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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi,

I'm thinking of doing a BioEng Phd in France because it takes significantly less time and money. Also, the international experience might prove to be an asset in the future depending on what type of work I will be doing. I am planning on entering law and will be applying to law school in the States after I obtain a Phd. But the law school I am interested in offers a 4-year program that allows you to qualify for both the US and French bar. Since I want to work in a large firm that handles international companies I think this will be a terrific asset. This would mean two possible stays in France. (And, who knows--the prices for land in France are incredible.)

However, if I am going to be hassled because I am black, then my plans will change. I don't want to be the French Martin Luther King. I am used to Canada and America and race being just about completely irrelevant. I have my suspicions about France. (A female McGill [a Canadian university] law student was treated flippantly for suggesting that there should be a legal committee that deals with instances of discrimination because "there is no discrimination in France, as per the French constitution." She headed that committee at some point, by the way.) They talk a very big game, but unlike the US and Canada, they don't have to put much of it into practice, as the black population in France is so small. I don't want to romanticize about French liberte, egalite, and fraternite.

So, I'd like to get a sense of their attitudes towards blacks. Is it a big thing to go out with a white girl in France? Can I window shop and not be followed around? Can I go jogging wearing a hoodie? And, if possible, from non whites as whites do having traveling around to different countries (less Africa, but who travels to Africa?) pretty easy.


Thanks.
 
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Some might be surprised to discover just how many of us are 'non-white', if able to go back 7 or 8 generations in their family history (256 ancestral grandparents +/-)

But on your question a degree of racism certainly exists, although it is considerably more pronounced and overt towards Arabs and Moslems. It varies between communities and regions. Blatantly racist political movements sway around 15% of the population - but some of those voting for Le Pen would swear they are not racist, just realists about the problems of France's huge and growing illegal immigrant community, while accepting the rights of naturalised French citizens from North Africa.

I would have thought that in the 'enlightened' intellectual sphere of university studies in a large cosmopolitan city (Paris?) you will be relatively ok, although there are idiots wherever you go.

(You surprise me about the virtual "irrelevance" of race discrimination in the US - I've seen plenty of articles and stats suggesting that the reality is somewhat different, in practice!)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
I would have thought that in the 'enlightened' intellectual sphere of university studies in a large cosmopolitan city (Paris?) you will be relatively ok, although there are idiots wherever you go.

(You surprise me about the virtual "irrelevance" of race discrimination in the US - I've seen plenty of articles and stats suggesting that the reality is somewhat different, in practice!)
Thanks for replying. You are correct in assuming Paris as the location of study. Specifically, UPMC. But how would one differentiate a North African from a Canadian?

(And as far as ascertaining an American consensus using American news outlets goes, I would be very wary. I have no doubt that someone would glean that race is a big issue in the US, but I just haven't seen it. I appreciate the relevance in a historical context, but practically, I haven't seen anything of the sort. And I've been all over the States.)
 
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Thanks for replying. You are correct in assuming Paris as the location of study. Specifically, UPMC. But how would one differentiate a North African from a Canadian?
You're welcome. And welcome to ExpatForum too :)

The collective term "North Africans", to the average Frenchman, implies those with roots in Algeria in particular, as well as Morocco and Tunisia.

(And as far as ascertaining an American consensus using American news outlets goes, I would be very wary. I have no doubt that someone would glean that race is a big issue in the US, but I just haven't seen it. I appreciate the relevance in a historical context, but practically, I haven't seen anything of the sort. And I've been all over the States.)
I was thinking for example of economic inequalities as discussed in studies such as this one. But that's a topic for another forum :)
 

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An interesting question - and not one that is easy to answer.

Like Frogblogger says, most "racism" here in France is directed toward the Muslim population here. But after 15 years of living here, I'd have to say that it is a very different kind of "racism" than what you find in the US.

In some ways, the French are much more laid back and relaxed about race than in the US. There are mixed race couples everywhere, and lots of mixed race children and I've never seen any of them get any hassle out in public. I'm not so sure how most parents of teenagers react, however, if their daughter starts dating someone of another race.

What seems to matter most here is the issue of "culture." Either you are French in the way you live, talk, act and dress, or you are a foreigner. And it's the foreign cultures that draw some level of hassle. One particularly unpleasant gentleman on the board of our local "newcomers association" apparently got so bitter because his daughter married a Brit and he's gone completely anti-Anglophone because his grandchildren aren't learning to speak French to his satisfaction. (The fact that the grandkids live in the UK doesn't seem to enter in here...) Muslims with headscarves or other identifying garments obviously become targets for those who feel strongly about the duty of "foreigners" to "assimilate themselves" into French culture.

They have done numerous studies where they send out identical CVs in response to job openings - one from Jean Dupond and the other from Ahmed Mohamed - and M. Dupond gets multiple interviews, whereas the guy with the "foreign sounding name" gets none. I've heard older French people suggest that foreigners should just change their names to something "French" - and in fact, up until about 30 years ago you had to take a properly French name when you took French nationality.

Anyhow, it's the strict "culturalism" you have to get used to, rather than what is called "racism" in the US. As long as you speak, dress and act like a French person, you'll be pretty well accepted and respected. There is discrimination (despite the constitution) but it's directed more against "foreigners" and it's much more subtle than anything you'll see in the US. And I'm not sure there is much you can do about it legally.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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Bev has summed it up nicely, with the one proviso that my perception is of a distinct difference between the attitude to mainly white European/Australian/US etc 'foreigners' and to the remainder...

Bev draws attention to a key issue, that of integration. Yes it boils down to accepting the French way of life. But although the population of 'North African' extraction (some estimate as in excess of 10% of the population) is accused of avoiding integration at all costs, those of European extraction who do likewise face less censure, generally speaking. .

I too have seen no public displays of racism in many years in France - although I have heard plenty of negative comments, and fallen out with a racist primary school teacher who was regularly outspoken in her views not only about the Algerians etc, but also about anyone hailing from outside the Hexagon (my kids are half-French, half English). Close to retirement now, and she still has her job, and has never even been officially reprimanded, which gives you an idea about how things work in France. Laissez-faire... in both directions.
 

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Bev has summed it up nicely, with the one proviso that my perception is of a distinct difference between the attitude to mainly white European/Australian/US etc 'foreigners' and to the remainder...

Bev draws attention to a key issue, that of integration. Yes it boils down to accepting the French way of life. But although the population of 'North African' extraction (some estimate as in excess of 10% of the population) is accused of avoiding integration at all costs, those of European extraction who do likewise face less censure, generally speaking. .
I'll grant you that those of white European background have an advantage, if only that they "look" more like the image the French like to have of themselves. There still are very few black faces on French television, either on the incessant talking heads programs or in series. (And I will never forgive TF1 for replacing Harry Roselmack with the insipid Laurence Ferrari on the 20h News.)

A few years back, I picked up an interesting book - translated title is: I'm black but I don't like manioc. It's written by a black immigrant who is a legislator in Essonne. He explains in great detail some of the subtle forms of bias he has found himself up against over the years. Although he is pretty perfectly integrated, he was appalled to find that his children (born and raised in Evry) were still pulled aside during school hours to be taught "their African heritage." To do something like that with Muslim or foreign kids would be unthinkable - but because his kids were black, they were being treated differently as a show of some kind of "solidarity." That kind of thing is probably more an example of the French love of being contradictory than of overt racism, but I admit I was shocked to read about it after all the hype about the schools being the great national tool for acculturization of the masses.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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You need to open your eyes if you think racism isn't openly practiced taught and preached in North America. Not by everyone, f'sure, not everywhere, but it is endemic, and it will take many more generations to eradciate.

I spent a total of two years spread over 27 trips to the States - I loved the place, but Im not blind to its faults. OK, it was 1987, a long time ago now, but when I went to SLC I did not see a SINGLE black person anywhere.

When Bev said <<<Anyhow, it's the strict "culturalism" you have to get used to, rather than what is called "racism" in the US. As long as you speak, dress and act like a French person, you'll be pretty well accepted and respected. There is discrimination (despite the constitution) but it's directed more against "foreigners" and it's much more subtle than anything you'll see in the US. >>> She got it in one. When I arrived in my community, the first brit, I used to make a joke about there now being too many english-speakers in the village, and lets pass a law to stop any more. The Mayor said that some villagers thought that he, too was a foreigner, because he was from Paris.
 
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Purely anecdotal of course... but my 14 year old son arrived back in Lyon from Chiang Mai a couple of hours back....and the only person stopped and searched on his way through the nothing to declare lane was... you've guessed it... black

Yes the French can be chauvinistic - but I have to say that over the years, in my encounters with French people (and in France I'm 'lucky' if I meet more than a couple of expats a year), I haven't found the French to be any more nationalistic than the average citizen of any other country of a similar size and colonialist history. Though they are perhaps more sensitive about it - Anglo-Saxon culture is perceived to be all-pervasive, and the media does put on a show of disgust sometimes, prompted by certain interest groups.

As for acculturation in education - the textbooks in the likes of histoire-geo seem to me to be as heavily biased towards the French version of history as are their Anglo-Saxon equivalent towards the British view, on some subjects!
 
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Thanks for all the info. Looks like I'll re-think the France option.
Hope there was no misunderstanding. The replies so far suggest a laid-back attitude in general with little or no public displays of racism. I wouldn't think you would have the slightest problem, particularly at your level of studies, in a university environment, in a cosmopolitan city.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Hope there was no misunderstanding. The replies so far suggest a laid-back attitude in general with little or no public displays of racism. I wouldn't think you would have the slightest problem, particularly at your level of studies, in a university environment, in a cosmopolitan city.
No misunderstanding. But I just realized how peculiar a conversation this is. I can't imagine overt discrimination to anyone, even if it's not towards me, being a reality of the country I live in. Here, I get the feeling that if you are racist you are pretty much isolated and an outcast. But the sense I am getting of France is that discrimination towards North Africans is not to be unexpected. I am certain in the pantheons of academia and the safety of the city this is not true. However, patronizing a country in that kind of general atmosphere in order to save some time and a few bucks is something I will have to think hard about. But I do understand the genesis of some of the feeling. With a country that has such a distinguished history and culture as France does, I can understand the sentiment of attempting to preserve it in its purest form. Canadian and Americans, I think, are generally more apathetic to their own countries culture and history.
 
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I would wager that if there is any difference at all between North America and France in terms of covert racism, it is a small matter of degree - and in fact I wouldn't be at all surprised if it erred in 'favour' of your side of the Pond. After all, racism comes in many guises and affects a broad cross-section of communities, not just the African Americans. I wonder how Muslim Arabs are truly perceived by some of your Canadian compatriots - with complete equanimity, welcomed with open arms, despite the current atmosphere of suspicion and fear?

It's useful to visit a country and get a feel for it yourself, if an issue such as this of key importance. Black friends from the UK who have stayed with me have never even hinted at an impression of racism. However those living in poorer communities, 'les banlieus', have a different experience of course. But that's the same wherever you are in the world.
 

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Hi,

I'm thinking of doing a BioEng Phd in France because it takes significantly less time and money. Also, the international experience might prove to be an asset in the future depending on what type of work I will be doing. I am planning on entering law and will be applying to law school in the States after I obtain a Phd. But the law school I am interested in offers a 4-year program that allows you to qualify for both the US and French bar. Since I want to work in a large firm that handles international companies I think this will be a terrific asset. This would mean two possible stays in France. (And, who knows--the prices for land in France are incredible.)

However, if I am going to be hassled because I am black, then my plans will change. I don't want to be the French Martin Luther King. I am used to Canada and America and race being just about completely irrelevant. I have my suspicions about France. (A female McGill [a Canadian university] law student was treated flippantly for suggesting that there should be a legal committee that deals with instances of discrimination because "there is no discrimination in France, as per the French constitution." She headed that committee at some point, by the way.) They talk a very big game, but unlike the US and Canada, they don't have to put much of it into practice, as the black population in France is so small. I don't want to romanticize about French liberte, egalite, and fraternite.

So, I'd like to get a sense of their attitudes towards blacks. Is it a big thing to go out with a white girl in France? Can I window shop and not be followed around? Can I go jogging wearing a hoodie? And, if possible, from non whites as whites do having traveling around to different countries (less Africa, but who travels to Africa?) pretty easy.


Thanks.
Hello Linuxux,
I have few comments to make and I hope that you will not be offended or shocked.
First, I agree with your idea concerning international studies and their potential as "terrific asset" but I have some doubts about the cleverness of your study plans.
I am from a cross-national family (French and US), I have the French nationality, I studied in different countries (France, UK, Canada, Belgium) and I am a lawyer in France, I even have a LL.M from McGill.
It is true that in France university will cost you significantly less money (moreover if you are from Quebec as you will pay exactly the same as French citizens, which is few).
However, money is not the major key to success in studies in France. To succeed you will need to speak and write very decent French and you will have to adapt to a system which is really different. Students are not considered like schoolboy/girls but like grown persons and someone used to studies in North America will probably feel like "neglected" because, on many aspects, a student is "on his/her own". There is also a terrific competition during the first years because university is "open to all and free", the "selection process" is generally based on hard work and intellectual capacities.
Another of these differences is that law studies in France begin in first year. What I mean is that there is nothing in France like studding something else before entering law. What you need to enter first year of Law is to have the "Baccalaureat" (end of high school diploma) or an equivalent foreign diploma. Yet, to get past said first year you will need to be very good at written French (i.e. better than the common native) and a very hard worker because the success rate is around 10%.
Same is applies to a lesser extent to other fields, just keep in mind that Law and Med are among the tougher. As far as engineering is concerned there are two different kinds of studies: university and "grandes écoles". University is open to anyone with the Baccalaureat and the elitist "grandes écoles" are available through national competitive examinations after two years of special "préparation" courses.
As for the "qualification" for the French bar program that you are mentioning let me advise you that is not as easy as that... Provided you already are a member of a US bar you will be able to apply to the French one but it will still involve exams and do not expect to pass them without a good grasp of French and the French legal system.
I do not want to discourage you, I have a friend from McGill which is not a native French speaker and who is now a member of the Paris Bar, but I really wanted to warn you of the difficulty of that task.
As for your being hassled because you are black I will not say that there is no racism in France but I will stress that you will absolutely not need to become the French Martin Luther King. Others have already done the job in a particular French fashion (e.g. Senghor, Césaire). I agree with previous comments saying that in many ways the French are more relaxed. Grossly, I will say that racism in France is less aggressive. I can tell you that many black people live in France whether they are from Outre-Mer (oversea French territories) or from African origin and many of them are French nationals. I have a large number of black colleagues in my Bar and they are considered like anyone else. Mixed couples are something usual and most of the French will not wince at the sight. In the US when you have mixed parents you are considered black in France you are not.
As for this question of the McGill law student, I understand very well the misunderstanding you mentioned but I must insist that it is related to a particular and complicated "ethical" French point and I believe it is really not a valid argument to use as to the extent of racism in France. The same applies with the French concept of Laïcité and Freedom of religion as it is understood in the US. These are ethical questions based on different concepts of civilization and I cannot really tell you which is best. For example, ethically, the French do not agree with positive discrimination and they are shocked when they look up at an official form from a foreign country asking for one ethnicity (it is illegal in France).
Cheers!
 

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I would wager that if there is any difference at all between North America and France in terms of covert racism, it is a small matter of degree - and in fact I wouldn't be at all surprised if it erred in 'favour' of your side of the Pond. After all, racism comes in many guises and affects a broad cross-section of communities, not just the African Americans. I wonder how Muslim Arabs are truly perceived by some of your Canadian compatriots - with complete equanimity, welcomed with open arms, despite the current atmosphere of suspicion and fear?

It's useful to visit a country and get a feel for it yourself, if an issue such as this of key importance. Black friends from the UK who have stayed with me have never even hinted at an impression of racism. However those living in poorer communities, 'les banlieus', have a different experience of course. But that's the same wherever you are in the world.
Racism is still a hotly debated issue in the States. I don't know how much coverage this story received in France, but in the States, this story was on the front page of many of the leading newspapers for several days in the third week of July. I didn't see any mention of it in this thread.

Black Professor Wants Apology over Arrest - CBS News

Briefly, police officers responded to the home rented by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Black man, after a woman reported seeing "two black males with backpacks on the porch," one of whom was "wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry. One of the men was Gates, who was attempting to open his jammed front door.

Police said Gates was arrested after he yelled at an officer, accused him of racial bias and refused to calm down after the officer demanded Gates show him identification to prove he lived in the home. Charges of "racial profiling" were leveled and matters were not helped when President Obama said the police acted "stupidly".

As a postscript to the story, both Gates and the arresting officer were invited by President Obama for a beer at the White House for an event characterized as a "teaching moment". The morale of the story is America is not yet a color-blind society.

Bev is right on target regarding atitudes towards race in France. In addition to anti-Arab comments and graffitti, you will also encounter hostility towards Gypsies, at least in Herault, and the occasional Jewish cemetary desecration

The French are fiercely proud of their culture although waving a French Flag may get you labeled by some people as a Fascist. In the 17th Century, France was the preeminent global power, especially under Louis XIV. French was the international language. Now English is the new lingua franca and France is no longer at center stage of world affairs. For discussion, is there be a connection with France's current global position and the passion of their nationalism? BTW, are the "Language Police " still active? I see more and more English words sneaking in.
 

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Coton90, thanks for raising the Gates incident. It demonstrates rather nicely how race is still a very touchy issue in the US. (It did make the news over here - though only briefly, not the way they do those things in the US.)

I know when I return to the US, I'm always struck with the separation between the races. There seem to be different neighborhoods and different cultures. Say what you will about the French, but there isn't the segregation I see in the US.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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As far as I can see, Gates was the first person in that incident to shout about race.

<<< The French are fiercely proud of their culture although waving a French Flag may get you labeled by some people as a Fascist. >>>

The same is regrettably now true of england.
 

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my two cents

I'm white and i think it is difficult for a white person to really know, but i get the impression that there is much less of a race problem here (compared to u.s. - i know next to nothing about canada - although my sister-in-law, who is black, is from there). It seems that i have seen more black/white couples than black/black couples while here in france for the last 5 years. And there just doesn't seem the big divide that i perceived in the u.s. - blacks live over here, whites over there. Not to mention the way neighborhoods are divided according to income in the u.s. (there is some of that here but not to the same extent). I also just never get the sense here that a black person is so different culturally (except for recent immigrants from africa, obviously), that i often sensed in the u.s. I think in the u.s. due to the continued segregation (non-forced now) and economic divide, that race relations there have a really long ways to go still. (although i've also heard that things are much better in canada than the u.s.)

I think the french do have a tendency to pretend there are no racial problems here since it is all banned by the constitution, and obviously there shouldn't be any problems so obviously there aren't. A bit ridiculous in my view. But affirmative action in france - not a chance. I'm not saying that's right or wrong, i don't know enough about it here to have a real opinion.

Still i don't know much about whether blacks here are prejudiced against in hiring and promotions. I expect more than people want to admit. After Obama was elected the Guignols comedy show did a routine where they went out and found the highest ranking black person in france - turned out to be a guy who was in charge of an aisle in a grocery store. The last bit of sarcasm in the sketch was when they asked him whether the job was within his capacities and he replied that yeah, with his bac+8, it was no problem.

Finally, one personal anecdote. The son of my girlfriend, when he was quite young, made some sort of racist comment/joke while in school. I don't think he was or is really racist in the slightest, but he made the mistake. Anyway the teacher about tore his head off and it was a big deal - called the mom to the school and the whole thing.

We have a black scientist in our group here. I don't think he suffers from any sort of prejudice.

I think if you came over here you would not have any troubles with your studies or shopping or based on who you wanted to date. I think mixed couples are as accepted and as common as they could possibly be here.
 

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I just finished a book by Richard J Evans about the Third Reich. In it, he discusses Anti-Semitism in France in the 30s and 40s. Apparently a significant number of French people still supported these ideas at that time, although no statistics are provided. Anti-Semitism in France dates all the way back to the medieval period. The issue came to the forefront in the 1890s with L’Affair Dreyfus. Given the large number of people that previously supported these ideas can one expect to hear the occasional Anti-Semitic remark/humor outside the Arab community or have they moved beyond that? Here in the States, with our high volume of ignoramuses, it’s to be expected.
 

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You raise an interesting point about antisemitism in France. It still exists, but I'd have to say that it falls under the category we've been discussing here - it's seen more in the cultural sense than in the religious/racist sense.

The "antisemitic" remarks I've heard in the time I've lived here mostly relate to behaviors that are considered "non-French." Considering Saturday rather than Sunday as the sabbath - or not eating pork, which is, frankly speaking, the national meat of France. And to a certain extent, I think much of the antisemitic rhetoric that exists today is a hangover of the "unenlightened" attitudes of some factions within the Catholic Church back in the 40's and 50's.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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