November 10, 2005
A brief note on the riots in France
Now that the riots in France are starting to quiet down, let's take a look at the larger history of French agitation.
In the late 18th century, groups of poor French people were fed up with years of oppression and social and economic injustice. They took to the streets in a variety of attacks on the upper classes and the structures that supported them. From the Wikipedia entry on the French Revolution:
"A number of factors led to the revolution; to some extent the old order succumbed to its own rigidity in the face of a changing world; to some extent, it fell to the ambitions of a rising bourgeoisie, allied with aggrieved peasants and wage-earners."
For the past two weeks, groups of young French people, mainly immigrants and the children of immigrants from North Africa, have taken to the streets to burn cars and break things out of frustration at years of oppression and social and economic injustice. Specifically, unemployment, police harrassment, racism, poverty, and an interior minister who refers to them as "scum" and pledges to clean out the public housing projects where many rioters live.
The main differences between the events over 200 years ago and those happening now seem to be that 1) white French people don't seem to understand that they themselves are the oppressive force of injustice to be toppled this time, and 2) the rioters of today are far less violent than during the first revolution. Cars have been burned, sure, but hardly any people have been hurt or killed in two weeks of widespread rioting.
I have yet to talk to anyone who isn't at least a little bit pleased that France is finally being exposed as a discriminatory and racist country that has been totally indifferent to its unequal treatment of its citizens. Especially when French people are often pretty condescending about issues of race in America and everywhere else. Time to wake up, people! Sorry about your cars.
By the way, I can't wait to see The Economist bitch-slap France for its handling of all this in tomorrow's issue.
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