FRANCE, Day 3: Monday, 2014-01-06

By Danielle
Today, we started off with a nice breakfast at the FIAP, and then headed into a conference room to listen to a presentation by Tara Dickman, a trainer and consultant in politics, communications, and development strategy in France. We sat down, turned off the lights, and read the text of the page open on Tara’s computer: “Humanity in Action: Exploring Diversity in France.” Tara launched into her presentation, enlightening us all the while in a mix of French and English. We learned about “France’s Constitutional Promise” of social redistribution, state colorblindness and secularism, providing for no distinction of origin, race, and religion under the law, and respect for all beliefs. Because of this model, laws in France cannot be based on race, religion, or origin, so the provisions of income, territory, immigrant status, age, and others are used instead. Many people in France agreed with the French model of its Constitutional Promise, but saw hypocrisy in its implementation; though there was a provision for providing no distinction based on race, police forces in the suburbs often stopped and frisked the same people day after day based on their age, origin, or religion. In France, many people thought that the news-covered riots were caused by well-known criminals, children of polygamous families, or social outcasts who were influenced by Islamists while in the US, the news portrayed the riots as being caused by foreigners in slums, Muslims, or a clash of culture. In fact, these riots were caused by the public’s reactions to police brutality; Tara told us that all such riots in France are actually caused by police brutality, even though people find many other scapegoats for them.

Next, we heard from Ladji Real, a film director who made a counter-investigation film about a documentary shown on the French channel “Arte” (the French equivalent of PBS). The documentary on the channel “Arte” was titled “The City of Evil” and characterized those who live in the banlieue (the suburbs) as jobless school-dropouts who trafficked drugs, led gangs, or condoned domestic abuse. Ladji’s film portrays the banlieue in a positive light and shows how the director of “The City of Evil” documentary manipulated the footage of the interviews with the subjects she chose to perpetuate false stereotypes. Those who were in “The City of Evil” film were very upset by the message of the documentary and the way their words were twisted. In Ladji’s film, these subjects are revisited and allowed or share what they actually feel about their life in the banlieue. Unfortunately, the “Arte” channel refused to show this counter-investigation film as part of its program.

Though the fact that “The City of Evil” film portrays a negative view of the banlieue through the manipulation of the words of its residents is certainly awful, most of us agreed that this wasn’t all that surprising. I guess that in today’s world, manipulation of words in the media is a common enough occurrence that it isn’t surprising to a group of young, female Californians.

Yasmeen shared the story of how her mother’s interview for a segment of a magazine was twisted to portray a negative view of her culture.

On a lighter note, Abby commented about how amazingly yellow the walls of the conference room are, and several of us shared dissatisfactions about the chairs in the room – they keep pulling out our hair. Yasmeen and Ladji had an impromptu conversation in Arabic (the contents of which are still unknown to the rest of the group), and after several hours in the yellow, windowless conference room, we were leave for the FIAP cafeteria, where Yasmeen was denied a can of Coke by the cashier and where Margarita and Tammy tried salmon ravioli. After lunch, there was a surprise: a croissant-like cake for the French holiday l’Épiphanie! As Sarah is the youngest member of the group, she distributed the slices, and Rachel found the “special object” in her slice, so, according to tradition, she is the queen for the day!

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment