Volume 11

The Illusion of French Inclusion: The Constitutional Stratification of French Ethnic Minorities

by Vinecia Perkins

This Note examines the effects of discrimination on ethnic minorities in France, who suffer lower rates of education, higher rates of unemployment, and more frequent instances of police brutality than their white counterparts. Although the effects of discrimination are widely viewed, it is difficult to quantify the true magnitude of such inequality because France is a colorblind country that officially does not recognize racial categories. The French Constitution declares there is no distinction of race in France. This text has been used to effectively outlaw race and the collection of ethnic statistics. Outside of France, ethnic statistical data is used around the world to measure discrimination, understand the state of minority groups and create policy to help them. This data is useful when targeting health, education, employment, legal disparities, and challenges. However, due to the restrictive text of the French Constitution, this data is not available in France because both public and private actors are prohibited from using race as a determinant in their data collection.

Although France does not officially recognize race, it recognizes its massive inequality problem and has passed several anti-discrimination laws in the efforts to combat discrimination. Despite their vast quantity, France’s anti-discrimination laws are largely ineffective because they lack the tools and necessary data to effect meaningful and lasting change. Instead of working to combat widespread discrimination based on statistical data, these laws are enforced on an individualized basis producing an insignificant anti-discriminatory effect. This note will assert that France should amend the text of its Constitution to explicitly protect ethnic minorities because its anti-discrimination laws are ineffective and inhibit its ability and efforts to combat racism and discrimination in France. This proposed amendment would allow the French government to officially recognize race and the detrimental impact it has on minority prosperity, success, and livelihood. It would further allow French actors to collect data on the state of minorities in all aspects of their lives so future anti- discrimination laws can be effective and accurately combat racism and inequality in France.

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