The word ‘race’ doesn’t exist in the French Constitution. Regardless of the ethnic, racial or religious background, every individual who has French citizenship is considered French. The inclusive approach to citizenship is a natural phenomenon of being a nation-state. Unlike the United States, France and many other nation states do not focus on collecting statistics on the ethnic background of their citizens or ask about their ethnic origin. Like many of today’s nations, France is also an ethnically diverse society. Because of migration movements, colonialism, as well as past and current regional conflicts, nations are becoming multicultural. Instead of one dominant culture, today’s societies are becoming melting pots of many different cultures and ethnic origins. However, even in an inclusive nation-state like France, being a minority is still challenging.
Dr. Jean Beaman, in her book ‘Citizen Outsider,’ analyzed these challenges and told us about the social challenges of immigrant children and families in today’s multicultural societies. According to Dr. Beaman’s research; even the second-generation French citizens, who are born in France from immigrant parents experience difficulties in social life that make them feel like ‘outsiders.’ The children of North African immigrant parents in France creates 26% of second-generation immigrants. The parents of these French citizens have migrated from mostly the former French colonies in North Africa; Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. Why do these children still feel like minorities and experience difficulties in social life?
One reason that Dr. Beaman focused on was the growing anti-immigrant and Islamophobic sentiment in Europe. Secondly, according to her findings; France does not feel comfortable with the idea of becoming a multicultural country. A widespread thought among the French people is that without having a similar look with the majority of the society, the children of immigrants will always remain as foreigners or ‘outsiders.’ Even when the constitution of France secures the citizenship and French identity of these people, society has some misconnections with the concept of the nation-state. Even though the children of immigrants are French, they are not accepted as ‘culturally’ French nationals.
Besides, French children of North African immigrants are facing discrimination in professional life as well. Adult children of these immigrants, even from middle-class families, are still considered as ‘outsiders,’ which shows us that the discrimination or exclusion is not based on the socioeconomic status of these immigrants and second-generation citizens.
Lastly, even though the constitution of France does not mention race or ethnicity, according to Dr. Beaman’s findings, minorities in France who are from different ethnic backgrounds and race believe that they are being excluded in social life, which negatively affects the harmonious cohesion of the French society and social peace.
For more, read Dr. Jean Beaman’s one-page policy brief in our Visiting Scholars series.