And we are again talking about racism in France

If you read this article appeared in Newsweek you are gooing to hink that all French are racists. But why only the inmigrants that are muslims are the ones who have rioted and burned through out more than a fortnight. Nearly 10,000 cars have been burned and more than 200 buildings.

For now, at least, the fires have died out—but an acrid bitterness still hangs in the air. Ask those on the football pitch behind the high wire fences of Montfermeil. Year after year, coach Kaddor Slimane, a son of Algerian immigrants who grew up in neighboring projects, has seen his teams win their league’s sportsmanship award. Yet what does their good behavior mean in the “outside” world, where they are seen through the lens of limitations and stereotypes? “The French are racist,” he says. “They just don’t want to admit it.” Life in the projects isn’t so bad when you are a child, says Amad, a 24-year-old community activist who declined to give his last name for fear of racist attacks. “But once you reach a certain age, you’re fed up. There’s nothing to do except play soccer or hang out,” in voiceless exile from the “other” France.

The politicians whose inaction and confusion (and seeming indifference) contributed to the violence, on the other hand, have rediscovered their voices. Almost as if the riots never happened, many are once again speaking in familiar platitudes and posturing about law and order. “All those who participated in the riots will have to pay, today or tomorrow,” France’s Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy declared on Dec. 15 at an homage to injured police and firefighters. Then he waded into the crowd, alongside his political rival, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, for handshakes and photos.

For a brief moment, in the immediate aftermath of the riots, genuine change seemed possible. As if to make up for lost decades, French officials rushed to propose new initiatives designed to address “root causes” of the unrest. The government is stepping up plans to knock down the soulless housing blocks that make life in France’s banlieues so oppressive and alienating, and to replace them with smaller-scale housing surrounded by greenery. It injected an additional 100 million euros into the 2006 budget for social-support organizations in troubled communities. And it promised, yet again, to focus laserlike on unemployment, which ranges from 20 to 40 percent in many ghetto communities—two to four times the national average.

It’s curious then that they have asked the police to leave them alone, that the rios began not because there were youngsters who were stealing things from cars but when the police entered Clichy-sur-Bois, and that the rioters were screaming and shouting “Allah Akbar”.

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