Saturday, November 12, 2005

Everywhere Is War

I have been following the events in Paris for the last couple of weeks. The recent civil unrest has revealed that even the French (who usually point out the flaws of other nations) are subject to social unrest that is rooted in the ugliest of human vices: racism, classism, zenophobia, and religious intolerance. This is an interesting article linking the present troubles in France to their colonial past. The author says that African immigrants provided the cheap labor to rebuild post World War II France, but when the labor market changed in the 1970’s, the children and grandchildren of this generation of non-white men and women began to be systematically excluded from employment, educational, and housing opportunities available to the white French.

The last two weeks of rioting have brought France’s fractured society into the mainstream media, but the problem clearly did not start with those two youths that were electrocuted while hiding from the police. The problem started insidiously fifty years ago as racist and intolerant attitudes were allowed to prevail. The funny thing about racism is the vicious cycle that it engenders. A second class citizenry is created based on race, nationality, or religious affiliation. Those second class citizens are denied educational and employment opportunities, and become more likely to have to steal or sell drugs to survive. Those second class citizens are not allowed to integrate into society so they are more likely to loiter, rebel, and eventually riot. Then the “first class” citizens point at the drug dealing, stealing, loitering, and rioting as evidence for why “those people” need to be segregated into suburban projects away from mainstream society, and the cycle rolls on. Even a relatively simple-minded person can see that the fallacy in that conclusion, but for some reason, when it’s your neighborhood, and your child’s school, or your government job, then the stakes are too high to justify integration. Martin Luther King Jr. summed up the dilemma eloquently when he said “It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.”

America has clearly not achieved a truly integrated society. If the data regarding disparate median income, education level, and incarceration rates are any indication, America has been losing ground recently in our efforts to “eracism”. However, America has a rich history of the progress that can be made if individuals are willing to risk their own personal prosperity for the sake of an ideal. I would hope that the riots in France would be a reminder to the powers that be that America is not immune from terror within as well as from without. As for France, I can only hope that this international embarrassment helps them to see the truth about their brokenness.

Wondering if history has to repeat itself,

"That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained."
~Haile Selassie, United Nations address, and sung by Bob Marley (War)


At Sat Nov 12, 11:45:00 PM, Blogger Adrianne said...

But who truly has found themselves contently living in a truly integrated society? Many people feel that Canada, with their socialist utopia and proud multiculturalism ideals is idealistic, but alas that is not true there is a lot of animosity there towards the French Canadiens and Natives. Although my interracial marriage has received many disapproving glares here in America, it was much more accepted in Canada. I think every nation strives to with different levels of social acceptance. In Canada there is not so much of a class issue, as there is in America...

At Sun Nov 13, 02:42:00 PM, Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

I have often wondered if peole crave discord to keep their lives interesting. Aside from my mother's illness, my life has been quite blessed in the last year. Got married, great husband, great home, great job. And when I speak to my friends, I find that I can be a boring person because I don't have crazy dating stories to share or fights with friends, or whatever. Now, I have political debates in the blogosphere to keep myself mentally engaged, but is it possible to lead an interesting life without some discord?

Do we need Satan to keep the world interesting?


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