Friday, November 11, 2005

Ward's Wonderful World: NOT!

A car burns during a riot in the Paris suburb of Le Blanc-Mesnil November 3, 2005. REUTERS/Franck Prevel

Next time Ward Connerly comes calling with one of his "color blind" scams, claiming that issues of racial discrimination will go away if we stop counting what happens to people of color, somebody remind him of France. Connerly is the regent (appointed member of the governing board) of the University of California who succeeded in outlawing affirmative action by the state in 1996.

Students of color, not surprisingly, either gave up on college or went to schools where they felt more welcome, according to a US Civil Rights Commission Report. So in 2003, Connerly came back for more, seeking to prohibit the state from counting people of color. No data, no problem. Through hard work and fortuitous circumstances that initiative went down to defeat.

France has been trying Connerly's experiment, choosing to see no evil:

France's Constitution guarantees equality to all, but that has long been interpreted to mean that ethnic or religious differences are not the purview of the state. The result is that no one looks at such differences to track growing inequalities and so discrimination is easy to hide.

"People have it in their head that surveying by race or religion is bad, it's dirty, it's something reserved for Americans and that we shouldn't do it here," said Yazid Sabeg, the only prominent Frenchman of Arab descent at the head of a publicly listed French company. "But without statistics to look at, how can we measure the problem?" NY Times.

It clearly got French society in a lot of trouble.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson finds a lesson:

The riots in the suburbs of Paris and other French cities ought to wipe the smirk from the lips of even multiculturalism's smuggest critics. Those who lobby against bilingual education or get upset when their children learn about Cinco de Mayo should look at France and realize that multiculturalism is a lot like democracy -- it's the worst system except for all the others….

In France, it's against the law to keep statistics based on race or ethnicity. But the fact that no one knows the precise number of Muslims living in France today doesn't mean those Muslims don't exist: There are about 5 million of them by most estimates….

Just because no one knows how many first- or second-generation Moroccans or Senegalese live on the grim periphery of the City of Light doesn't mean they aren't there. Just because you don't know precisely how many of them are unemployed doesn't mean there's no job discrimination….

People of different races, backgrounds, cultures, histories and languages can indeed live together productively and with common purpose. I know that because we do it here in the United States. It's a messy process, because it means we have to argue a lot, and many of us resent all the constant conflict and negotiation that's involved in getting along with one another….

So let's end all this "English-first" nonsense and embrace Spanish as our second language, since that's what it is. Let's learn more about those 5,000 years of Chinese history. Let's have the dates of Ramadan and Eid noted on our calendars. Let's remind ourselves of a big, important lesson that we've already learned, and that we can teach the world: Multiculturalism works.

Take that, Ward.

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