Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Nous Sommes Tous Les Francais

Juan Cole explains why America is not so different than France. (The main point is that the riots are not an issue of French vs. non-French or religious strife, as some on the right are trying to claim.)
The kind of riots we are seeing in France also have occurred in US cities (they sent Detroit into a tailspin from 1967). They are always produced by racial segregation, racist discrimination, spectacular unemployment, and lack of access to the mainstream economy.
(Americans who code themselves as "white" are often surprised to discover that "white people" created the inner cities here by zoning them for settlement by racial "minorities," excluding the minorities from the nicer parts of the cities and from suburbs. As late as the 1960s, many European-Americans were willing to sign a "covenant" not to sell their houses to an African-American, Chinese-American or a Jewish American. In fact, in the US, the suburbs were built, most often with de facto government subsidies in the form of highways and other perquisites, as an explicit means of racial segregation. Spatial segregation protected "white" businesses from competition from minority entrepreneurs, who couldn't open shops outside their ghettos. In France, government inputs were used to create "outer cities," but many of the same forces were at work.) The French do not have Jim Crow laws, but de facto residential segregation is a widespread and intractable problem.

As my husband is fond of saying, so many people who vote for Republicans, neocons, lower taxes and fewer social programs and protections which will create a wider gap between haves and have nots don't seem to realize that the very massive underclass they are creating will one day rise up and kill them all.

Via Atrios.

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