France better be taking notes

By Bret Clevenger

On Oct. 27, large-scale riots erupted in the suburbs of Paris, and have continued to blaze.

More than likely you haven’t heard much about the rioting, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant in any sense. In fact, these riots are a by-product of a much larger issue in France.

Before we can understand why these vicious riots broke out, we must first know how they came about. According to the BBC, the riots began after two teenage boys in the town of Clichy-sous-Bois were electrocuted while trying to hide from the police. Since then there has been rioting in at least twelve suburbs of Paris. At least 1,300 police have been deployed to riot zones.

The rioters, who are primarily impoverished youth, have set at least 117 cars ablaze and have burned multiple warehouses to the ground as of Friday, according to the same source.

This story does not begin and end with the death of two boys and an angry mob, however. The areas affected by these riots are poor and largely immigrant communities. A large reason for the frustration in these areas, which lead to these riots, is the utter mistreatment of ethnic groups, minorities and immigrants in France and Europe as a whole.

In these ethnic zones, unemployment is nearly double the national rate and incomes are nearly 75 percent below the national average, according to official figures released to the BBC.

Not only is there a large wealth gap created between these immigrant groups and the rest of France, but there’s also blatant and strong discrimination against the minorities.

A young man from Clichy-sous-Bois was quoted Friday in a Christian Science Monitor article as saying, “They check our papers everywhere, all the time, for no reason … And the checks are getting rougher and rougher.”

In the same article Jean-Francois Amadieu, a university professor, said, “Applicants writing from addresses known to be in ‘difficult’ areas received half as many invitations to an interview as those from less notorious districts. The ‘North African’ male candidate received five times fewer invitations than his white counterpart.”

Muslims, the largest religious minority group in France, have also been discriminated against by the French Parliament.

In 2004 the French Parliament passed a law which banned Muslim women from wearing a veil (or hijab) in public schools. The hijab is a part of the deep Muslim culture, and was seen as just another attack on its way of life.

There are certainly reasons why the French can look at the United States with distaste, but this is one area where they are greatly flawed.

It’s time the people of France realize globalization means the entire world is becoming a melting pot. No longer can ethnic minorities be placed in ghettos where they will live out their lives poor and discriminated against.

France and Europe as a whole must learn from these riots that minorities will only take so much before they rise up in angered fury.

The ’92 Rodney King riots, the ’65 Watts riots and hundreds of other incidents throughout our modern history taught Americans a lesson. This is France’s wake up call.

It’s time France learns Western ideals stand for equality on both a global and a local level.

If these riots don’t awaken the French to this fact perhaps the United States should send the Statue of Liberty, a 19th century gift and symbol or freedom, back.

France could use a reminder of Lady Liberty’s famous call:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.