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It's not just a touchy and controversial topic, it's complex (whatever country you look at). What explains the high proportion of African-Americans in jail? Institutional racism, and particularly police/justice racism, or poverty, more exactly belonging to a deprived and excluded underclass? Both are there. Both are there in France too -- certainly in terms of police racism, which "suburban" youth is especially subjected to.

But for the broader socio-economic picture, see my comment above about Promises I Can Keep.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Aug 26th, 2006 at 04:50:44 AM EST
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I think we have some parallels between the upheavals in the French suburbs and the Katrina disaster in the US. People in distant places see images on TV of a large number of non-white people and assume that the problem is fundamentally one of racism. It's the kind of simple explanation that can be used for effective political impact. In both cases the reality and causes are far more complex.
by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Sat Aug 26th, 2006 at 09:53:44 AM EST
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In both cases the reality and causes are far more complex.

Absolutely.  Which is why I wrote that racism is "one of the pat answers".  Another possible factor is the culture of the minority experiencing racism (is this what you were alluding to in your comment above?  if not, apologies for the misinterpretation); another is the existence of an "uneducated underclass", raised by afew in his comment about Promises I Can Keep above.

Having said this, even though the reality and causes are clearly many and complex, it is quite possible that some factors are more significant than others.  I believe that racism -- along with a few others -- may be such a factor in the U.S.

I am not so sure about France, not being as familiar with France by a long shot.  But that is what I was inquiring about in my comment.

Out of the Dark Age came the most magnificent thing we have in our society: the recognition that people can have a society without having a state.

by marco on Sat Aug 26th, 2006 at 08:08:12 PM EST
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Thanks for the reference to Promises I Can Keep.  I found an interview of the authors Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefelas on the Kojo Nnamdi show, so I will listen to this.

Out of the Dark Age came the most magnificent thing we have in our society: the recognition that people can have a society without having a state.
by marco on Sat Aug 26th, 2006 at 08:12:47 PM EST
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Their specific focus is on young women, motherhood and marriage. But they show that socio-economic conditions, and cultural attitudes, are similar across ethnic lines.

To put it another way (my way, not that of the authors of Promises I Can Keep), African-Americans come up against racism probably rather more than Hispanics rather more than whites; but what takes precedence is a set of conditions and a set of behaviours proper to all three groups taken as a class, and a set of attitudes towards them in society at large that one might call "anti-poor racism" (which in turn, in a complex interplay, become internalised by the victim in the form of low personal expectations).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Aug 27th, 2006 at 03:49:54 AM EST
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what takes precedence is a set of conditions and a set of behaviours proper to all three groups taken as a class, and a set of attitudes towards them in society at large that one might call "anti-poor racism"

I hope you are right.  Poverty is a condition which can be changed, but race... you can't do much about.

Out of the Dark Age came the most magnificent thing we have in our society: the recognition that people can have a society without having a state.

by marco on Sun Aug 27th, 2006 at 07:06:30 AM EST
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