When the youngsters of the “districts” enter politics



There is something strange about politics, something that makes us like it against our own will. We often pretend to despise it, but in the last minute we cannot help coming back to it. Politics attracts you, even when you try to do your best to avoid it. As one of the British commercials broadcasted on a regular basis about four years ago used to point it out in Britain, “If you don’t want to do politics, then politics will make you”.

In France, to make me take another path other than politics my mother often used to tell me that “before we were all born there was politics; in our life time there is politics; and, after we have all passed away there will still be politics”.

These two spoken truths had a real influence on me. They were at the origin of a real confusion deep inside. I was divided between dedicating my whole life to make things change in a political point of view, and on the other hand, something was telling me to avoid being too much politically involved. As a young man I was first a hundred per cent convinced by the French Socialist party, although I never really became a member. I did not want to take the card of the party for fear of being labeled a “socialist” forever. At the time people in the working class districts of Paris were not that much interested in politics. Only a few tried to fight back against the system while others preferred to be ignorant on issues affecting their everyday lives.

Now that we have entered a new era in which ethnic minorities have become “the must be included” of every single political party in France; those who tended to be ignorant on their poor conditions have opened their

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eyes. Many youngsters living in the deprived districts of Paris and its suburbs now see in politics a personal get away from their own condition in the ghetto.

Today in the district I live in, it seems that things have changed in a radical manner. I am no longer a convinced socialist and have even started to hate politics and all politicians no matter their political views. If you wonder why, let me put it this way:

The experiences of Rashida Dati, Rama Yade or again Fadela Amara have become kind of examples of “ethnic minority success stories” in French politics. The balance sheet in terms of political achievement and success for these three characters is weak, yet their position in the government seems to be envied by these same youngsters from the deprived areas who often criticize the role of the three women in the UMP government.

One can also see through this new phenomenon of active involvement of ethnic minorities in politics the work of the different political parties. The technique used to attract the younger generation mostly composed of people of immigrant backgrounds is the same whatever the political party. Job and accommodation opportunities are indirectly used as favours against a clear and active involvement in the different activities of the parties. The youngsters targeted are not always the most educated ones but rather “those easy to manipulate” as Marie Anoue a freelance journalist writing mostly for a street magazine points it out.

Joseph who is a friend of mine deeply involved through his association in the social work of the 19th district often used to tell me how disappointed he was by both major political parties. His description of politics and the politicians in France was nothing else but a dark picture. Yet to my big surprise in the last regional election this same friend of mine suddenly turned out to be a fierce supporter of the socialist party. He even actively took part in the campaign. The explanation for such reversal makes no doubts: promises, and different advantages against a clear support.

It is thus indeed, that in the last regional elections the involvement -as candidate and not simply as voters- of people with ethnic minority backgrounds such as Africans or North Africans was without precedent. In other words Ali Soumaré’s candidacy for the regional elections was far from being an isolated case.

There is however an inconvenience in this new phenomenon. It seems indeed that the youngsters living in the deprived districts of Paris and its suburbs are now abandoning the music industry and community work to dedicate themselves to politics only. There is a clear decline today in those two sectors, which may also lead in a near future to catastrophic situations in the working class districts of the big cities of France.

Indeed, there is still no existing lobby or pressure group powerful enough in France in 2010 to protect the interest or to make the voice of the ethnic minorities living in the deprived districts heard. By entering politics there is a high risk of seeing those who used to be active in the neighbourhood abandoning social work and direct help to the people for a more personal political career. These people could also see soon their sphere of operation limited by the political party they have just integrated.

Unfortunately, in France it appears that unlike what happened in the United States and finally led to the election of president Obama in 2008, there still is some kind of manipulation or fashion phenomenon when it comes to the presence of ethnic minorities in politics….