Man prosecuted for anti-white racism in French court
For the first time a French anti-racism group is supporting a legal case of racism against a white person. The case, due to star on Friday, involves a man accused of attacking another man in Paris's Gare du Nord railway station and prosecutors say it was racially motivated, even though the victim was white.
The International league against racism and anti-Semitism (Licra) is supporting the prosecution.
"I think it's a very strong case," says Licra vice-president Philippe Schmidt. Not only was the attack very violent, he says, but the violence was clearly more intense because the victim was white.
Witnesses said they heard the attacker say "sale Français" (dirty Frenchman) and use a term in Arabic for dirty white man.
"He was insulted because he was white," says Schmidt. Several people were reportedly involved in the attack; only one is on trial, as the others have not been identified.
"Globally, they came after him because of the colour of his skin," Schmidt insists. "The guy is white, the guy is French, and that's why they came after him."
Schmidt admits that this is not the kind of case Licra usually gets involved in.
"The majority of the people in France are white and the vast majority are French, so obviously those kinds of cases are much less frequent," he points out.
Less frequent, but not nonexistent, insists Tom Lanneau, 18, a political science student at the University of Paris who lives in Seine St Denis, a racially diverse area north of Paris with the highest percentage of immigrants in France.
Lanneau grew up in a cité (housing project), where he says he was the only white kid. Most of the time he has no problems, he says, but he has been insulted for being white.
"One time, I didn’t want to give someone a cigarette because I don’t smoke, and they called me ‘sale blanc’ (dirtywhite)," he says.
He has been roughed up six times, not unusual in his tough neighbourhood. And, though he did hear the term during one of the attacks, he is not sure the attacks were racially motivated.
"Maybe it’s because I am white but maybe it’s because I am little, or I was alone in the street. I don't know."
Lanneau wrote an article about anti-white racism in the Bondy Blog, an online news site written by young people in the suburbs.
In it he says he gets called a fascist - or worse - when he brings up the concept of anti-white racism. But, he says, even if it’s rare it does exist. And it puts him in the strange position of agreeing, at least on the surface, with politicians he would not otherwise agree with, like the far-right Front National, whose supporters talk of keeping France French.
Even on the mainstream right, Jean-Francois Copé, the head of the UMP party, claimedin a book last year that anti-white racism is on the rise.
By backing this prosecution, Licra finds itself, if not agreeing with the Front National, at least using some of the same language.
"At the end of the road they want the same thing, but not for the same reason," says Schmidt.
The far right "wants to harass non-French, non-Catholic people. They have a very archaic and extremist view of society. They think it should be French, white and Catholic. That's not the way I see the world," he says.
Licra is associating itself with the case because it wants to fight racism, in whatever form it takes, Schmidt insists.
"It's not because you are white that you can't suffer racism," he says. If someone is insulted because of the colour of their skin, "that's racism".
Tom Lanneau is quick to point out, though, that even if he has been the victim of anti-white slurs, he does not see anti-white racism as being as widespread as some right-wingers would believe. It depends on the neighbourhood, for one.
"It’s clear that in a big city where there are a lot of immigrants and where white people are minority, like where I live, there will be some racism against white people," he says.
But most of France is not like Seine St Denis and discrimination against black or north Africans is a much bigger problem, Lanneau declared.
"Some of my friends cannot find jobs because they are black. It's a bigger problem than racism against white people. But I disagree with people who say that racism against white people doesn’t exist. I think it’s minor but I think it exists."