Alex Blaze

It's funny because he helps set American foreign policy

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 11, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: charles murray, demographics survey, France, Middle East, on est des potes!, paris, pote, race

Charles sarko-bust.pngMurray over at the American Enterprise Institute (a neoconservative think tank that really, really wanted to invade Iraq) started talking about Paris after visiting a non-Paris part of France, and he went there:

Last night, having been struck by how polyglot Paris has become, I collected data as I walked along, counting people who looked like native French (which probably added in a few Brits and other Europeans) versus everyone else. I can't vouch for the representativeness of the sample, but at about eight o'clock last night in the St. Denis area of Paris, it worked out to about 50-50, with the non-native French half consisting, in order of proportion, of African blacks, Middle-Eastern types, and East Asians. And on December 22, I don't think a lot of them were tourists.

Mark Steyn and Christopher Caldwell have already explained this to the rest of the world--Europe as we have known it is about to disappear--but it was still a shock to see how rapid the change has been in just the last half-dozen years.

It's the equivalent of a European walking into the south side of Chicago and saying, "What's up with all these Africans? Everyone on Friends was a real American. Guess a lot's changed in the last half-dozen years!" And, considering some of my experiences here in France, I wouldn't be surprised if some Europeans have actually done that.

France is not and has never been an all-white country. It's one of the most racially diverse countries in the world, and has been for a while now. It's not a development out of the last six years, the Arab take-over of Europe (which Murray links to approvingly, even though, by his count, all Middle-Eastern lookin' people were out-numbered by both white and black people) isn't something actual Europeans are worried about as much as Americans, and it has a long history that centers around France's centuries of colonialism.

Most black people living in France are from the West Indies, where France still has some territory that's as France as the rest of France. And, like other European colonial powers, France brought slaves over to the New World to work (more than were brought to the US, in fact) and their descendants are still there. Add that in to France's second round of colonialism in Africa, which has sent quite a few immigrants over to metropolitan France. Plus the French conscripted West Africans into their army throughout the early 20th century.

He also talks about "Middle-Eastern types," which probably included North Africans (quite a few in France), Central Asians, Turks, and, considering who's doing the counting, Spaniards and Italians and French people with good tans. France has a long history of colonialism in Northern Africa, which included a mass migration south to Algeria that displaced more than a few Algerians. The French also conscripted them in WWI. To this day, there are separate immigration and visa forms to fill out if you're from Algeria, and they're easier and have no fee. The idea was to turn the Mediterranean into just a river between two parts of France, an idea that is now out of fashion but left its mark.

I'm also bothered by his phrase "native French." I'm guessing he means "white," which isn't at all equivalent to "native French." The word "white" is pretty much a product of the American racial narrative that has a specific history found no where else in the world. There are black people whose families have been living on French land for centuries. There are plenty whose families came over more recently and were still born here, making them French.

Also, consider the fact that he made no category for European immigrants. There are plenty of people of eastern and southern European descent living in France (I have no numbers, but from my feel out here, people of Italian, Polish, and Romanian descent far out-number the British). My boyfriend, who was born in France to parents born in France, still considers himself Italian first, although Murray would have likely counted him as a "Middle-Eastern type" because of his skin color. The difference between Sicily and Tunisia is less than a hundred miles, not much in terms of separating people according to race.

Which is all to say that you can't take the American understanding of race and apply it to other countries. As French people see it, there are no white people in this country. They're French, British, Italian, etc. And there are no "Middle-Eastern" people either - there are Turks, Algerians, Arabs, maghrebins (North Africans). While not everyone here is always sensitive to other people's ethnic origins, I don't think I've ever heard a French person refer to someone from North Africa as a "Middle-Eastern type." It's just not accurate. And usually black people will be referred to as antillais (West Indies) or Africans, depending on their origins.

Although, as I've noticed in one of the schools I work in that has a high minority population, there are quite a few African children who identify strongly with the word black, in English. We did the colors this past week, and "black" was the only one the third-graders already knew. Three of them told me spontaneously, "Je suis black." I haven't heard a white student say, "Je suis white."

Paris is a multi-racial and multi-cultural metropolis and has been for a long time. One thing that always surprises me whenever I travel outside of this city is just how white the rest of Europe is. The Paris that is white people drinking wine and eating cheese in cafes while they talk about the meaninglessness of life does not exist anymore, if it ever did.

Murray links approvingly to a couple "demographic winter" authors (Europe's being taken over by non-white people because they're feminine, weak, and liberal!), and even makes the wild claim that a lot's changed in the last six years. I've been here almost that long, and not much has changed. Maybe he's just in a different part of France than he was in before (like St-Denis, which is one of the more diverse parts of France)? Otherwise, I can only explain his observation that, not only is France getting too dark, but that it's also happened in six years as nothing other than paranoia.

Then again, Murray goes to St-Denis and he thinks he's in Paris. History and geography don't seem to be his thing; fear and xenophobia do. Unfortunately for the rest of us, he's a scholar at an organization that has out-sized influence on American politics and incredible access to the American media, helping shape the US's foreign policy discourse, especially in the run-up to the war in Iraq. One would almost say that a lack of give a fuck about the rest of the world was one of the cornerstones for going to war.

Either that or the entitlement that comes with going to a foreign country and complaining that the racial make-up of the locals is not to your liking goes right along with the arrogance it takes to think you can invade a country and set up a functional democracy there in a matter of months.

*The photo before the jump is an ad-bust of the "TOGETHER ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE" ads that were plastered all over the country to elect Nicolas Sarkozy (who probably would have been counted as "native French" by Murray" even though he's of Hungarian and Ottoman Jewish descent, but he was born in France). It reads:

TOGETHER without the poor, foreigners, people on welfare, the left, the far-left, the Communists, "le CDI" [don't know which CDI the author's referring to], the gays, temporary workers, the HIV-positive, the handicapped, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, independent journalists, Blacks, Arabs, "les Noah," "les Thuram" (those last two are soccer players, I think), and the man who stole my wife, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

Via Sadly, No and Crooked Timber

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Thanks for noting this! Asshole nativists are blessedly stupid.

I sometimes despair that Americans travel abroad so little. So when an influential American like Murray travels, it is doubly disappointing that the lessons which only travel can teach, are so quandered.

That's not nativism.

That's outright racism, raw and blunt and purely shown.

Or, to be a little more accurate, its ethnocentrism combined with colorism, and is enough to warrant this person falling a list of people who should just "go away".

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 11, 2010 9:10 PM

I would take it to believe that Murray's politics is coloring his impressions. The typical version of this being,(and the neo conservative mantra is) that followers of Islam will overwhelm the continent. Hence his assessment: "The Europe we have known is about to disappear." It is a similar one to the fear used to create justification for abridgment of human rights.

Now the French themselves used to complain they were being overwhelmed by the English speaking cultures. That was not a racial divide, but a reaction to words such as "apartments" (British) invading common French conversation.

A quick look at the number of English words we use with a common French or Latin root makes this old concern on the part of "French culture" a laughable one. The advantages of being a "polyglot" culture far outweigh any disadvantages. When different people communicate ideas improvement for all parties is inevitable.

"What's up with all these Africans? Everyone on Friends was a real American. Guess a lot's changed in the last half-dozen years!"

I still hear tourist and transplants say that in NYC. God Bless the Media