See also: autobiography; beur cinema; immigration
The word beur was coined in the late 1970s by young 'second-generation' immigrants of North African origin living in the Parisian suburbs (banlieues), and is usually understood to have been derived from verlan (backslang) for arabe. Originally adopted to counteract the negative connotations of arabe and musulman in France (the result of France's former colonial role in the Maghreb), the word also usefully indicated the hybrid identity of the 'second generation', born or brought up in France but neither fully French nor fully Arab (or Berber).
The product of increased family immigration in the 1970s, the beurs were often torn between the Islamic values and expectations of their working-class Maghrebin parents and the majority culture, a situation exacerbated by conflicting nationality laws and the growth of racism. Many members of the North African community in France now experience the word beur-once an empowering term-as a pejorative, homogenizing label imposed by the majority. As Mouloud says in Bye bye, 'Ne m'appelez pas Beur, le mot me fait horreur'. Alternatives like the cumbersome d'origine maghrébine or issu de l'immigration maghrébine, the often inaccurate arabo-français, or the alternative verlan word Rebeu, indicate the continuing problematic status of beurs and beurettes in relation to contemporary French culture and identity.
The emergence of the word beur, coinciding with the appearance of Radio Beur in 1981, is linked with the political and cultural mobilization of the 'second generation'. Their first protests against French racism, unjust laws, deportation orders and police violence were Rock Against Police concerts. When Mitterrand's new administration granted immigrants the right to free association, the resulting movement laid the foundation for beur activism and promoted beur creativity in music, writing, cinema, theatre, dance and fashion. The need for action against institutionalized racism was highlighted by the police shooting of a beur activist, Toumi, in the Minguettes estate (Vaux-en-Velin) in 1983. A March Against Racism and for Equality, organized by local youths and the priest Christian Delorme, set off from Marseille to Paris, where it mobilized 100,000 demonstrators and was received by President Mitterrand. Significantly, the media renamed it the March of the Beurs, marking a high point in the beurs' visibility and acceptability but also the recuperation of the word and the movement.
The march was followed by attempts to organize on a national level and by Convergence 84, a multiethnic demonstration in favour of equality and citizenship. Plagued by internal dissent, hopes for a national beur-led organization were dashed by the setting-up of SOS Racisme, France-Plus and the JALB (Jeunes Arabes de Lyon et sa Banlieue), headed by Djida Tazdaït. SOS Racisme, funded by the Socialists and headed until 1992 by Harlem Désir (of West Indian origin), successfully mobilized a multiethnic youth movement with its slogan 'Touche pas à mon pote' (Hands off my mate), but focused on combating the rise of Le Pen and the Front National rather than addressing the specific grievances of the beurs. France-Plus, led by Arezki Dahmani, tried to mobilize the beurs as an electoral force and lobby for citizenship rights, but its policy of