Subject: [GlobalAfricanPresence] France's blacks, long
uncounted, want to flex political muscle with poll
France's blacks, long uncounted, want to flex
political muscle with poll before elections
by Jamey Keaten, AP
February 2, 2007
PARIS - Blacks in France are standing up to be
counted, aspiring to become a political factor in
presidential and legislative elections later this
A small but groundbreaking new poll suggests that
blacks face widespread discrimination in France,
raising questions about a country long proud of its
official colorblindness _ and where collecting racial
data is banned.
"If you're not counted, you don't count," said Patrick
Lozes, head of the Representative Council of Black
Associations, which commissioned the poll that was
conducted by telephone. The council has thousands of
members, he said.
Officially, France doesn't know how many blacks it has
because of its Republican tradition that doesn't
distinguish by race or religion. Collecting ethnic
data is generally banned _ one reason why a poll like
Wednesday's had not been done before.
Among more than 15,000 people contacted by the Sofres
polling agency to establish a pool, 581 said they felt
they had black roots _ and that subgroup was
questioned in the poll. No margin of error was
Fifty-six percent said they felt some form of
discrimination in their daily lives, and 12 percent
said they did so "often." Of those who said they
discrimination, 62 percent said the incidents were
most often in public or on public transportation, and
42 percent at work.
Sixty-one percent said they had experienced
discrimination in the last year.
Based on the poll data, Lozes estimated there are 1.8
million voting-age blacks in France _ out of a total
population of some 60 million _ and about four-fifths
of them are French citizens.
France, like many other European countries, has been
struggling with how to integrate its ethnic
minorities. Nationwide riots in fall 2005 raged
through housing projects in France's poor
neighborhoods with large minority populations. They
were often fueled by broad feelings of discrimination,
unemployment and a sense of alienation from society.
"The sectarianism that I denounce is that of the
current minority in power _ that's to say white men,
aged over 50, who are bourgeois and heterosexual, "
Lozes said. "They're the minority, but a majority in
the National Assembly."
Lozes says political contenders in the presidential
elections in April and May, and legislative elections
in June, should take note of the black vote.
Presidential front-runners Nicolas Sarkozy and
Segolene Royal have vowed to fight discrimination.
Royal, the Socialist nominee, says that integrating
minorities is needed for the "survival" of France.
Rightist candidate Sarkozy has called for a French
form of U.S.-style affirmative action.
Blacks are not alone in feelings of discrimination.
Many French youths of North African descent regularly
complain that they face difficulty finding work or
housing, even getting into nightclubs.
Experts estimate that about 5 million Muslims live in
France _ most from former French colonies in North
Africa _ but there are no official figures.
Under France's law on individual liberties,
classifying people by race, religion or some other
types of personal criteria is banned, a measure meant
to ensure equality among all.
Sofres pollster Brice Teinturier said the new survey
was legal because it was not a census and only general
information and opinion were collected.
Bernard Stasi, who helped create the state
anti-discrimination agency known as HALDE in 2005,
said he feared such surveys could drive a wedge
"To fight discrimination, we should use the tools at
our disposal," he was quoted as saying Wednesday in
the newspaper Le Parisien. "France has enough means _
legal and otherwise _ for this fight."
HALDE reported in October that it had received 1,600
complaints since its creation _ 650 of them related to
job discrimination. AP