Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Guns of Brixton

"When they kick out your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun

When the law break in
How you gonna go?
Shot down on the pavement
Or waiting in death row"

The Clash, The Guns of Brixton
Two nights of civil unrest in the banlieue of Montfermeil have lead to a large boere operation to "secure" this suburb of Paris. Apparently the mayor of Montfermeil tried to implement a curfew that "banned teenagers from circulating in groups of more than three, and ordered youths under 16 to be accompanied by an adult in public". Recently an arrest was made in the case of a beating of a bus driver and tensions have been running high.

In my experience, police repression only serves to make people more angry, more militant and more determined. The only way out is through negotiation and constructive change, but both sides need to recognize the need for negotiation and to engage in it in good faith. One can't solve the issues simply by dictating a solution - such as in the case of the CPE and the Law on Equal Opportunities - that suits your agenda, but ignores the sentiments of those who are affected by it.

The French model of cultural assimilation assumes that by living in France, you become "French" but there is always a difference between "pure-bred gauls" and those who are originally "étrangers". Sarkozy, himself the issue of an immigrant family, might be held up as the classic example of this notion of cultural assimilation but what of those immigrants who arrive here and yet retain a degree of affiliation with their ancestral culture?

This is the blowback from French colonialism coming home to roost and it's not going to simply disappear into the ether of cultural assimilation.

Mono-culturalism is favoured over multi-culturalism and no official statistics are kept on race or culture under a notion of "equality" - but is that the right route to be following in this day and age?

I went through a personal journey, whereby I acknowledged that I was a racist, that I had assimilated racism just by being born under the apartheid regime; I was born in a whites-only hospital, I lived in a whites-only suburb, I went to a whites-only school. All before I even had a chance to understand what was happening. I had to admit that I was racist even though I had never made the conscious decision to become one, so I could overcome the cultural product of what living in SA meant.

I had to acknowledge racism and confront it head on, in myself and in others. Since I made that realization I have tried to transcend my inherent racism and move beyond it. We are products of our "culture" and within every culture there elements of racism that should be identified and whittled out. Pretending that race and racism doesn't exist is not an option.

No comments: