Friday, November 11, 2005

Comparative Race Theory

There is, I think, a severe perception/reality gap between how much people around the world "consider" race and how much we think they do. For example, I just wrote an article urging Americans to take a more critical view of race, and abandon color-blindness. Basically, your classic leftist multi-culturalism argument.

Lots of conservatives blast this theory as being "European," and gleefully point to the Paris riots as proof of its failure. Yet this seems to be an inaccurate description of how the Europeans view their paradigm:
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?"

So wait...the French are more color-blind than we are? This leads Ann Althouse to ask the following:
Should France's policy of not taking account of race, ethnicity, and religion, in light of the recent rioting, make us look more favorably on our own attention to such things?

So Prof. Althouse thinks that we are indeed color-conscious, and that France proves that this is superior to the color-blind system. But here's Imani Perry arguing that it took American news networks two weeks to even mention that the rioting was done by mostly minority protestors. So maybe we aren't so color-conscious after all? What is going on?

So basically, here's what we have:

The Republicans think we are and need to be absolutely color-blind, and point to French riots as proof that our color-blindness is a superior system.

The French think they are and need to be absolutely color-blind, and point to American race-consciousness as immoral and "dirty."

The center-right Althousians think that we are color-conscious, and that the French riots show that our color-conscious method is superior.

The leftist folks like me think that both the French and Americans are not color-conscious enough, and think both state's systems are indicted.

Who's right? And more importantly, why is there such a perceptual gap in terms of how our and their systems actually "are"? Are we color-blind or not? Are the French multi-culturalists or not?

There is something interesting afoot here...

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