French first lady calls for affirmative action
After Obama’s US victory, the French petition for policies that promote ethnic diversity.
10 November 2008
PARIS - France's first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy backed a petition Sunday calling for affirmative action in France, one of the world's most racially mixed countries but whose rulers are almost exclusively white.
"Power (in France) has often had the same face: that of men who are white and ageing," she told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, which published the petition drawn up by an Algerian-born French business leader.
"That is why I can identify with this appeal. Without political measures we will be waiting too long," said President Nicolas Sarkozy's wife, who said she could not sign the petition because of her position but that she backed it entirely.
The petition was titled "Oui, nous pouvons!", the French translation of Obama's campaign slogan "Yes We Can", and said that the African-American's "election illustrated by a cruel contrast the failings of the French Republic."
"By neglecting its own diversity, France has driven to despair a whole swathe of its youth and has prevented it from being proud of its country," it said.
It called on the state and on employers to put in place "policies that promote (ethnic) diversity".
Obama's historic election as the first black man in the White House is a reflection on France, home to one of Europe's biggest black communities and its largest Muslim population.
France's political establishment remains overwhelmingly white despite the appointment of two women of north African descent and a black human rights minister in Sarkozy's government.
There is only one black member of parliament from mainland France and none of Arab origin.
France considers itself a colour-blind nation that provides equal rights for anyone who assimilates into French society.
But promoting diversity is a controversial topic here, with both right- and left-wing politicians opposed to affirmative action or quotas.
[AFP / Expatica]