Fresh protests against police violence rooted in decades of racism
When a police officer last week shot and killed a resident of Paris’s suburb of Nanterre, 17-year-old Nahel M., it unleashed a wave of unrest across France – an echo of similar protests launched by youth living in housing projects two decades earlier.
Concentrated in the suburbs (banlieues) just on the outskirts of major cities, France’s public housing projects are home to largely young populations – 40% are under 25 years of age – often from immigrant backgrounds, who face a never-ending struggle for acceptance in French society.
The facts are damning. Youth from economically disadvantaged areas are a “particularly frequent target” for discrimination from the police, namely stop-and-search checks, “even when there is no sign or evidence of wrongdoing”, Human Rights Watch has found.
They are less likely to leave school at 18 with a secondary education baccalauréat: Youth living in quartiers prioritaires (QPVs), targeted for urban renewal, have a 54% pass rate compared with a 77% success rate among those living elsewhere, according to a 2013 study.
They are twice as likely to be unemployed and less likely to be accepted for university courses, apprenticeships or work training programmes.
The stigmatisation is felt early. “The young people we work with have a tendency to underestimate themselves. We see a significant lack of confidence in their academic abilities and personal resources,” says Mona Amirouche, general director of Banlieues School, an organisation that aims to support students, teachers and parents living in public housing projects.
This is, in part, down to the internalisation of “stereotypes and prejudices linked to their social background”, Amirouche says. It is also because even as teenagers, the odds appear firmly stacked against them. “They are in the middle of physical development and are trying to find their own way with the resources they have,” she explains.
Source: France 24