Blaming “Thugocracy”


France’s response to a recent riot in the hood…

President Nicolas Sarkozy rejected the notion Thursday that a recent bout of rioting was part of a wider social crisis, blaming instead a “thugocracy” in France’s housing projects.

The conservative leader vowed to give law enforcement improved technology to fight urban disturbances like ones that shook the troubled suburbs north of Paris earlier this week.

Vast deployments of riot police succeeded in restoring calm to the area following two nights of violent clashes between rampaging local youth and police officers.

The unrest has drawn comparisons to riots that raged through poor suburbs nationwide for three weeks in 2005, and it shows that anger still simmers in poor housing projects where many Arabs, blacks and other minorities live, often isolated from mainstream society.

Sarkozy made it clear he would not throw money at the problem, saying he favored harsher penalties for the troublemakers.

“The response to the rioters is not more money at the taxpayers’ expense, but the arrest of rioters,” Sarkozy told a meeting of some 2,000 police officers. He insisted the unrest had “nothing to do with a social crisis. That has everything to do with the thugocracy.” [Source: Time]

It seems like Sarkozy could use a clue. Shotguns being used on the police by rioters, deep distrust of the law, the second such major riot in two years… And this doesn’t represent a “social crisis?” “Crisis”, maybe not–it is a relative term, but you’ve got one serious problem that is most definitely social in nature. “Thugocracy” or not, arresting rioters, while absolutely necessary, is extremely short-sighted and naive as a solution to this problem. With that plan, expect to hear of another one of these riots within the next couple of years.

How about this idea for getting the ball rolling towards addressing the problem beyond arrests: begin collecting information so that the racial and class divides fueling these problems can at least be assessed.

In the name of equality, France has so idealized the melting pot that it has made its minorities invisible–on paper at least. The country does not compile statistics on the foreign-born or their French-born children. France, a nation of 60 million people, has the largest Muslim community in western Europe but does not know how many Muslims live here. The number is estimated at about 5 million though some experts disagree.

Critics argue that being officially colorblind has limited France’s ability to recognize and treat the difficulties its minorities face–sometimes because of their color. Immigrants and their French-born children often complain that it is harder for them than whites to get work, job interviews, housing, even entrance to nightclubs. [Souce: AP]

Don’t get it twisted–turning a blind eye to racial problems and being colorblind are two very different things.


2 Responses to “Blaming “Thugocracy””

  1. 1 Darren December 5, 2007 at 5:31 am

    France has had problems integrating minorities dating back to it’s colonial past. Despite being officially egalitarian, it has suffered the results of occupation and faulty immigration policies. Immigrants have long suffered discrimination and been ostracized from France’s Catholic, white majority. Most notably, Algerians who were granted citizenship after the Algerian War had great difficulty integrating and many left to return to Algeria.

    Compounding the problem is that France’s labor laws prevent able-bodied young people from all backgrounds from being gainfully employed. French companies are reluctant to bring on new hires since it is very difficult to fire them. In 2004, only 69% of the French population between the ages of 15 and 64 had a job; France has about a 9% unemployment rate. Minorities are especially vulnerable because of double impact of discrimination. While being “officially colorblind”, the French government has failed to stimulate an economy that would provide gainful employment, nor has it implemented satisfactory anti-discrimination laws.

    Sarkozy was elected partially because of his conservative views. “Thugocracy” is simply spin to divert attention from the fact that the French government has neglected its minorities and the employment situation. His initative to reform the labor laws may be a step towards alleviating the high unemployment, however stating that riots had nothing to do with the social situation is simply wrong.

  2. 2 Mike December 5, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks for the stats Darren. Wow, “In 2004, only 69% of the French population between the ages of 15 and 64 had a job; France has about a 9% unemployment rate.less than 70% of French had jobs.” Didn’t know that, but it does suggest they are dealing with some real social AND economic problems.

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