The Paris suburb of Le Blanc-Mesnil is typical of dozens of socially-deprived agglomerations that surround the capital’s northern perimeter, characterized by zones of high-rise public housing estates, higher than average unemployment, especially among the young, and a significant population of North and West African origin who complain of being stigmatized and discriminated against. While the stereotypes of those who live in what are commonly called les banlieues are reinforced by regular incidents of violence, drug dealing and social unrest, local inhabitants are rarely offered a public stage to challenge the narrow perceptions that ignore the broader realities of their community. But now, in a rare and insightful book published last month, a group of women residents of Le Blanc-Mesnil recount with frankness and simplicity their everyday experiences, both positive and negative, of life amid the troubled suburbs. Carine Fouteau reports.
The French Republican mantra of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité has arguably cast a veil over prejudice and discrimination in some of the country’s institutions because of a widespread belief that if equality has been decreed, it must exist. But now, an unusual grass-roots study is being run in five schools in the city of Grenoble, southern France, to investigate evidence that children from families of non-French ethnic origin are, against their will, guided to a future professional life that offers fewer opportunities than for others. Lucie Delaporte reports on a taboo subject that has divided experts and evaded proper public debate.