Racial and ethnic relations are a pressing issue on a global scale and can be as volatile abroad as in the United States. Throughout history, America has been through many racial and ethnic atrocities. Americans created the problems, branded them as ‘just’ according to their interpretation of the Constitution and later renounced them.
It is an enduring process. Despite this progress, these issues still exist on a global scale. With diversity reaching all corners of the world, the melting pot can turn into a pressure cooker, with France currently feeling the effects.
Oct. 27, some Muslim high school students playing in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois were pursued by police. In attempts to hide, two boys climbed into a power substation and were electrocuted by a transformer.
Their deaths were blamed on the French police. There had already been pre-existing ethnic and religious tensions between the community and the French police – with the Oct. 27 incident catapulting this problem into extremes. The unrest has spread to regions outside of France and although rioting has calmed, already one school and thousands of vehicles have been burned. Two thousand rioters have been arrested and at least one citizen has been killed. President Jacques Chirac declared a state of emergency on Nov. 8.
These events are testament to the progress that needs to be made in the world. In many cases, ethnicity and race influence what quality of justice will be served. This is why the citizens revolted.
The rioters, mostly minorities, carried out their frustration over their meager wages and mediocre living conditions that have been exacerbated by ongoing police harassment. They were validated in their anguish and their deep sentiments.
The rioting is unacceptable, but the community’s only outlet at that point was rage. It was a fatal mistake on the government’s part to allow the tension to reach the breaking point. This may be the wake-up call that France and other European countries have needed. No European nation is immune to events of this nature. If it can happen in France, it can happen anywhere. These issues are universal and it is everyone’s problem.
These French riots may be the catalyst for steps toward tolerance and reform in Europe the way the civil rights movement changed America. The people of Europe are saying, ‘I am Muslim, I am a Kurd. I might not be a native of this country, but I will be heard; you will notice me; you will respect me and you will protect me.’ These are the rights of every citizen of every country.
People should have the protection of the government, enforcing tolerance for all types of people. The world needs to have an open mind toward differences. Most importantly, people should not have to suffer through tribulations in their own country simply because they differ from the majority.
Dashira A. Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.