Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

When Paris Burns

As if strikes and work stoppage weren't enough for France, for the last three days, Paris has been dealing with riots. And Toulouse, my French hometown, is also seeing unrest. But this time it is proving to be different from the riots in 2005. This time, French police are saying that the rioters are more "professional". They are referring to them as "urban guerrillas". This time, rioters are using fire arms and setting buildings (including a nursery school and library) on fire by ramming cars into them. Eighty two officers were injured, mostly by buck shot from hunting weapons. Have the minority youth brought some new kind of fight to the streets? Is this a new type of movement developing in France?

They are hitting civil establishments, like the library and school. There is some question that the police were sort of set up. The spark was the death of two minority teens whose motor scooter collided with a police car. The accusation is that the police didn't help the youths, but fled the scene. The police deny that claim and they say that they did not run over the teens, but that the teens rammed into them. I tend to believe the police on this one in part because of the tactics that have thus far been used in the riots. Also relations between French police and minority youths are notoriously bad. French papers have made allusions as well to the roll of rumor and conspiracy theory in the events. And this makes me think of what happens in Iraq- such as the rumors that the British were letting loose killer badgers. It got so bad, a general actually had to address it.

I have seen the places these people live, and they are ugly and horrid places, mini third worlds on the outskirts of lovely cities. But the French problem goes beyond immigration and racism to youth unemployment. Even French youth can't find work and student unions have been at the forefront of autumn strikes. But rather than burning local businesses, the rest of the country strikes, which is how civil society should work.

To their credit, French media haven't raised the question of potential links to terrorism, which would have been the first place American media would have gone. And the French seem to be very frank about the roots of the problem and their own shortcomings. They admit that minority youths have been isolated, blocked form full participation, and that most of the cops are white, etc. But they will also tell you that this doesn't justify destroying neighborhoods. And much like the LA riots, they are destroying their own neighborhoods and the businesses of their own neighbors!

I will admit with great guilt that my first reaction when hearing this news was anger . . . anger that people come to a new country and then try to trash it, bringing their rage at their old governments to their new ones. And I think that this is still sort of my thinking on this one. I know it isn't this simple because many of these youths are French born. But it still hits my conservative side in all the wrong places.


Raised By Republicans said...

Is Sarkozy keeping his mouth shut this time?

USWest said...

He is being more careful. We aren't hearing about "scum". But he has worked toward stiffening criminal penalties for juveniles who are committing crimes, especially against officers. They can now be tired as adults. Is any of this sound familiar? Haven't we been here before in the US?

Sarko has appointed a woman of Arab extraction to help address the problems in the suburbs. She has been holding town hall meetings to get a handle on what can and what needs to be done. And the government has reached out to neighborhood associations etc. But since little substantial change has resulted, these efforts are seen as window dressing.

The problem for any government is the issue of speed and of positive reinforcement. You can't reward rioting by dumping ton of money on the suburbs. For starters, too much money at once is as bad if not worse than too little. It breeds corruption and waste. Secondly, you have to do urban planning. If you say, for instance, that the big projects that the socialist government built in the 1980s are inhumane, then what is a built out city supposed to do? It takes time to tear down old buildings and make new ones. You have to relocate people, etc. It takes time to build out metro lines (which rioting discourages because who wants rioting 'riff-raff' in the city center), etc. So what really has to happen is urban renewal. Policy is slow to catch up with the realities on the grown.

Now for the controversial part: People who come from places where there is no civil society fail to understand proper use of grass roots power. They operate off of a victimization platform rather than one of empowerment. They wait for government solutions rather than trying to find their own local solutions. The problems in these neighborhoods is huge. But rioting doesn't help the situation. It just makes the general public angry and ruins those bright spots where good things are happening, such as businesses and schools.

Now in short order, the government could put more Arab or Muslim cops on the beat. That would probably go a long way toward helping PR in these neighborhoods. It would provide jobs and a place in civil society for some of these young men. And the 10 year olds who are throwing Molotov cocktails at police, would have a future career path.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Once people take to rioting, it can become habit. Violence can become an expected civic reaction to outrages. That's my fear as to what is happening in Paris suburbs. It can take years to quell violence, because you have to play a psychological game where change those expectations. Here in LA, everyone braced for riots for several years in the mid-1990s, as various verdicts were read concerning Reginald Denny et al. Fortunately, the city seemed too tired to really have them, too scarred by the 1992 events. Now, riots are unlikely in part because current youth have no experience rioting.

Raised By Republicans said...

I have heard that it is common practice for prospective employers to require photograph with your job application. I believe this would be illegal in the US.

This would seem to be an obvious ploy to discriminate against people who "look North African."

Instead of dumping money or having town hall meetings Sarko et al would do well to simply remove the obvious pillars of prejudice in French economy and law.

Banning photos as part of applications would do some good and it would be hard to argue against nor would it cost much to do.

So many in France wail and moan about all the difficult changes they would have to make to fix the situation but they don't even TRY to pick the low hanging fruit.

USWest said...

well, photos aside. The names alone would be sufficient to discriminate. Mohammed Yussifi is hardly French. Or, better yet, look at what school he went to.

That's the problem. Too much low hanging fruit in the discrimination process.

Raised By Republicans said...

True, many North Africans have obviously Arabic names. But what about all those mixed-race "Ped Noire" folks (like Zidane?)? Are they discriminated against too?

It wouldn't solve the problem but allowing employers to require photos certainly makes descrimination easier. Why not ban it and say why you are banning it? At the very least it would be symbolic of national intent not to tolerate bigotry.

I guess what I'm saying is before France debates the big reforms they obviously need, they should take care of the easy stuff first - even if it only helps a little bit.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Well, the US practice of not allowing pictures has probably promoted the practice of more face-to-face "screening" interviews.

USWest said...

RBR's point is well taken. Yes, low hanging fruit is a good idea. But I think that before you can discriminate in the job market, you have to have jobs on offer. And there are laws about discrimination in France as well. Of course, when someone doesn't get a job, it isn't always easy to know why and discrimination is going to happen regardless.

Secondly, 10 year olds, like the ones who were part of the riots, aren't in the job market. So while giving big brother a job might make him less inclined to complain, and thus make little brother less like to riot, it won't really put a ding in the much larger problem.

We don't require pictures on resumes, but we still have gang problems.

Pieds Noirs: The French will probably not discriminate against someone because they are Pied Noirs, but they will if they are obviously more Arab looking than French looking.

Raised By Republicans said...

Geez, the rioters are that young? I suppose I shouldn't be as surprised as I find myself being.

While it is true that the French economy is not particularly good at generating new jobs, I've heard that unemployment in these communities is far higher (like two or three times higher!) than in the population generally - even for those with university educations etc. So I think there is clearly circumstantial evidence that systematic racial discrimination is taking place with regard to access to the few jobs that are being created.