La journée sans immigrés – just what France needs?

Peggy Derder, Nadir Dendoune and Nadia Lamarkbi, three French professionals in their thirties, have hit upon the idea of la journée sans immigrés, or the day without immigrants. They are encouraging anyone who is an immigrant, of immigrant origin, or who feels solidarity with immigrants and wants to contest their treatment in France to stay at home and not buy anything for one day.

The idea is to make the rest of France see how different their country would look (and how much less money would be spent in French businesses) if France’s minorities did not exist.

Peggy Derder, one of the movement’s organisers, who is Algerian-French, said:

« On a voulu se placer en amont des discriminations et de ces questions qui résultent d’un discours stigmatisant. S’attaquer à la racine et pas aux symptômes. » [Source]

“We wanted to put discrimination into the foreground, as well as those questions which result from a stigmatising discourse. Attack its root and not its symptoms”

The demonstration will also highlight the kinds of jobs immigrants do in France if they all disappear for one day. The lack of discrimination laws due to the government’s “colour-blind” policy means that affirmative action or quota systems do not exist here. What this means in practice is that the lack of black or Arab faces in the professions, and their excess in menial work and manual labour goes undocumented.

The journée sans immigrés also seems apt given that a UMP (Conservative) mayor has just called a black socialist candidate, Ali Soumaré, a “délinquant multirécidiviste chevronné” i.e a seasoned and habitual criminal-delinquent.

The candidate in question spent a few months in prison for a stealing a car when he was around 18, and was later also charged with driving without a licence. He has subsequently been charged with “rébellion à agent de la force publique”, but this has yet to come to court, so by law he must be presumed innocent.

However, these offences mostly took place over a decade ago, and he has assured the public that he has left his criminal behaviour behind in order to help his community progress. M Soumaré is now the great hope for the the politically unrepresented minorities of France and, on a personal level, in his neighbourhood. Ali comes from the Val d’Oise, a struggling Parisian suburb, and his candidacy for the regional elections this year is all the more notable for the fact that there are currently no black or Arab mayors in France whatsoever, despite 10% of the population coming from an ethnic minority.

The journée sans immigrés will allow French people to see how integral immigrants have become to their nation, and what would be lost if they, and their French born descendants, weren’t around. They will have to face up to something that is all too often quietly swept aside by white French people a socially conservative media and political system. As Peggy Derder argues, racism in France is often not overt, but rather more insidious. She says:

« Ce n’est pas l’Italie, ce n’est souvent pas directement xénophobe. Mais c’est plus sournois, plus malsain. » []

“It’s not Italy, it’s often not directly xenophobic. But it’s more underhand, more unhealthy”

Perhaps France’s all-white 1st of March will expose a nation to the dull reality of a world without the vibrant changes in music, culture, and cuisine that its immigrants have effected, in addition to their aforementioned economic contribution.

The movement’s official website

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One Comment on “La journée sans immigrés – just what France needs?”

  1. Hi there, I’ve just found your blog and as another Brit in France its made interesting reading for me!

    I also wrote about JSI over on my blog as it was an important day for me, but I don’t really know if the day was much of a success or not. Given the first round of the regionals and the level of votes the FN got again, probably not. Sigh…

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