France Fails to Face Up to Racism

France Fails to Face Up to Racism


The French journalist Rokhaya Diallo has been ousted from a government advisory council, a move that has been condemned by the French Human Rights League.

Philippe Huguen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Rokhaya Diallo is a French journalist whose most noted work addresses a concept that doesn’t officially exist in France.

Ms. Diallo’s documentary “From Paris to Ferguson: Guilty of Being Black” (“Not Yo Mama’s Movement” in the United States) examines the pervasiveness of ethnic profiling in abusive police identity checks. She has also addressed a recent death and a brutal beating of black youths by police officers that led to a Black Lives Matter movement in France. She has called all this evidence of institutional racism.

That view has led the right wing, and some on the left, to successfully pressure the government of President Emmanuel Macron to oust her from a government advisory council, exposing a hypocrisy at the heart of French nationalism.

The term institutional racism, which in French is called state racism, is seen by many as an affront to the colorblind ideal of a universalist French republic. In France, it is illegal to classify people by their race or ethnicity.

Incredibly, the French education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, said last month that he would sue a teachers union for using the words “institutional racism” during education workshops in ethnically diverse Seine-St.-Denis northeast of Paris.

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