posts followed, and a right-wing newspaper ran the headline “Clever as a Monkey.” All sides of the political spectrum condemned the post and the candidate who posted the photo was suspended, but it sparked a discussion over the way in which France deals with racism.

Taurbira told the Liberation newspaper that the attacks are “violent” and shocking.  Even more disturbing is the lack of response from the government or the public.  There have been no major protests or demonstrations in response to these incidents, but intellectuals are speaking out to prevent further inappropriate remarks.

Historian Pap N’Diaye told CNN racism is on the rise in France.  He says while slurs used to be uncommon they are becoming accepted in many circles.  Jeremie Mani, CEO of Netino, a company that monitors Internet forums and social media posts, says racist remarks are a common occurrence.

The National Commission for the Rights of Man was ordered by the French parliament to monitor racism in France. It puublished a report citing a 23% increase in racist incidents, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism this past year.

Some social scientists are examining the link between racism and the strict immigration laws proposed by the far-right.  Though the National Front party denies any connection between racism and anti-immigration, the party was barred from political debate in the past for being too extreme.  The National Front party insists their immigration policies are strictly economic, not racist.

France’s motto of equality is supposed to create an open and accepting environment, but in recent years it seems to have only made discourse on racism and cultural differences more difficult.  Justine Marous, a French-American of African heritage told The New Yorker, the French “have a hard time with difference, people who maintain customs, dress, or religion that makes them appear different.  And, in the case of black people, we are conspicuously different no matter how French we feel.”

Stephanie Lamm

Sources: CNN, NBC News, New Yorker