Segregation in French Suburbs Leads to the Alienation of Minorities

The French suburbs, or the banlieue, have been the sites for high poverty, crime and unemployment rates.   They also happen to house a large portion of France’s immigrant population (Musterd, 2008). During the years that followed World War Two, the French government encouraged immigration from its former colonies to help the lacking labour market. The Algerian War resulted in many immigrants finding habitation in “shantytowns” on the outskirts of French cities after being released from internment camps (Kjeilen, n.d.). As cities started to become more developed, these shantytowns were abandoned and immigrants moved to apartments that were relatively cheap to rent, which went on to be demolished with no other social housing plans in sight. This forced immigrants to be pushed to the suburbs, leading to the ghettoization of them (Musterd, 2008). As a result, this segregation appears to feed into a sort of neo-colonialism in France.

Second generation immigrants, an alienating term in itself, are feeling the brunt of these racist ideologies. A study done by BBC found that the unemployment was higher among North African university students compared to White French Students (BBC News, 2005). This has led to a feeling of hopelessness among second generation students. Racial profiling proliferates in the banlieue (Valentine, 2005). A 2005 Amnesty International report finding that the judicial system in France appears to condone racially motivated violence by police forces (Amnesty International, 2005). A report four years later by the same organization found that the French government did not appear to investigate racially motivated murders and abuses by the police (Amnesty International, 2009).

Muslims in France have had an extremely hard time being accepted and integrated into the French community, with Algerian Muslims being subjected to a “quasi-apartheid” during the time Algeria was a French colony (Bell and Gaffney, 2000). These feelings towards Muslims, and subsequently Islam, have continued to present day. The lack of opportunities for these people, and a fear created mostly by the media, has alienated a whole population. If these people felt discriminated against and powerless, they may have turned to an organization which offered them some sort of power and control. Since their faith is often attacked, a group that believes in the superiority of that faith would be appealing. This fear of “the Other” and Islamophobia, something that runs rampant in Western Society, has made way for extremists to pick these youths up because they have no one else batting for them. Of course, I am in no way blaming or even suggesting this is the fault of any one of the victims of these serious attacks, but maybe it’s time for Westerners to realize that people of colour are just as entitled to having a meaningful place in Western society as they are. Immigrants and visible minorities should also get the chance to feel patriotic about the countries they live in, not just scared and ostracized. Why humanity always seems to repeat history’s civil rights mistakes, even though we look back at how people were treated with horror and disgust, is a question society at large really needs to attend to.


Works Cited

Bell, D., & Gaffney, J. (2000). Political Leadership: From the Fourth to the Fifth Republic. In Presidential power in Fifth Republic France. Oxford: Berg Publications.

France: The search for justice : The effective impunity of law enforcement officers in cases of shootings,deaths in custody or torture and ill-treatment. (2005, April 5). Retrieved from

French Muslims face job discrimination. (2005, November 2). BBC News. Retrieved from

Kjeilen, T. (n.d.). Pied-Noir. In LookLex Encyclopedia. Norway.
Musterd, S. (2008). Banlieues, the Hyperghetto and Advanced Marginality: A Symposium on Loïc

Wacquant’s Urban Outcasts. City, 12(1), 107-114. Retrieved November 27, 2015, from

Public outrage: Police officers above the law in France. (2009, April 2). Retrieved from

Valentine, V. (2005, November 8). Economic Despair, Racism Drive French Riots. National Public Radio.

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A Case for Preserving Class Hierarchies

During this past week in class we viewed Fritz Lang’s science fiction film, Metropolis. In the film, the female protagonist, Maria, predicted that a mediator would bring the ruling and working classes together into one united community. The question that arises then, is what if these two classes did come together? Could an equal system truly be achieved and would the city function better for it?

Personally, I do not think equality can be achieved among these classes because someone, or a group of people, will always feel as though their ideals, problems, and needs are greater than those of others. Even countries that claim to be democratic are never truly representative, there are always more important issues that benefit certain groups of people over the rest. Personal issues set aside, public space problems are never equally favourable for everyone. Whether it be the number of playgrounds or the construction of new highways, people will never truly be happy with the results. If the two sides did come together, would the perpetually oppressed working class revolt and flip the order to become the new ruling class instead? Maybe equality between classes isn’t actually achievable. Perhaps society needs some form of order to be able to function properly and the city runs efficiently within this order. Of course, I’m not saying that there are people who should be considered better than others or that there should be a class system at all, just that it’s possible that humans need to know where they stand in the social hierarchy to function. Knowing their role in society and what they are expected to contribute can serve as a form of guidance to people and may help them live their lives as best as they can.

Charity Doesn’t Equal the Right to be Ignorant

In the “The Attitude of the Bourgeoisie towards the Proletariat” chapter of Friedrich Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England, there is a letter from a “Lady” in which she goes on a tirade about being forced to see the poverty stricken of England and how she is repulsed by it. The Lady goes on to mention that she, and the bourgeoisie, donates to the charities devoted to poverty causes; therefore she, and others of her rank, should not be forced to view evidence of its existence.

The letter seemed archaic in thought when I first read it, but the truth is that these kinds of opinions still run rampant through our society today. Those of us living in the West have become experts at funneling money into causes while turning a blind eye to the actual problem at the same time. The righteous feeling that comes with donating money to a good cause, such as poverty, should be packaged with the ability to neglect the actual issue. Excuses are often made in order to put the blame on the people in need and relieve ourselves of any sort of responsibility. Any resonating pressure can be absolved by simply throwing money at the issue. Of course, I am not saying that there should not be funds given to institutions and charities, I am simply stating that the ignorance that so many take refuge in needs to be lifted. By disregarding their problems, we are further deepening the segregation between the middle class and lower classes. Acting as though the poor of our cities are in our way or need to be avoided is a gross miscalculation of our own self-worth and a symptom of the overwhelming sense of entitlement that permeates Western society. The middle and upper classes are doing a disservice to those in need by looking the other way, not the other way around.