The High Commissioner of Human rights of the UN urged France to break with an old taboo: to start using ethnic statistics to combat “the systemic racism ”in the country. And a conflict breaks out.
In defense of its secularism and its republican spirit Ethnic, religious or sexual statistics are not allowed in France. It is not known how many races exist and what religion they practice in the country.
The High Commission for Human Rights recommended several countries, including France, to develop ethnic-racial statistics, a practice generally rejected by the French tradition.
A report released by the UN Commission on June 28 said states “should collect and publish comprehensive data, disaggregated by race or origin” and analyze “the cumulative effects of laws, policies and practices on particular racial groups. and ethnic “.
The report goes even further, considering that “expressly recognizing people of African descent in the statistics is also a step towards the recognition of your identity and heritage, which goes hand in hand with their right to dignity. “
This order in France is a taboo, which goes beyond the divisions between left and right. Academics and politicians accept it as a republican norm.
If some political figures like Nicolas Sarkozy have been able to declare themselves in favor, most politicians are against it.
Emmanuel Macron swept the issue in 2020, ensuring that he preferred concrete implementation of anti-discrimination measures rather than resorting to statistics.
Rejection of the government and Parliament
A parliamentary report from March 2020 buried the problem.
“The introduction of more detailed ethnic statistics might seem useful to better measure certain discriminations. But it could also weaken social cohesion by recognizing the existence of certain ‘communities’ and freezing certain groups according to ethnic criteria. Sometimes artificial ”, indicated the republican deputy Robin Reda, president of the mission.
In addition, there are already forms of ethnic census, beyond the Data Protection Law of January 6, 1978.
This text prohibits “collecting or processing personal data that reveals, directly or indirectly, racial origins, ethnic, political, philosophical or religious opinions or union affiliation of people, or that is related to their health or sexual life.”
But in 2007, the Constitutional Council authorized the necessary treatment to carry out studies on the measurement of the diversity of origins, based on objective and subjective data.
Thus, the 2008 Inseed-Ined (TeO) Trajectories and Origins survey questioned the nationality and place of birth of the parents.
The second part, scheduled for 2022, will question 26,500 people about their grandparents, in order to study how ethnic origins can impact the trajectories of third generations.
Very few studies, according to the demographer Patrick Simon, “compared to the ethno-racial statistics established by some countries.”
“We observe national origins, but not ethnic-racial affiliation,” says the specialist.
“The TéO survey teaches us things about the paths of the descendants of immigrants but does not provide a lever of action to assess and act against discrimination in companies, in access to housing, in education or in access to health ”, He assures.
In the UK, for example, the ethnic census allows standardized statistics that are used in businesses and hospitals to assess, for example, Covid-related mortality based on origin.
“The political principle that prevails in France is that equality is obtained through the invisibility of ethnic origins. In France, it is considered that asking questions about origins carries more costs than advantages to derive from them, ”explained the demographer.
A risk-benefit calculation that prevails in the debate, according to the INED demographer Hervé Le Bras.
“The most developed argument is the risk of communitarianism or ghettoization. From the moment you are forced to belong to an ethnic category, you increasingly identify with it, which goes against any idea of French citizenship ”, he analyzes.
“The second problem”, according to the demographer, is that “ethnicity is not a structuring factor in French society, without denying existing discrimination.”
“In countries like the United States or South Africa, ethnic census identifies descendants of slavery. The root of these countries is slavery or apartheid ”, he argues.
“This is not the case at all in France, where arrivals are relatively recent and much more varied.” Therefore, ethnic statistics are not part of the French tradition, based on indivisible citizenship.
What Emmanuel Macron says
In an interview with the magazine It, President Emmanuel Macron expressed his rejection of ethnic militancy.
“The political left is ruining French society because it insists on defining its compatriots according to ethnicity and describes them as victims,” said the president of France.
Macron said that ethnic minorities have effectively been placed “under house arrest” for left-wing ideology. Also blamed activists of rights of blacks and feminists for seeking to define people according to their gender and skin color.
He argued that such views cause divisions in society French and prevent ethnic minorities from moving up the social ladder.
His words are likely to resonate in France, which has long refused to categorize people according to their ethnic origins and prohibits the sorts of ethnic issues, which are common in the UK and other countries.
“I see society becoming more and more racial. We had freed ourselves from this approach and now, once again, we categorize people according to their race and, in doing so, we place them fully under house arrest, ”said the French president.
Macron’s interview was interpreted as an attempt to present himself as the defender of a French social model threatened by the kind of left-wing ideas that are common in universities in the United Kingdom and the United States.
His comments were also seen as an attempt to attract centrist voters and reaffirm their claim before the presidential elections in April.
However, she defines herself as a French-type feminist. “My feminism is a humanism. I am on the side of universalism. I do not subscribe to a fight that defines everyone according to their own identity or their own particularity, “he said.
Her words were seen as a shot in the bow by American feminists, often portrayed in France as people who hate men, who seek to live in all female communities.
“I could introduce you to young white men, who also have immense difficulty finding work for different reasons. Social difficulties are not only structured by gender and skin color, but also by social inequality ”, he assured.
Macron wooed French feminist groups with the claim that he had been the first dominant leader to put domestic violence on the country’s political agenda. Also pledged to improve the protection of women with violent partners and husbands.
But she refused to extend the abortion time limit from 12 to 14 weeks, saying the “trauma” for women was greater after this period.