Ethnicity & Equality: France in the Balance

Ethnicity & Equality: France in the Balance

Ethnicity & Equality: France in the Balance

Ethnicity & Equality: France in the Balance

Synopsis

In the fall of 2005 the streets of France were rocked by civil disturbances on a scale unseen for decades. Only months earlier Azouz Begag, France's first minister for equal opportunities and first-ever cabinet minister of North African immigrant origin, wrote an essay laying bare the festering social and ethnic injustices that, as can now be seen in hindsight, led to the riots. This essay, published here for the first time, brilliantly documents the socioeconomic inequalities, ethnic discrimination, and political neglect that have bred a volatile generation of minority ethnic youths deeply distrustful of a society they believe has failed them. Blending autobiography with sociological and political analysis, Begag shows how social peace in France depends on transforming these disaffected youths into galvanized citizens. His insights into the malaise of France's urban ghettos offer lessons for developed countries throughout the world- and hope for the similar challenges they face.

Excerpt

When I became minister for equal opportunities in June 2005, I did not know that the government in which I had agreed to serve would be faced a few months later with the most serious civil disturbances seen in France in almost forty years. But, when the disorders broke out in the fall of 2005, I knew what lay behind them, for, shortly before entering the government, I had painted a portrait of the young men from whose ranks the rioters were to come and invented a name for them: jeunes ethniques [young ethnics]. That portrait, based on my work as a sociologist and many years of firsthand experience in the disadvantaged urban areas known as the banlieues, lay at the heart of a book manuscript that I completed in May 2005. When I gave the typescript to my friend Alec Hargreaves, he proposed to translate it for English-speaking . . .

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