France has been facing violent mass protests in the wake of a recent police shooting. The killing of a 17-year-old boy named Nahel, who was of Algerian descent, by French police in Nanterre on June 27 has sparked outrage among the public. The tragic incident has been viewed as a violation of human rights, prompting widespread protests and riots across several cities in France. The response from the public has gone beyond solely addressing this particular incident, reflecting a broader concern over human rights violations and long-time discrimination faced by individuals of migrant origin, particularly those of African descent and Muslims.
For the last several decades, both the discriminatory policies of the state institutions and the reactions of the people in the name of victimized groups have dramatically increased. The more European countries experience political and economic problems, the more the migrants are held responsible for the problems.
The colonial European states have been exploiting not only the natural resources of the non-Western world, the African continent and the Muslim world in particular, but also the human resources of these regions. Eventually, for different reasons (for instance, using them as slaves, servants or labor force), they have brought a share of the population of the colonized territories to their countries, most as de facto or de jure slaves, deprived of basic rights. Over time, these people were given rights and they joined the normal life of their respective societies. They were largely welcomed by the autochthon population, the white and blue-eyed Christian people.
However, when Europe began to experience political and economic problems, mainly as a result of many national and global developments, they took the easiest route and blamed the migrants and their children for any inconvenience.
Otherization in the West
Until very recently, European countries had been attributing any success and contribution of migrants to the political system and social structure of their respective countries, i.e., liberalism and multiculturalism. In line with the hierarchical point of view, successes were attributed to the state and society structure, but not to the personal characteristics and talent of people belonging to other cultures or races.
On the contrary, they have attributed any failure in politics, economics or even sports to their origin. As mentioned by some athletes sweating for European countries such as Nicolas Sebastien Anelka, a French professional football manager and retired player, “When they scored, they were French; but, when they did not, they were Arab.” Almost all migrants, who think differently or reflect the culture of their ancestors, were immediately otherized and eventually punished.
However, after the relative decline of European countries and societies in world politics, the above-mentioned perspective and perception have changed. Nowadays, the deep-rooted biased behavior of certain political and societal groups forces them to criticize every move, policy and stance of migrants, whether positive or negative. The main reason for the change in this mentality is that the more the migrants and their children become visible in the societies in which they live and the more successful in the institutions they work for, the more they are otherized and alienated by the larger society.
After Europe’s experience of real multiculturalism, radicalization and racism is on the rise in almost every European state. Especially, the widespread feelings of hostility among the security forces against people of African origin, North African origin and Muslims are on the rise. People from these groups are discriminated against when looking for a job, and they face great difficulties in finding a job just because of their beliefs and origins. The police act with prejudice in all kinds of transactions and follow a punitive attitude toward these people just because of their color or beliefs.
Many official or semiofficial explanations represent the colonial mindset. For example, a French institution was able to use the following words for the protesters, the migrants: “In the face of these wild herds, it is no longer enough to ask for calm. Restoring the republican order and removing those arrested from their capacity to harm others should be the only political signal to be given. It is time to fight against these pests.”
Unfortunately, this and similar official or civil discriminatory explanations target not only protesters but also leading French personalities, who successfully represent their country. France has been resorting to any kind of violence and implementing heavy racist policies against the migrants living in the country, claiming that they are racist.
Francafrique: Thing of the past
When examined closely, the protests are not only motivated by domestic developments. Many global developments pave the way for the reactions of the colonized peoples against the colonizers. For instance, the recent developments in France-Africa relations have greatly contributed to the increased discrimination against migrants. President Emmanuel Macron has been criticized in almost every African country. With the rising awareness of the African peoples and politicians, African leaders such as the presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Kenya did/do not hesitate to criticize the French colonial past and its present exploitative policies to Macron’s face.
In other words, the developments in France have roots in other countries. France and its leader still resort to the old game of realpolitik, claiming that they do not have enough power to change the course of events. That is, the French state is determined to use power against its old colonies, which will otherize them further. Eventually, these policies will prove counterproductive for France.
Furthermore, some effective European circles intentionally provoke Black people and Muslims living in European countries by insulting their sacred values and religious symbols and sometimes targeting them. Targeting Blacks and Muslims nowadays is part of daily life in almost all European countries. Burning the Holy Quran in Stockholm, under the auspices of the Swedish security forces and the killing of a 17-year-old boy in France are two different faces of the same strategy played against migrants in Europe.
It seems that Europe has been trying to speed up the conflictual relationship with the rest of the world. However, this policy is counterproductive. Since “white Europe” has lost much of its fertility and productivity, the European continent is increasingly becoming dependent not only on the rising non-Western powers such as China but also on the new/late comers, i.e., migrants, in almost every sphere of life. Therefore, alternative policies that will provide benefits for both sides, Europe and the rest, are needed.