Conflict & Justice

France wrestles with statistics

You can see France's multiracial diversity on display here at this mall. The crowd is a mix of white, African, Arab and Asian. Here it seems France's official line that France is colorblind may be true. This French-born son of Algerian immigrants says outside this district, that line doesn't hold true. He's just returned from London where he landed a job almost immediately, but he can't find a job in Paris. He can't prove discrimination, there's no data to back up his claims. That's one reason why this social scientist is pushing for France to begin collecting racial and ethnic statistics. He's with the French Demographic Institute and is preparing a survey of racial and ethnic minorities in France. He believes such statistics could help quantify and address discrimination. He wanted to ask direct questions about religion and skin color, the first time such a survey would've happened in France. But the French government said collecting such questions would be unconstitutional. He now has to dance around the questions about race and skin color. Others think the Council made the right decision, even some who study discrimination. This professor thinks the question is one of French identity and the idea is that everyone is equal, and he says in a legal sense, racial discrimination can't exist so it can't be measured. He says collecting statistics based on ethnicity, race or religion would only create more problems. While France continues to struggle over statistics, the EU has ordered member countries to start enforcing anti-discrimination laws. France has set up a commission to do that but so far the commission hasn't taken on many racial discrimination cases.

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