Saturday, 29 September 2012

Copé's shabby "anti-white racism" jibe

Copé opts for an insincere 'I'm a serious person' pose for the camera.
France has been feverishly debating leading UMP member Jean-François Copé's declaration that "anti-white racism" is a reality in France and that it is to be condemned just as anti-anyone-else racism is to be condemned. His remark was widely believed to target Muslims and blacks as he alleged that anti-white racism was common in 'les cités' - large council housing estates, mostly on the outskirts of French cities, which are heavily populated by Muslims and blacks.

He is right on the face of it of course. Anti-white sentiment does exist within those communities, even if it only concerns a small minority of their members, and I have experienced it myself as have many other white-skinned people. But Copé's declaration is highly misleading as it deliberately implies that whites suffer from the same racism as those of immigrant origin do.

Copé has obviously taken a leaf out of the far-right Front National's official policy handbook, which tries to minimise anti-immigrant racism by saying that it has its equivalent in the form of anti-white racism.

But who has ever heard of a white person who was refused a job interview because of his name or colour? When was a white person ever refused entry to a night club because he was white? Whoever refused to rent an apartment to a white person on grounds of racial origin? And I have never heard of houseowners refusing to sell their property to white people either. How many white people get stopped and searched by the police?

France has a population of around 6 million  immigrant-origin inhabitants - both legal and illegal - representing just under 10% of the total population. But they are almost non-existent in the French parliament, in boardrooms and management, in banks and finance, and they are highly unlikely to be found in the upper ranks of the police, the legal profession and many more.

The plain fact is that these population groups are far more likely to be poor and unemployed, or in badly-paid jobs, and many of them live in poor quality housing. Yet successive governments of both the right and left have done little to tackle anti-immigrant sentiment, let alone the endemic anti-immigrant discrimination which exists in many sections of French society and bars immigrants from many jobs and opportunities.

Jean-François Copé is a highly experienced politician, having served as a government spokesman under Jean-Pierre Raffarin and others before going on to do a stint as Budget minister and being the UMP's parliamentary spokesman. As such, he must have known that his slanted statement would make the headlines.

Most senior members of the UMP have, however, been very circumspect when asked for comment, and none has given him a clear thumbs-up, indicating that they consider that supporting Copé would lose them support amongst rank-and-file UMP members who shall shortly be asked to vote for their next president. The candidates are François Fillon and Copé himself, but his ill-advised anti-white racism comment may well turn out to be the nail that closed the coffin on any hopes he may have had of winning.

I think Copé seriously miscalulated the effect that his words would have on his near-term political future. All his declaration has done is to move his wing of the UMP further towards the extreme right, inflame public sentiment and throw oil on the fire of France's racial tensions. He shall surely, and quite deservedly, be made to pay for it.

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