Friday, January 12, 2007
From The Christian Science Monitor…
In officially colorblind France, blacks have a dream — and now a lobby
By Susan Sachs, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
PARIS – Patrick Lozès has a dream: One day France’s black citizens will enjoy the equality granted them under law.
“To be black and proud — that’s not being anti-French,” says Mr. Lozès, whose vision challenges France’s colorblind model of assimilation. “It’s simply the liberation of a people who don't see themselves reflected in their country’s public life — in its theater, television, medicine, and universities — except in negative images.”
It is not an accident that Mr. Lozès’s words often contain echoes of Martin Luther King Jr. and other luminaries of the American civil rights movement. The African- American struggle for racial equality has been his prototype for France’s first national black lobbying organization.
His group, called the Representative Council of Black Organizations (Le Conseil Représentative des Associations Noires, or CRAN), was founded in late 2005, just after widespread rioting in the suburban ghettos populated largely by the families of African and Arab immigrants.
The riots were not the motivation for creating CRAN, according to Mr. Lozès. But they gave the group immediacy, momentum, and a high public profile.
Its leaders have spent the past months holding conferences, setting up committees, and building a grass-roots network across the country through the more than 130 local black civic associations that make up its membership. The group has also regularly protested — against a television host who insulted Africans, against the way one French dictionary defined colonialism, and against laws prohibiting the collection of racial and ethnic statistics.
[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]