Department

Ranticles: “Last Tango in Paris”

By Canticle

RanticlesIt's taken me a few days to consider the massive riots in Paris and what exactly they mean. I've come to the conclusion that they are France's equivalent to the Watts Riot (1965, in which 34 people were killed and 1100 injured, coincidentally it also lasted 6 days). Instead of a crime ridden black community in Los Angeles, you have Algerian Muslim immigrants living in near identical conditions. In Watts, 1 in 8 adults lacked an education, crime and drugs were rampant, and unemployment was higher than anywhere else in the city and probably State. In Paris, the Algerian and Berber ghettos have 30% unemployment, roughly the same ratio of adults lack an education, crime and drugs are rampant, and French laws have exacerbated cultural differences over the last few years (coupled with a lot of cases of what appears to be overt racism from the local gendarmes, analagous to the racism experienced by the black community in Los Angeles in the 60s). The recent hijab ruling in Paris could even be seen as the kind of cultural law that demeans the Muslim population the same way segregation laws in the US demeaned the black community (and no, the Muslim population is not nearly as badly segregated as the 60s in the US, but that particular law was pretty insulting in the overall scheme of things).

While it's obviously not an identical situation, there are a lot of striking similarities. They were even touched off by similar events. In Watts, the arrest and beating of black teenagers witnessed by their mother and a small crowd, in Paris, the death of two teenagers witness by a friend while they were hiding in an electrical substation (they had fled what they thought was police chasing them).

It's definitely going to be a defining moment in modern French history. Thankfully, there have been no reported deaths and nowhere near the injuries that took place in Watts, but it's a mess nonetheless, and how France deals with what lead up to it, and the fallout from it, will be extremely important.

Canticle on November 2, 2005.