Friday, November 11, 2005


Jonathan Freedland
France's refusal to see the ethnicity of some of its people as relevant translates into de facto racism. If human beings were free of prejudice, the French republican ideal would work beautifully. Because we are not, it allows racism a free hand. It is a classic example of what happens when an idea designed for one era remains unchanged for a later one. A once decent value becomes pickled into a dogma — enforcing the very opposite outcome of the one it intended. The French do not face this problem alone. The U.S. has a model of integration that is the reverse of France's: it positively encourages new migrants to hold on to their first culture, happy to let them hyphenate as Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans. But that model is not perfect either. As we saw after Katrina, there are still plenty of Americans who feel excluded by their race. Britain has an emerging model too, one called multiculturalism. It did not arrive from nowhere, but partly came out of its own experience of race riots in the 1980s. Unlike France's, it recognises difference and has passed legislation to protect it. But multiculturalism is still the best model at hand. And, after the last 10 days, it may be the only one left. - Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005 © Copyright 2000 - 2005 The Hindu Date:10/11/2005

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