Friday, February 23, 2007

Presidential Race meets Race

France is notorious for not collecting statistics on ethnicity in its census, but a new willingness among presidential candidates may change this:

France's umbrella organisation for black groups, Cran, this week repeated demands that France begin collecting statistics. It polled the candidates' views and found Mr Sarkozy was in favour of counting ethnic groups, along with several other candidates. Ms Royal was the only one against.

Patrick Lozès, head of Cran, told the Guardian: "The fact that most candidates are in favour of collecting these statistics is a sea change in France. Three years ago this was completely taboo. Ségolène Royal was clear about her reasons for opposing it: she feared information could be used to keep records on individuals."

Royal is not alone. The daily paper Libération published a petition signed by "40 academics and campaigners", which said that such a change could lead to greater racial confrontation. Whatever the outcome, there is no denying that racism is a real problem in France. According a Guardian article, "56% of black people said they suffered racial discrimination in their everyday lives, and 37% said the discrimination had got worse in the past year."

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