Msnowe's Blog

Immigration: Not just your forefather’s issue

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on November 28, 2007

Not in the same dimensions, but nonetheless, a volatile topic in France. The French, though I’m sure they don’t appreciate illegal immigrants, have a much bigger issue to deal with in the guise of immigrants that have already been allowed to live in France. The “immigrant problem” for France is a matter of what happens to those people who come to France in completely legal capacities. The French, and certain Parisians in particular, are perhaps not as welcoming to immigrants and minority groups as they could be. This is not a merely francophone phenomenon – prejudices abound in the US, the UK, and all the countries placing from the first to the third world.

France, however, is an interesting case study — here, we have immigrants who have not been allowed to integrate into the greater population, and given little incentive from the government to try and “make it” in French society. Sarkozy, at one ill-advised, pre-Presidential moment that now haunts him, said the rioting immigrants in a French suburb in 2005 were “scum.” In an eerily mimeic way, the deaths of two youths recently mirrors the two deaths in 2005 — both times police were implicated, both times violence has erupted out of the poor and undervalued communities from which the young immigrants lived.

Usually, it is hard to come down on the side of disengaged and emotionally charged youths who go about burning libraries (and all the knowledge therein) and cars, and destroying innocent people’s property. And the youth immigrant/minority population is absolutely in the wrong in these actions. But despite the outright disapproval – we cannot be so black and white about it. The saddest and most disheartening aspect of these riots, and the French government and law enforcement’s role, is the widespread acknowledgement that nothing, or at the most trance amounts of aid and acceptance are reaching immigrant and minority populations inside France. And although this is nothing new, it is definitely something to toss and turn about. The French as notorious (whether completely justified or not) for their ill-treatment of foreigners, whether those on holiday or those seeking permanent residence. Their disregard in trying to make France a better place for the people who come is a sad aspect of their national situation.

If anything should be learned from the French situation, it should be that countries must take care of all their population – because if you give a certain sector no future, or no reason to make their country a better place, no future is exactly where the whole country is heading. When we alienate non-aliens, no good can come of it, and France is just an example – it is by no means isolated. The “cycle” of violence is aptly named. This isn’t just an issue of creating hotbeds for future terror suspects, it is absolutely linked to the important values of tolerance, understanding, and peace.

A while back, Barack Obama made a rather astute point regarding prejudice in America, and I think it could probably be applied to the environments of many other first world countries, too. To paraphrase, Obama narrated a fictional situation, where a middle aged white couple are walking down a street, and they tense up as a hooded person of a minority race walks towards them — but then, as they approach each other the couple recognizes that this person is their son’s or daughter’s good friend, and they invite him over to dinner. The story is both urgently sad and terribly honest for a large percentage of the American population. It might sound like the story has a happy ending, but it ultimately realizes what continues to linger in our society – and the split second of “tensing up” is what proves that all our efforts at equality and the eradication of prejudice have come up incredibly and embarrassingly short.

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