Wed, 04 October 2023
The Daily Ittefaq

France riots: Colonial past and racism the root cause?

Update : 04 Jul 2023, 01:22

The riots in France seem to have eased off, but what will remain is anger. The issue of racism which is linked to the country's colonial past is more often than not brushed aside.

Broken windows, burning cars, an assault on the home of a French mayor: These have been just some of the scenes across France over the last few days. 

All over the country, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets, sometimes violently, expressing their anger over the killing of 17-year old Nahel, a teenager of Algerian descent, who was shot dead by a police officer at a traffic stop last Tuesday.

The clashes between the mostly young protesters and the police have raised questions about the sheer amount of violence and random destruction.

But another topic has also emerged, the question how the killing of Nahel and the subsequent anger spilling on the streets is linked to systematic racism within French society and the country's long colonial past.

France's President Emmanuel Macron called the killing of Nahel "inexcusable" and "inexplicable." A description Crystal Fleming, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook University in New York, disagrees with: "It is not inexplicable," she told DW. "It is not a mystery. It is racism."

Fleming added that the protests and riots following the deadly shots fired by police were "a reaction to French racism which is linked to colonialism." Both, she says, are typically denied and erased [from collective memory] by French authorities and politicians — "despite centuries of racial oppression of its minorities and colonized populations."

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