George Floyd protests lead to difficult debate on race in France

France has long sought social justice through a commitment to universal ideals, but a younger generation is demanding recognition of racism  - and remedies for it.

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Luc Pechangou had never joined a protest before, not even when his own neighborhood just outside Paris was convulsed with anger over the violent arrest of a young black man from the area in 2017, reports The New York Times.

It was instead the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis that led him to join an anti-racism rally and, he said, see things more clearly in France, his own country.

“It was the shock that I needed to finally wake up,” Mr. Pechangou, 20, said. “White privilege is real. Whites have access to employment. They’re not stopped by the police. They don’t have to worry about what they’re wearing or if they have their I.D. cards.”

“But we, as blacks, have to worry every day,” said Mr. Pechangou, who was born in Cameroon, a former French colony in central Africa, and lives in Hector Berlioz, a sprawling subsidized housing complex in Bobigny, just northeast of Paris. “People look at us suspiciously. They ask us what we’re doing. When I take public transportation, I have to show what’s in my backpack. It’s not right to have to live like that.”

In the wake of Mr. Floyd’s killing, agonizing reflections on race have spread far beyond the United States. In France, they have set off an unexpected reckoning in a country that has long sought social justice through a commitment to universal ideals like equality and secularism, arguing that an emphasis on diversity, ethnicity or race would undermine unity and the social fabric.

Read more of this report from The New York Times.

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